“Police gave the nod for video conferencing but organisers called it off”
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Tuesday said nobody had prevented India-born author Salman Rushdie from travelling to India and it was the writer's decision not to visit Jaipur for the Literature Festival.
However, the Home Minister admitted at the monthly press conference, that the Centre had on January 17 sent advisories to three governments, in Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai, cautioning them that protests were likely to be held against Mr. Rushdie and the State governments were obliged to provide security and take adequate measures.
Replying to a question, Mr. Chidambaram said the advisories were “usual'' and based on intelligence gathered by the agencies. He said that Mr. Rushdie enjoyed the status of a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and did not require a visa to visit India.
He said chief organiser of the Jaipur Literature Festival had announced it was the writer's decision to cancel his visit. “A lot is attributed to the government without knowing the facts.” Mr. Chidambaram said the Rajasthan police had also given the go-ahead for video conferencing with Mr. Rushdie but it was the decision of the organisers to call it off.
Answering queries on the apparent rift between the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra and Delhi Police's Special Cell over the arrest of a person involved in the 13/7 Mumbai blasts, he agreed that there should have been “better” exchange of information between the two forces.
The Delhi Police and the Maharashtra ATS were engaged in an unseemly controversy over the arrest of Naquee Ahmed by the ATS in connection with the 13/7 blasts, while the same person was being used as an “informer” by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police to nab Yasin Bhatkal, one of the prime accused in various terror bombings in the country.
Describing the ongoing probe into the case as being “difficult,” Mr. Chidambaram said the two agencies were working within their jurisdictions and were looking for the same person who had been on the run for the past two years. “Yes, they [Delhi Police] were protecting that person and trying to nab the prime suspect [Bhatkal]. These are difficult cases which are being investigated under very difficult circumstances. I wish nabbing a person on the run is as easy as some one makes it out to be. These are difficult cases and, yes, I would have liked better exchange between the Delhi Police and the Maharashtra ATS but as you know there are two different police forces and two different State governments and, therefore, there may have been inadequate exchange of information.''
However, he said the soon-to-be-made operational National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) would solve these problems relating to operations and inter-State jurisdictions. “Once the NCTC is set up and all these terrorist cases are brought under it, it would be possible to have much better exchange of information…”
He rejected suggestions that the government was not helping those assisting the security agencies. “I think all of you are jumping to conclusions. The point is if you are referring to Yasin Bhatkal, the prime suspect, he has been on the run for a long time.''
Brushing aside suggestions that the two agencies were undercutting each other, he said a meeting of the Maharashtra ATS, the Delhi Police and the Intelligence Bureau was held and an attempt was made to reconcile different versions.