Ending the tug of war between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) over the control of the Indo Tibetan Police Force (ITBP), Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Wednesday said there was no question of handing over the reigns of the paramilitary force deployed along the China border to the Army.
“ITBP will stay with the Home Ministry… There will be no change in command,” Mr. Shinde told reporters when asked about the MoD’s demand seeking operational control over the force in view of recent incursion by the Chinese Army at Daulat Beg Oldi in the Ladakh division of Jammu and Kashmir.
The MoD had proposed that the ITBP’s command be handed over the Army’s Leh-based 14 Corps which oversees the country’s frontier with China and Pakistan in Ladakh. The Indian Army is of the view that with the ITBP coming under its command, it will be lead to “cohesion, coordination and synergy” between the two forces to counter the Chinese Army’s “offensive” acts.
On the issue of setting up fast-track courts to ensure expeditious trial of terror cases where Muslim youths have been implicated, Mr. Shinde said he has written to all States to find out the number of cases where Muslims youths were languishing in jails. “The MHA has issued an advisory to all States [in this connection]. We are trying to find out the facts… It will take time. We have asked the States to set up fast track courts,” he said. Notably, earlier this year, Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan had written to Mr. Shinde raising the issue of “wrong arrests” of Muslim youths in different parts of the country in terror cases.
Mr. Shinde said the MHA would present the draft National Counter Terrorism Centre bill before the States at the Chief Minister’s conference on June 5 to allay fears of the States opposing the new anti-terror mechanism required to tackle terrorism in the country. “Since we have removed the operational power from the IB [Intelligence Bureau], there should not be any more apprehension from anyone,” he said.
Almost all non-Congress Chief Ministers, including Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu) and Nitish Kumar (Bihar), have been opposing the original proposal, alleging that it would infringe on the States’ power and hurt the country’s federal structure.