Ignorance or indifference?

Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr Rajesh Pilot, seems to have let the proverbial cat out of the bag. Unfortunately, the cat that has made good the escape is not a tame pussy but a blood thirsty tiger.

Mr Pilot’s statement in the Rajya Sabha that the power to ban an organisation under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1908 vests with the State not only smacks of irresponsibility but also exposes the total lack of application and understanding of an issue vital to the nation’s security.

As the two-year ban, imposed by the Centre at the request of the State government on LTTE under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 comes to an end 14 May, there is already a lot of apprehensions about what the Centre will do. Eminent people from all walks of life have expressed their concern about the Centre’s vacillating stand on the LTTE ban issue. The various statements from the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs on the issue have created a lot of room for doubt about the Centre’s intentions. But despite all the ditherings, there was some hope that good sense would prevail and the Centre would accept the State’s request for extending the ban, in the interest of the nation.

And now comes Mr Pilot’s pronouncenent that the ban can be imposed by the State and it need not approach the Centre for permission. By passing on the buck to the State, the Minister has wantonly exposed his ignorance of an issue which is so vital to the nation’s security and integrity. It was the Centre which imposed the ban two years ago at the request of Tamilnadu government and commonsense dictates that only the Centre should extend the same. Even, if we Concede Mr Pilot’s point for argument’s sake, what prevents the Centre from taking the prerogative? Has the LTTE ceased to be a threat to the nation’s security? Have they been exonerated for the gruesome assassination of Rajiv Gandhi? Can the Minister give the assurance that the LTTE menace has been completely rooted out? Even if the State passed a fresh law which can be applicable only in Tamilnadu what will prevent the LTTE from operating from neighbouring States? Is not Rajiv’s assassination sufficient ground, for the ‘Congress’ government to extend the ban? Embarrassing questions indeed!

Mr Pilot must first understand that LTTE is a national problem and not a regional Issue concerning Tamilnadu alone. It is a fact acknowledged even by the Centre that the LTTE has nexus with various other terrorist groups in the country like PWG, ULFA, JKLF and the Punjab terrorist groups. The Tamilnadu government headed by Ms Jayalalitha has spared no efforts to curtail the activities of LTTE in the State. Nearly a month before the expiry of the ban, the State government decided to seize the initiative to show its anxiety to get the ban extended by bringing forward a resolution in the State Assembly 20 April urging the Centre to take all legal steps to ensure that the LTTE continues to be declared an unlawful association. According to the resolution it was only in the interest of protecting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity that the State government had sought an extension of the ban by writing to the Centre as early as 28 January with necessary supporting materials. By doing this, Ms Jayalalitha has amply demonstrated her will to put down LTTE militancy with an iron hand.

Despite all the efforts of the State government, the Centre had not given any concrete assurance to extend the ban. Ms Jayatalitha’s repeated request for additional funds and increased coastal patrolling have always fallen on deaf ears. And now comes the attempt to shift the responsibility of banning the LTTE to the State just two days before the extension is due. All these give credence to Ms Jayalalitha’s apprehensions that the Centre might allow the ban to expire and throw the State to the wolves, caring hoots for the nation’s security and Rajiv’s supreme sacrifice.

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Jawahar T R