An accidental bomb blast at Burdwan in West Bengal has again highlighted the tensions between federal provisions for state governments and the centralising imperatives of national security management.
On October 2, two suspected Bangladeshi jihadis were killed and another injured while making explosives in a house. The Centre immediately pushed for the transfer of the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), arguing that the deceased were linked to the Bangladesh-based Jamaat-ul Mujahideen, thus making it a transnational terror crime.
The West Bengal government disagreed — it refused to invoke terrorism charges immediately and assigned the case to the state’s criminal investigation department.
The Mamata Banerjee government finally relented by enabling the NIA to investigate the case.
The West Bengal government had a point about creating a precedent for the central takeover of cases from states, but it failed to recognise that the prima facie evidence from the blast warranted a handover of the case to the NIA.
The deceased were Bangladeshi nationals and the surviving women tried to burn incriminating documents before the police arrived.
There was also spectacular bungling by the state police, which initially tried to pass off the blast as a cylinder explosion and even reportedly detonated the first lot of bombs seized from the flat.
Media reports suggest that the house belonged to a Trinamool Congress supporter. The party has denied links but resisting an NIA investigation has left Ms Banerjee’s government open to the charge of politicising this case.
The BJP has accused the Trinamool of having links with terrorists. The CM ought to have been alert to the potential conflict of interest and the possibility that resisting an NIA investigation can be politically exploited.
Ms Banerjee’s party claims to speak for minorities but appears out of touch with the community, which would want nothing more than the truth to come out in order to avoid the profiling that it is often subject to.
Her government ought to have facilitated the NIA investigation straightaway with a disclaimer that the Burdwan case was no precedent for the future.