Don’t treat ATS as just a police unit | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Don’t treat ATS as just a police unit

It was set up as an elite unit, with a singular brief to curb terrorist activity. In reality though, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is being treated as just another police unit.

mumbai Updated: Jul 22, 2011 01:06 IST
Shailendra Mohan

It was set up as an elite unit, with a singular brief to curb terrorist activity. In reality though, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is being treated as just another police unit. Said an officer of the ATS requesting anonymity, “Despite the ATS being an anti-terror unit, it

started handling cases against gamblers, bookies and gangsters. In fact, one of ATS’ senior officers was arrested last year for trying to extort money from a bookie.”

This approach is hampering the agency’s functioning and experts insist that a complete overhaul of mindset is required if terrorism needs to be tackled effectively.

A terror operative is different from a gangster or a petty thief. “A terrorist is self-motivated and is seldom after any pecuniary gain. He will not become careless after carrying out one mission,” explained an officer from the ATS. Though most terror operatives seem to have a criminal past, they change the way they function after getting indoctrinated. “Once indoctrinated, they see the job as a duty towards the religion or the community, and become careful. It becomes difficult to pin such people down,” he said.

The training imparted to policemen at the time of recruitment also needs an update. “It needs to delve deeper into the root of terrorism. Policemen can also be given refresher courses when they are transferred to a specialised unit like the ATS,” the officer said.

The officer insisted that the ATS be kept free of investigation. “Once we take the accused to courts and get involved in investigations, our identities are exposed and our edge is lost.” Citing the example of the State Intelligence Department, which has a dedicated Anti Terror Cell, the officer proposed that the ATS, too, could have a separate cell for intelligence-gathering – a unit that doesn’t get caught up in investigations.

Colonel M P Choudhary, who has been associated with anti-terror training for the city police, said that the police force was ill-equipped, psychologically and otherwise, to handle terrorists. “It is evident from the fact that when gunmen started shooting on November 26, 2008, police thought it was a gang war,” he said. He suggested that every police station should have an officer dedicated to sourcing intelligence. “The officer should be on a network which connects him to the area deputy commissioner who, in turn, can send the information further up. This information should eventually reach the state and central anti-terror agencies where it is collated and analysed in context with other inputs,” he said.

Former police commissioner Julio Ribeiro said that policemen have to change from being those who hang out near tea stalls and have to get into active policing mode.

“The police should be allowed to operate as a professional unit,” he said while hinting at government interference.