Four years, 48 FIRs and 25 chargesheets later, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) - set up after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks-has steadily built a case that the country indeed required a specialised national agency for probing terrorists, naxals and insurgents. But it is still a case of a glass half full-half empty.
“Anti-terrorist squads in various states don’t like us. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) barely recognises our presence. The accused in Hindu terror attack cases are repeatedly told that once the UPA is voted out of power, the NIA will be wound up. We work under severe constraints, and sometimes it feels as if we have been thrown into a battlefield with our hands tied behind our backs,” said a NIA official on the condition of anonymity.
The success stories of the NIA, however, are many. For the first time, the country has cases against top naxal leader Ganapati, Kashmiri terrorist Syed Salahuddin, Indian Mujahidden leaders Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, Babar Khalsa terrorists and nearly every insurgent group in the North-East, and they have been well-documented and professionally probed. One of the main objectives of the NIA is to become a national repository of data that accounts for terrorists and instances of militancy.
“In the initial days, we used to visit states and ask questions about terror groups and terrorists. Almost everywhere, we encountered inspectors or sub-inspectors who would recall details. However, when we asked for documentary proof, we would not get anything except sketchy interrogation reports and half-baked chargesheets. State police units were least interested in sharing details with their counterparts in other states — something that arose from competitiveness and masked jealousy. In that scenario, it was difficult to create a larger picture that could join all dots,” said a source.
According to NIA officials, investigations launched by them in the northeast are the best example of what could be achieved if the IB, state police and NIA work together.
“But when you come out of the northeast, police officers with larger-than-life personas and political connections dictate which of the cases should be handed over the NIA. There should be a uniform policy over giving probes to the NIA,” said the official.And then there are the people who see the NIA as a half empty glass. The agency cannot escape criticism that it has not been able to complete probes in Hindu terror attack cases or 2011 Delhi HC blast.