The Central government’s decision to widen the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) along the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam has not only been slammed by the Punjab government, but also rekindled the internal clash within the Congress.
Denouncing the Centre’s decision to extend the reach and power of the BSF from an earlier 15 km to now 50-km stretch, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi called it a “direct attack” on the federal powers of state, while urging Home Minister Amit Shah to withdraw the decision.
“I strongly condemn the government’s unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 km belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to immediately roll back this irrational decision,” he tweeted.
“We condemn this decision. It is an infringement on the federal structure and will create an atmosphere of fear in Punjab. People will not tolerate this,” said Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa.
In a recent notification, the Home Ministry announced its decision to expand the jurisdiction of the BSF in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam from 15 km to 50 km. The BSF is also empowered to conduct searches, seizures and arrests on par with the state police in Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Pathankot, areas where its jurisdiction could clash with the state police.
Channi’s criticism, however, wasn’t received well by his colleagues in the Congress.
Taking a dig at the chief minister, former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar accused him of handing over half of Punjab to the Centre, as the government’s decision came just after Channi’s meeting with Amit Shah to close the international border to check trafficking of drugs and weapons.
“Be careful what you ask for! Has Charanjit Channi unwittingly managed to hand over half of Punjab to the central government? 25,000 square km (out of total 50,000 sq km) has now been placed under BSF jurisdiction. Punjab police stands castigated. Do we still want more autonomy to states,” he tweeted.
Defending the chief minister, Randhawa said the chief minister never asked for such a decision.
“He just appealed to check drug and arms supply across the border and seal it. Jakhar-sahab and I are both residents of a border area; he should not have tweeted this,” Randhawa said.
Former chief minister Amarinder Singh, however, has supported the Centre’s move to extend the BSF’s ambit of power.
“Our soldiers are being killed in Kashmir. We’re seeing more and more weapons and drugs being pushed by Pakistan-backed terrorists into Punjab. BSF’s enhanced presence and powers will only make us stronger. Let’s not drag central armed forces into politics,” he tweeted.