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National Intelligence Agency: Guardian of security or a tool of the BJP?

By Ashima Makhija

On 10th October, Union Minister of Home Affairs inaugurated the new Headquarters Office Complex of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in New Delhi. He contended that the NIA has played a significant role in shielding India from the onslaught of global terrorism. At a time when the country’s premier NIA is receiving flak about towing the government line in numerous terror-related cases, the Home Minister said that the agency had established its credibility and impartiality through professional and scientific investigationThe inaugural ceremony also marked the departure of the outgoing Director-General, Sharad Kumar. Y.C. Modi, who will assume charge of the NIA as its new Director-General later this month, said today that he would not let the government down in his new assignment.

Another effective tool for saffron control

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was set up in 2008 after the terrorist blasts in Mumbai. It was established for the purpose of carrying out thorough, professional and fair investigations. The NIA’s mandate is limited to certain categories of serious crimes that threaten state security. But in recent times, the NIA has come under intense scrutiny and criticism for functioning as an effective mechanism for the arbitrary exercise of the executive power. The most serious amongst these accusation involves the Malegaon blast. 

The unconventional accused in the scenario were persons who represented a rather aggressive version of the Hindutva philosophy espoused by the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) and its allies. The Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian said publicly that ever since the change of the government at the Centre, pressure is being imposed to favour the accused in this trial. The NIA chose to brush aside these allegations and not answer them. Due to the inaction of this security agency, two accused in the case—Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt. Col. Shrikant Purohit were granted bail by the Mumbai High Court and the Supreme Court.

“An autonomous body”

The NIA is one among the many state mechanisms that have been allegedly misused by the ruling party. But on Tuesday, Rajnath Singh said that the agency is an autonomous body and that the government does not give it directions related to any cases. Earlier all NIA files were routed through the Home Ministry but now, after I took over as the Home Minister, I made such provisions that the agency can take its own decisions as it is autonomous,” Mr Singh said while addressing the gathering.

Undoubtedly, many observers expected the chief of the ‘autonomous’ state agency to have more diverse objectives than meeting the ‘expectations’ of the ruling party in his inaugural speech. Unfortunately, this is resonant with the conditions of other state machineries, like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Income Tax (IT) department, where the political executive has encroached on the independent functioning of the permanent executive.

Puppets at the sake of politics

The appointment of Y.C. Modi as the General-Director of the NIA has also raised several eyebrows. Modi, a 1984 batch IPS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, was part of the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team that probed the 2002 Gujarat riot cases. He investigated the three most important cases involving the post-Godhra riots, namely Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam. He also probed the controversial murder of senior Gujarat BJP leader Haren Pandya. Haren Pandya’s father Vithalbhai had died demanding justice in his son’s assassination which he and Haren’s wife both had described as a “political murder”.

It highlights the heavy political influence exercised by the ruling party on the administrative machinery of the country.  Strong party control of executive organs threatens the democratic and open nature of polity as well as society. The BJP has repeatedly used state mechanisms to suppress the opposition and the media. By snatching the autonomy of agencies like NIA, it is constructing a repressive polity that disturbs the balance between the legislature and executive and leaves no space for the voice of the opposition, the media and even the people. 

Featured Image Source: Flickr

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