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Delhi pushes Bengal to act tough Charges under harsher law

Author: Imran Ahmed Siddiqui & Kinsuk Basu
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: October 9, 2014
URL: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1141009/jsp/frontpage/story_18908464.jsp#.VDe0dtCdDf9

A prod from Delhi this morning prompted the Bengal government to invoke charges of terrorism and “waging war against the nation” against the four people held for last week’s blast at a bomb-assembling flat in Burdwan.

The nudge came at a time Nabanna was under pressure following TV reports of an Intelligence Bureau (IB) complaint to the Union home ministry about the state administration’s alleged attempt to cover up the blast and its international terror links. (See chart)

Invoking the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act paves the way for a probe by the federal terror investigator, the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

But sources said that instead of forcing such a probe on a reluctant Bengal right away, the Centre would wait for the state’s expected report on the blast tomorrow where Nabanna will be forced to clarify its stand on an NIA inquiry.

“We wanted to know whether cases had been registered only under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections or whether the UAPA too had been invoked,” a home ministry official told The Telegraph. “Bengal answered in the evening that the UAPA had been invoked.”

Initially, the accused were charged under IPC sections 286 (negligence in handling explosive substances), 326 (causing grievous hurt by dangerous means or weapons) and 120B (criminal conspiracy). Waging war against the nation comes under Section 121.

State government sources said the CID moved the Burdwan district court for permission to slap the more serious charges after the agency brass cleared the petition’s draft this morning.

The failure to slap terror charges so far had surprised the federal agencies since both state and central investigators had acknowledged the suspects’ links to the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and the seizure of pamphlets mentioning a senior al Qaida leader.

“Charges under the UAPA should have been slapped on Day One. Now, after the IB report and the nudge from Delhi, the police were left with no elbowroom,” a state government official said.

In Delhi, IB sources described how Bengal had allegedly tried to hush up the terror link and thwart a central probe.

When NIA officials reached the spot on their own a day after the blast, they said, the police initially told them it was a cylinder explosion though the cops had by then detonated the first lot of bombs seized from the flat. Security experts have described the detonation as destruction of evidence and a violation of standard procedure.

IB sources said the Burdwan police had refused to answer NIA and IB teams’ questions and told the accused not to reveal anything when the central sleuths reached Burdwan police station and tried to speak to the two arrested women. CID sources had said the women were proving tough to crack.

The IB complaint also accuses the cops of burning documents linking some local people to Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami. Media reports had said the two women had tried to burn documents in the flat after the blast.

Trinamul has clearly signalled its opposition to an NIA investigation — a position buttressed at a Burdwan rally today by Mukul Roy —- though its government hasn’t taken a stand officially.

A Nabanna official said chief secretary Sanjay Mitra, home secretary Basudeb Banerjee and director-general of state police G.M.P. Reddy had overseen the drafting of a report on the case, which the Centre had sought yesterday.

“After they run the report by the chief minister tomorrow, it will be sent to Delhi,” he said. “It will mention Bengal’s stand on an NIA probe.”

But if Bengal doesn’t seek an NIA probe, the Centre will take its own decision soon, a home ministry official said.

An IB alert says Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen cadres hiding in Bengal may now try to flee to Bihar, Assam and Jharkhand.

- Additional Reporting By Meghdeep Bhattacharyya
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