Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Thursday his government welcomed the Centre’s decision to extend the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) in the state amid loud protests from states like Punjab and West Bengal.
Sarma said the move, in coordination with the state police, would serve as a strong deterrent for defeating cross-border smuggling and illegal infiltration. According to an ANI report, the chief minister said it strengthened national security and was in the interest of the country.
Sarma’s statement came in the wake of a massive pushback from Punjab and Bengal, both under non-BJP governments, over the government’s decision to amend the BSF Act and authorise the force to undertake search, seizure and arrest within a larger 50-km stretch, in place of the existing 15km, from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.
Both the Congress-led government in Punjab and the ruling Trinamool Congress in Bengal have said the Centre’s move was an “infringement” on the rights of the state and an attack on the federal structure of the country.
Soon after the news had come to fore, Punjab chief minister Charanjit SIngh Channi had urged Union home minister Amit Shah to immediately roll back the decision. “I strongly condemn the GoI’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,” he wrote on Twitter.
Minister Vijay Inder Singh said the BJP was trying to take away the rights of the states.”Punjabis have always stood together whether it was the freedom struggle or farmers’ protest… We will fight against this too,” he added.
Meanwhile, the TMC said the decision was taken by the Centre without any consultation with the Bengal government.
“If the BSF has to conduct any search, they can always do it along with the state police. This has been the practice for years. It is an attack on the federal structure,” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.
Senior TMC MP Sougata Roy said the BSF did not have a good track record on human rights in border villages.
Bengal Congress president Adhir Chowdhury warned the Union Home Ministry of “consequences” over the move.