No Arrests in 10 Yrs: Will Karnataka’s ATS Finally Get a Makeover?
Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Tuesday, 15 October, announced that the state will get a new Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) after a review meeting with senior cops in the state. While the decision made headlines, some senior cops were left perplexed. No surprises there, because Karnataka already has an ATS.
According to senior officers, it remains unclear whether the government is aware of the existing ATS and whether a new unit will be created. But, the officers feel that the state needs a strong anti-terror unit as the current ATS is just a paper tiger.
In the past one decade, Bengaluru has witnessed three major terror strikes – the 2010 Chinnaswamy stadium blast, the 2013 BJP headquarters blast and the 2013 Church Street blast. All three cases were probed by the local police, even though Karnataka has a dedicated ATS already.
Apart from these terror strikes, there were several terror-related cases and arrests including that of Islamic State (IS) sympathisers during this period. Even in these cases, probes were headed by national agencies or the local police.
The Paper Tiger ATS
The Karnataka ATS was formed in 2009 as one of the measures taken after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The ATS was made part of the newly raised Internal Security Division (ISD) headed by an Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) rank officer and it was made the nodal agency for anti-terror operations. But unlike their counterparts in Mumbai, Delhi or any other major cities, Karnataka ATS was not given any power to register an FIR or to make any arrests.
A senior police officer who spoke to The Quint blamed this on the lack of planning during formation of the ISD.
‘The Memo Collectors’
An officer who served in the ATS called the unit “memo collectors” since it was their job to collect intelligence inputs from different ATSs and other units across the country. Even the intelligence department did the same. But when it comes to taking action on these inputs, ATS had no role.
“To give an example, when officers from ATS units of Mumbai or Delhi comes to Bengaluru, they don’t meet the ATS. They rather go to the local police or the Central Crime Branch, who have the power to investigate and arrest. Many considered a posting in ATS as a punishment and for some it was a ‘soft post,” he said.
The Vague New Proposal
A senior police officer, who attended Tuesday’s review meeting where the decision to raise a new ATS was proposed, said it was unclear whether the home minister was aware of the existing ATS.
“During the meeting, he announced that we will be forming an ATS on the lines of other state police forces. However, when some officers asked for specifics, he said he will get back,” the officer said.
The senior police officers are now wondering if the home department’s plan will include creating a strong ATS.
At the same time, the future of the existing ATS remains unclear as well.
With at least 17 Islamic State sympathisers arrested in the last five years, cops in the state feel there is a need for a dedicated, powerful anti-terror unit. “From Rajiv Gandhi’s killers to IS sympathisers to Bodo militants, Bengaluru has seen it all. So, more than just investigating terror cases, we need intelligence based pre-emptive action. That is a job of a dedicated unit with pan-state jurisdiction,” summed up a senior police officer.
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