Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may not again call West Bengal “an oasis of peace” anytime soon. The seizure of a huge cache of ammunition in Calcutta, reportedly on its way from the Northeast to Mumbai, shows yet again how hollow the chief minister’s claim is. The seizure follows reports that the explosives used in last month’s blasts in Mumbai had been smuggled into the country from Bangladesh and had been carried through Calcutta. That Calcutta and other parts of West Bengal were being used by terrorists and other criminal gangs as shelters or conduits had been proved time and again, most sensationally by the attack on policemen outside the American Center last year. The state’s long and porous border with Bangladesh and Nepal has made it a vantage point for subversive acts inside West Bengal or elsewhere in the country. The ammunition haul in Calcutta suggests that for all the promises of plugging security loopholes, there are enough systemic failures that terrorists can still exploit. Incredibly, the Calcutta police and the state administration seemed to have been more pleased with the “success” of the ammunition seizure than worried about its ominous import. The administration still seems to be in the grip of the general air of complacence, which has plagued the state’s battle against terror and organized crime.
Mr Bhattacharjee must be once again cursing his party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which tied his hands last year when he sought to enact a new law to add more power to the battle against terror. It cannot be anyone’s argument that the law would have weeded out the menace completely; the Mumbai blasts happened despite a similar legislation in Maharashtra. But the ammunition seizure speaks loudly yet again of the need for a law such as the prevention of organized crime act. Much the same political polemics by the ruling leftists stood in the way of the government implementing the Central law, Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has definitely added some teeth to the anti-terror operations. Political rhetoric can only distort the security debate; worse still, it can shackle legal and administrative measures for security. The chief minister owes it to the people of West Bengal to give them peace and security. It is a responsibility that he cannot shirk simply to make peace with his party ideologues. He has little option but to move in step with the Centre because the security concern of the whole country depends on the ground situation in each state. He cannot afford to let politics spoil his job.