Channi says extension of BSF's jurisdiction an 'attack on federalism'
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Thursday hit out at the Centre over the extension of the Border Security Force's (BSF) jurisdiction in border states, including Punjab. Calling the Centre's move a "direct attack on federalism," Channi urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to roll back the "irrational decision." The Centre has extended BSF's jurisdiction up to 50 kilometers from the international boundary.
The Centre's decision has sparked a controversy in Punjab as it would enable the BSF to carry out arrests, searches, and seizures in the areas where the state police, too, has jurisdiction. The BSF's power would clash with the Punjab Police in Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Pathankot, etc. Notably, the Sikh pilgrim site Golden Temple in Amritsar falls within a 35-kilometer radius from Wagah border.
Punjab Deputy CM and Home Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa also condemned the Centre's decision, calling it an "infringement on the federal structure." He said the decision will "create an atmosphere of fear in Punjab. People will not tolerate this," adding, "Punjab has never seen communal violence. We urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to disturb the peace of the state."
The Centre has maintained that the decision to extend the BSF's jurisdiction was taken due to rising instances of weapon dropping in Punjab by drones from Pakistan. The extension would allow the BSF to conduct searches and make arrests over a wider belt along the borders of three states: Assam, West Bengal, and Punjab. Currently, the BSF's jurisdiction in these states is 15 kilometers.
Meanwhile, the issue has brought infighting within Punjab Congress to the fore once again as ex-Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar accused Channi of "handing over" Punjab's land to the Centre. Referring to Channi's recent meeting with Shah, Jakhar said, "Has Channi unwittingly managed to hand over half of Punjab to Central government?" In that meeting, Channi had reportedly called for sealing the international border.
Be careful what you ask for ! Has @CHARANJITCHANNI unwittingly managed to handover half of Punjab to Central govt. 25000sq km (out of total 50,000sq km) has now been placed under BSF jurisdiction. Punjab Police stands castigated. Do we still want more autonomy to States ? https://t.co/JlGB7G0Pnj— Sunil Jakhar (@sunilkjakhar) October 13, 2021
Randhawa said the CM had never asked for an extension of the BSF's jurisdiction. "He just appealed to check drug and arms supply across the border and seal it. Jakhar sahab and I are both residents of a border area...he should not have tweeted this."
Separately, former Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh has supported the BSF's extension, saying it will "make us stronger." Cautioning against dragging central armed forces into politics, Singh said, "Our soldiers are being killed in Kashmir. We're seeing more and more weapons and drugs being pushed by Pakistan-backed terrorists into Punjab." "BSF's enhanced presence and powers will only make us stronger," he added.