The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday expanded the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) by 35 kilometre in Punjab, Assam and West Bengal while cutting it short by 30 km in Gujarat.
The BSF can now conduct searches, arrest suspects and make seizures up to an area of 50 km inside the Indian territory from the international border in these three states. In Gujarat, the BSF jurisdiction was earlier 80 km, which was now reduced to 50 km.
No change has been made for the border states of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, where the BSF’s jurisdiction is in the whole state.
Government said the latest move was aimed at maintaining “zero tolerance” against terrorism and cross-border crimes. However, it has triggered a political storm in Punjab with Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi calling it a direct attack on federalism.
"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. I urge the Union Home Minister @AmitShah to immediately rollback this irrational decision," Channi tweeted.
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa also slammed the decision, saying policing is not the role of a border guarding force.
"This illogical decision was absolutely against the spirit of the raising of border-guarding forces, which are required to focus on the international border and act as the first line of defence," he said.
The notification issued by the Centre, without obtaining the concurrence of the state government, amounts to an "encroachment" on the powers of the states, he further said.
Former Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar said Chief Minister Channi has “unwittingly managed to hand over” half of Punjab to the central government.
"Be careful what you ask for! Has Charanjit Singh Channi unwittingly managed to hand over half of Punjab to the Central govt. 25000sq km (out of a total of 50,000sq km) has now been placed under BSF jurisdiction. Punjab Police stands castigated. Do we still want more autonomy to States?" Jakhar tweeted.
Earlier this month, Channi had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and asked him to “seal” the international border.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Amarinder Singh supported the move and said enhanced power and presence of BSF in Punjab will only make the state stronger.
"Our soldiers are being killed in Kashmir. We're seeing more and more weapons and drugs being pushed by Pak-backed terrorists into Punjab. BSF's enhanced presence & powers will only make us stronger. Let's not drag central armed forces into politics," Singh said as per a tweet by his media advisor Raveen Thukral.
Singh had recently quit Congress following the power tussle between him and party leader Navjot Singh Sidhu.