Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Wednesday condemned the Centre's decision to extend the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force to a 50 km belt along the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. Earlier, the BSF's jurisdiction was a 15 km belt along the border. In the area under its jurisdiction, BSF officers have powers of arrest, search and seizure on par with their counterparts in the police.
Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi lashed out at the decision as he came under attack from his own party, days after his meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
However, the decision of Centre has provoked a huge controversy in Punjab and has escalated the Congress versus Congress crisis in the state.
According to a home ministry order, the BSF's jurisdiction in West Bengal, Punjab and Assam will be expanded from 15 km to a belt of 50 km within and along the boundary. The order says that the BSF can arrest, carry out searches and make seizures over a region where its powers could clash with those of the state police in Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Pathankot. The Golden Temple located in Amritsar is around 35 km from the Attari border with Pakistan.
"I strongly condemn the government'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 Amit Shah to immediately roll back this irrational decision," Mr Channi tweeted.
"We condemn this decision. It is an infringement on the federal structure and will create an atmosphere of fear in Punjab. People will not tolerate this," said his deputy and Punjab Home Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa.
However, former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar targeted the CM over the home ministry order just a week after his meeting with Amit Shah, in which he had called for sealing the international border to check the trafficking of drugs and weapons.
"Be careful what you ask for! Has Charanjit Channi unwittingly managed to hand over half of Punjab to the central government? 25,000 square km (out of total 50,000 square km) has now been placed under BSF jurisdiction. Punjab Police stands castigated. Do we still want more autonomy to states," tweeted Mr Jakhar.
Sukhjinder Randhawa said the Chief Minister remarked that he had never asked for it.
"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," Mr Randhawa said.