ALL indications are that this Mumbai blast too would end up at the bottom of the list of countless such attacks in the past, which have not seen the conclusion of the investigation and punishment to the perpetrators. There have been many in the last one decade; three for Mumbai alone. On August 25, 2003 Mumbai was rocked by powerful explosions in cars at two places killing 60 people; again the First Class compartments of the famed Mumbai Metro system were attacked in 2006 killing more than 200 people. November 26, 2008 saw worst ever attack that went on for three days killing more than 250 people. Last week’s attack was the fourth.
We all admire the spirit of Mumbai. But we forget the fact that several other cities too experienced similar attacks in the last decade. Pune was the latest victim last year. Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Delhi, Varanasi – many cities… and many incidents. What is common about most of these incidents is that the investigations have proceeded nowhere. Except in the Parliament attack case and 26/11 Mumbai attacks case the investigating agencies could hardly achieve any breakthrough in the investigations in all other cases of terrorism.
All that we hear from those who are responsible is helplessness and despair. Home Minister Chidambaram’s statement that there was no intelligence failure perplexed everybody in the world. On one hand he admitted that there was no prior intelligence input about the impending attack, yet he is not willing to accept that there is some failure.
There was no security failure either. All that the Chief Minister of Maharashtra was ready to bemoan about was that the Home Ministry was not in his control. The Mumbai ATS Chief would appear on TV the whole day but only to tell people that they were still clueless about the perpetrators.
No wonder ruling party politicians become apologists and the opposition the attackers. Apologists would reassure you that ‘behind each success of the terrorists there were ninety-nine successes of the security agencies which go unsung’. Which are those ‘ninety-nine unsung successes’ of the agencies? There was not a single terrorist attack in US after 9/11. Coming September marks the tenth anniversary of 9/11 attacks. The entire world knew that the US is ‘enemy number one’ for the jihadists. It is also a fact that there were numerous attempts by the terrorists to attack America. But each time the US was successful in thwarting the jihadi attempts. Last one was just last year when a rogue Pakistani parked his car near Times Square and attempted to detonate it. Another rogue Pakistani hatched a huge conspiracy in 2009 to blow up a number of US-bound planes from London. But the British agencies could not only prevent that disaster but arrest the entire gang of terrorists too.
Our ignoramus leaders would then try another argument. ‘Oh, the Americans are attacked in Iraq and Afghanistan regularly’, they say. Pity that they don’t understand the difference between a war and civilian terror. Also, they want to compare India with Afghanistan and Iraq. Thank god, they are not our rulers yet. They will certainly bring India to that brink if allowed to become one.
Then come the irresponsible ones. It is better to ignore them. Digvijay Singh is not the first to talk nonsense. Five years ago in 2006 another Congress leader Arjun Singh kicked up a storm in his own Party’s teacup when he blamed the Mumbai terror attacks on the RSS in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Arjun Singh too was known for his pastime of RSS-bashing. Digvijay Singh climbed a few notches above his senior in his oral diarrhea. Also, Arjun Singh wouldn’t have probably misbehaved with a girl at a Kshatriya Maha Sabha event; or kicked and rained blows on a hapless youngster in the Congress Party office in Delhi; or perhaps ran after some youths like a street rowdy chasing them in Ujjain; which his oral diarrhea successor would do in full public and media glare. It is another matter that he gets away with all this because nobody takes him seriously or people pity him for insanity with growing age and plummeting clout.
There is one worrisome lot though, whose writings and statements, knowingly or otherwise cause some concern. This lot includes strategic experts, men in the agencies and column writers. Several of them have started declaring that India has entered the age of what they call as ‘indigenous jihad’ or ‘domestic/home-grown terrorism’. Is this true? Is the phenomenon of Indian Mujahidin the reason enough to conclude so? If the local support to the acts of terror perpetrated from across the border is what we are describing as the home-grown terror, then it has always existed. But if we were to presume that terrorism in the hinterland in India is a product of the domestic network only, we would probably be walking into a well-laid-out trap by the perpetrators in our neighbourhood.
This raises the serious question of why we lack full understanding of the nature of terror in India. While the world outside is into full blown action in dismantling this terror network, we, the worst victims of terror according to the US National Counter Terrorism Center in Washington DC, are still debating as to what form of terror it is; whether it is home-grown or externally-sponsored.
Herein lies the greatest failure of our security establishment in general and the Home Minister in particular. In the last three years the direction in which he conducted the internal security apparatus has only culminated in confusion among the agencies, demoralisation or marginalisation of the law and order machinery in the States and creation of agencies like the NIA which lack knowhow or ‘know-why’ yet entrusted with tasks that they are ill-equipped to handle. It is not enough to pump in money in the name of Police modernisation; the Home Ministry needs vision, which the present incumbent seems to be lacking.
The result is we are in utter confusion with regard to the very identity of the perpetrators of these crimes. There is SIMI; there is Indian Mujahadin (IM); and then there surfaced another gang called ‘Deccan Mujahadin’ at the time of the Mumbai blasts of 2006. Are they really home-grown? This phenomenon of using loosely organised groups with fictitious identities has started long ago. Any good intelligence officer would say that this will be text book tactic of an insurgent group; to create an impression that terrorism is home grown; if possible to create terror modules in which not just the Muslims but even the Hindus would be members. Richard Headly is a test in case. A Pakistani born in America and acquired complete American identity including a name, Headley turned out to be working for the ISI. Can we rule out the possibility in the case of the IM or SIMI or other organisations?
Problem with these outfits is that they are quite amorphous. Even after almost a decade nobody knew fully what this IM is all about. Interrogation of the SIMI cadres revealed that it essentially branched out of SIMI. SIMI is mandated to undertake selective killings while the IM will indulge in mass killings through terrorism. Riaz Bhatkal, Md. Tauqeer, Md. Faisal, Amir Raza Khan…… these are some of the names associated with this outfit. But nobody has any clue as to what the hierarchy is.
For those who talk about the home-grown terror it must be remembered that almost all these leaders are suspected to be either in Pakistan or safe havens arranged by ISI elsewhere like Dubai and Nepal. Most of the IM operatives come from one school in Azamgarh, the favourite destination of their friend Digvijay Singh. They have active liaison with LeT, JiM and HUJi.
Our agencies grope in dark due to lack of intelligence and knowledge about these outfits. And for self-seeking leaders this confusion is an opportunity to indulge in petty politicking.
Once again the terrorists must be laughing in their sleeves over our ineptness – in identifying the perpetrators, in bringing them to book through tight laws, in punishing them, and most importantly in implementing that punishment.
As eminent writer Brahma Chellany commented in a recent article: “The ugly truth is that transnational terrorists see India as an easy target because it imposes no costs on them and their patrons”.