India’s approach to combating terrorism by strengthening security systems and procedures and eradicating the development gap by integrating marginalised populations, increasing connectivity, and supporting entrepreneurial development programmes with microfinance welfare programmes is yielding dividends.
According to the “Country Report on Terrorism 2021” (CRT) published by the US State Department on February 27, 2023, there were sixteen per cent fewer terrorism-related events and five per cent fewer deaths in India in 2021 than there were in 2020. However, the terror incidents still keep India vulnerable due to the outside hand aiding and abating it, especially from the western neighbour.
India was among the top ten nations for terrorist attacks in 2021, although it was not among the top ten for fatalities. In 2020, 679 terror acts were recorded, compared to 655 in 2019 and 673 in 2018. The number of terrorist strikes was at its lowest level since 2018.
According to the CRT, at least 536 people were killed in such assaults in India in 2021, accounting for two per cent of total global fatalities in terror attacks (23,692).
Maoists were involved in the maximum number of terror attacks (225) in India in 2021. Maoists were involved in a maximum of 39 per cent of the attacks in 2021, followed by Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba (50 or 9 per cent).
The Resistance Front (TRF) involved 18 or 3 per cent of the attacks and Hizbul Mujahideen 12. The analysis said 33 per cent of attacks across India were not attributed to any group in 2021.
The comparison analysis at the state level allows for a clear understanding of the outside influence in the commission of terrorism. In 2021, Jammu & Kashmir recorded the most assaults (252, or 44 per cent), followed by Chhattisgarh (119, or 21 per cent), which the Maoist insurgency has plagued, and Jharkhand (59).
In April 2021, 22 security personnel were killed and 35 others injured in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur.
The report broadly vindicates the trend that terrorist threat to India is diffusing as terrorist organisations and front groups such as TRF shift to targeted killings of civilians and other soft targets by utilising hybrid terrorists and lone wolves.
It said, “In Kashmir Valley, this threat gets amplified due to the Pakistani establishment’s support to the insurgency.
CRT highlighted a shift in tactics and said terrorists were now targeting civilians with greater reliance on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
It alluded to the June 2021 drone-based IED strike on the Jammu base of the Indian Air Force. A National Investigation Agency probe concluded TRF was involved in the attack. In addition to landmines, shootings were the second most often utilised strategy in events in 2021, accounting for 49 per cent of all occurrences, followed by explosions (13 per cent).
The analysis noted the Indian government had made significant efforts to detect, disrupt, and degrade the operations of terrorist organisations.
It added India and the US have committed to collaborating on improving border security and information-sharing capabilities.
The analysis said the US government is still waiting for a decision from the Indian government “on an offer to collaborate on watch-listing assistance.”
CRT said Indian law enforcement, including border security forces, face budgetary, staffing, and equipment constraints while pointing out issues India’s internal security apparatus faces.
It also added that the “capacity to patrol and secure extensive maritime and land borders is improving but not adequate, given India’s extensive coastline.”
Further, the CRT analysis said India does not have a counter-violent extremism (CVE) policy or a national coordinator. It added state governments have the lead on CVE and de-radicalisation strategies. The analysis noted only five states have so far formulated a CVE strategy.
The analysis noted that the Union Home Affairs Ministry was preparing an action plan on strategic messaging to counter radicalisation.
“Several federal agencies and state police forces monitor online platforms for extremist content and messaging.” Additionally, it felt that given the globalisation of terror organisations and their connections to other countries, India should have a much more comprehensive policy regarding the repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters or their families. It cited India’s refusal to bring four citizen spouses of Indian ISIS fighters from Afghanistan after the Taliban took power in 2021 as evidence of this lack of a policy.
Notwithstanding limitations in the wake of changing modes and tactics of terrorism and newly evolving threats, the CRT appreciated India’s achievements in containing terrorism.
The report showcased “the success of the Indian security agencies in neutralising terrorist threats to the Indian hinterland despite challenges as outlined.”
The efforts to contain terrorism are an ongoing effort of the government of India, and the government is very serious about it.
External hands complicate the terror problem by destroying peace and amity in the country and the business environment. It could be understood by recent hard and determined measures against designated terrorists even in recent times.
In a major offensive against terrorists operating from Pakistani soil, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India has attached the Srinagar-based property of Mushtaq Zargar, aka Latram, the founder and chief commander of Al-Umar Mujahideen, who was released along with Masood Azhar, the Bahawalpur based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief, in exchange of passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight 814 (IC 814) at Kandahar in 1999.
Zargar was also involved in the kidnapping former union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, sister of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, in 1989.
Zargar was designated a terrorist by the Union Government under the Fourth Schedule of UAPA. He grew up in the Nowhatta area of Srinagar and joined JKLF. He participated in the 1989 kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed and arranged for her release in return for five terrorists. His arrest took place on May 15, 1992. Together with Harkat-ul-Ansar terrorist Omar Sayeed Sheikh, who was subsequently apprehended in Pakistan in 2002 for the savage murder of Daniel Pearl, he was exchanged as a hostage in the Indian Airlines Flight 814 hostage situation on December 31, 1999, and both men were freed from prison.
While both Masood Azhar and Omar Sayeed were hardcore terrorists of the Harkat-ul-Ansar group, the hijackers for Mushtaq Zargar were released to show support for the Kashmir issue. Today, Zargar is active again, Sheikh is in a Pakistani jail, and Masood Azhar is in JeM’s leading seminary in Bahawalpur, Pakistan.
The security agencies and police in India are very vigilant today. Recently it was revealed by Doda police in Kashmir that 118 terrorists from Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda and based in Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), 10 are most active in spreading violence in the region by recruiting the youth.
They are again trying to spread militancy in Doda and the Jammu province. Most of them have Pakistani links. Security forces have intensified counterterrorism operations in the Valley after the recent spike in incidents of target killings.
According to the Home Ministry data, incidents of Maoist violence in India dropped by 77 per cent between 2009 and 2021, while left-wing extremism incidents decreased from 2,258 to 509 in the same period.
The geographical spread of left-wing extremism also reduced to 46 districts today as districts of the country in 2010.
The Government of India believes in a holistic, long-term policy in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of the local community, and improving governance and perception management to combat LWE.
This policy has yielded dividends, and more and more youth in LWE are now opting to return to everyday life for skill development and different kinds of entrepreneurial activities based on local resources and supported by the Central and State Governments.
The multi-pronged approaches of India’s federal and provincial governments have optimism for a good life among the youth of tribal areas, which were earlier becoming victims of Maoist indoctrination.