The Tribune - Spectrum

Special Issue: countering terrorism
Special Issue
Countering terrorism

Views of eminent experts and thinkers on countering terrorism

Hari Jaisingh

Kanti Bajpai

Asghar Ali Engineer

Owen Bennett Jones

Shelley Walia

G. Parthasarthy

T. V. Rajeswar

Gen V N Sharma

Ashok K. Mehta

Prakash Singh

M. J. Akbar

Sunday, January 5, 2003
Tribune special

Defining ‘action-reaction’ theme
No place for rabblerousers in India

There has been a trend of intellectual and highly educated Muslims willingly joining terrorist organisations. We have the example of Omar Sheikh who studied in the London School of Economics and joined an extremist fundamentalist group in Pakistan. Recent reports speak of an engineer and a doctor being part of a conspiracy to plant bombs in several places in Mumbai. Is it possible that apart from the ISI, they have also been motivated by certain events within the country, asks T. V. Rajeswar.

AS the year 2003 dawns, India's fight against terrorism remains unabated. India is bedevilled with serious security problems in Jammu and Kashmir, in the North-East and almost throughout the country. Bangladesh has also emerged, in recent months, as a centre for anti-India activities, while Nepal continues to be ineffective in tackling terrorism emanating from or passing through its territory.

Pakistan's hostility towards India can be traced back to the days of Partition. Pakistan had fought two wars with India, in 1948 and 1965, and after the emergence of Bangladesh the hostility deepened. It had almost become an article of faith with Pakistan that it should settle scores with India and work for its disintegration. This still remains the dominant political and foreign policy of Pakistan.

During Gen. Zia's regime, Pakistan became an Islamic fundamentalist state as he systematised terrorism and militancy aimed against India. Trained terrorists were pushed into Kashmir from across Pakistan and more and more Kashmiris were drafted into this scheme. The terrorist and Islamic militant threats to J&K continue unabated, notwithstanding certain reports, that cross-border infiltration has come down. This was illustrated by the attack on the Raghunath temple, the massacre of innocents which is continuing and the attacks on the security and paramilitary forces and their family members. 


Significantly, these attacks are not merely targeted at Jammu and Kashmir. It is not as if the J&K problem were resolved, in whatever manner, Pakistan's hostility towards India would cease. That the hostility of Pakistan is deep-rooted is explained by the ISI terrorist modules planted all over the country. A report in June, 2002, indicated that as many as 65 modules in nine states across the country had been identified as centres for agents of Pakistan's ISI. Most of them are "sleepers" and spring to deadly action when directed. Some of the prominent centres identified are Muzafarnagar, Saharanpur, Bijnor, Moradabad, Bareili, Kanpur, Varanasi and Azamgarh—all in U.P., Kolkata, Murshidabad, Dinajpur and Siliguri—all in West Bengal, Sivan, Dharbhanga, Madhubani, Purnia, Kishanganj, Katihar, Gaya, Hazaribagh, Giridih, Patna, Sitamarhi and Jamshedpur—all in Bihar. There is no need to reproduce names pertaining to other states but they are all there right down to the southern state of Kerala.

In Pakistan itself the various jihadi militant organisations have formed themselves into a Jehadi Council in collaboration with the ISI. The most important terrorist organisation of the Council is the Lashkar-e-Toiba and its philosophy is that the every fidayeen of the LeT is committed to destroy Hindustan and fight until it is reduced to dust. In the process, if the fidayeen gets killed he will be blessed by Allah and find a place in Paradise. The LeT chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed had also said that Indian Muslims should be aroused to rise and revolt so that India disintegrates. The LeT convention in April 2001, which was attended by the then D.G. of ISI, Mehmood Ahmad, had passed a resolution calling on its cadres in India to emulate the example of Mahmud Ghaznavi, the Afghan invader of the 11th century who destroyed temples and idols and looted systematically, the most important thereof being the ravaging of the Somnath temple in 1025 A.D. Does this explain the terrorist attacks on Akshardham temple in Gujarat, Raghunath temple in Jammu and the Sai Baba temple in Hyderabad in recent weeks? If anything, such attacks can be expected to continue.

Every temple cannot be protected round the clock and the easiest way of provoking communal trouble is to make stealthy attacks on temples. This is the most vulnerable situation as far as the law and order situation is concerned. A determined terrorist fundamentalist group can provoke serious law and order disturbances at their choosing. Knowing the presence of ISI modules at various sensitive places in the country, the Centre and state governments have to be extremely watchful.

Bangladesh has been home for the North-east terrorists for some years, even when Sheikh Hasina was Prime Minister. Sheikh Hasina's plea that the powerful army and security forces did not always cooperate with her was not entirely true. However, after Khaleda Zia became the Prime Minister, the situation has palpably worsened. Khaleda's strong hostility towards India is matched by her increasing tilt towards Pakistan. Time magazine carried a well-documented report in October this year on how Bangladesh had become a hotbed of terrorists waging a war against India, with its intelligence agencies maintaining close links with Pakistan's ISI. Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJI), a terrorist group in Bangladesh, is said to be having close links with Al-Qaida. The Chittagong harbour has been the gateway for frequent inflow of arms, ammunition and explosives from Pakistan, Thailand etc. and these find their way into the hands of terrorists in the North-East.

Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha made a statement in Parliament in November, 2002, giving full details of the activities of numerous terrorist outfits including Al-Qaida functioning in Bangaldesh. Bangladesh runs training camps, in collaboration with the ISI at Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Habibganj, Mymensing, Rangamati, Khagrachari, Bandraban, Sherpur, Maulvi Bazar, Netrakona and Sumanganj. About 130 camps have been identified and every single terrorist outfit from the North-East is being trained there. These include the NSCN (IM) and NSCN (Khaplang) of Nagaland, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) of Assam, the National Liberation Front of Tripura and the All Tripura Tiger Force of Tripura.

The danger to India's unity and integrity emanates not only from J&K but also from Bangladesh. These terrorist outfits, in collaboration with Pakistan's ISI and Bangladesh’s own intelligence agencies, are in a position to trigger a very serious situation in the Siligurhi Corridor. This corridor is only 22 miles wide and a serious terrorist attack in this region can easily paralyse the vital communication links resulting in the whole of North- East being cut off from the rest of the country. This had happened in the past when a couple of crucial bridges in Assam were blown up by Bodo militants. It had taken about two days to restore the traffic. That we have a Corps headquarters at Siliguri with IAF units may not provide preventive security against terrorist sneak attacks.

The presence of a very large number of Bangladeshi migrants in this region, comprising Malda, West Dinajpur, Kishanganj, Islampur and Siliguri should cause concern because nearly 40 per cent of the population are Bangladeshi migrants. The problem of Bangladesh migrants is a very serious subject by itself, but the Centre does not seem to have a definitive policy. The states of West Bengal, Bihar and Assam as well as the Centre will wake up only when something very serious happens in this region.

Funding of the terrorist organisations in the country has never been a problem. It may be recalled that the Jain Hawala case involving many politicians began with the detection of hawala funding of a terrorist outfit based in J&K and Delhi. Nobody knows what has happened to this case, cutting through the legal maze. Hawala transactions continue unabated and it is common knowledge that Pakistan finances a lot many political activists sympathetic to Pakistan in Kashmir and elsewhere. After seeing the pattern of funding Al-Qaida activists, inspired by Osama bin Laden, it is obvious that there is no effective check on flow of money across the globe for funding terrorist organisations.

Islamic fundamentalism has emerged as the most serious danger to several nations across the world. The bombing of US missions in Kenya and Tanzania three years back, the attack against an Israeli hotel in Mombasa this year, the serious attack in a nightclub in Bali, the several bomb explosions in the Philippines and the arrest of Al-Qaida activists in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have shown how widespread the network is. In Central Asia, whether it is the Chechens in Southern Russia or Yighurs in Xinjiang of China, the common thread is terrorism, inspired and funded by Islamic fundamentalists.

The United States declared war on terrorism after it suffered the most alarming attacks on its soil in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. The war declared in Afghanistan in October against the Taliban and Al-Qaida has since tapered off, but Osama bin Laden is still reported to be alive. His last video-tape which emerged in November, 2002 has alarmed the USA and its allies. The hunt for Osama and his senior operatives continue. However, USA is concentrating all its energy on Iraq. The problem of continuing cross-border terrorism as well as terrorism within the country has to be tackled by India alone. No country is going to come to India's help in carrying out this important task.

There has been a trend of intellectual and highly educated Muslims willingly joining terrorist organisations and even carrying out cruel attacks on innocents. The most important example was that of Omar Sheikh who had studied in the London School of Economics and who joined the extremist fundamentalist group in Pakistan. He was the one who got Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal trapped which led to his cruel murder later.

The attack on Parliament on December13, 2001 resulted in the death of the five terrorists who carried out the attack but there were three others who were part of the conspiracy. These included A.R. Geelani, a lecturer in Zakir Hussain College of Delhi University, and Shaukat Hussain Guru, a former Delhi University student. Recent reports emanating from Bombay speak of an engineer and a doctor being part of a conspiracy in planting bombs in several places in Bombay. Is it possible that they have been motivated by certain events within the country, apart from ISI motivation?

During his electioneering, Narendra Modi constantly harped on the theme of "action-reaction", regarding the riots in Ahmedabad and neighbouring cities after the Godhara tragedy. Taking Modi's example, one can trace the Bombay serial bombing in March,1993 as a reaction to the Babri Masjid demolition in December,1992. One of the terrorists who attacked the Akshardham temple in Gujarat had a note on his body to the effect that the attack was a revenge against the killing of Muslims in Gujarat.

The lesson to be learnt is that organised massacres such as those witnessed in Gujarat in February-March 2002, and the unbridled anti-Muslim tirade being carried out by VHP rabblerousers are bound to have a reaction and can lead to terrorists rising from among the Muslims within the country, even without ISI's motivation, to seek revenge for a perceived sense of grave injustice. It is this that Indian politicians, particularly of the Sangh Parivar, should remember. They owe it to the nation and the people of the country to ensure that moderation and sobriety are observed, both in word and deed.