Terrorism in India – The Current Scene
India has unfortunately become the sponge that protects us all. India’s very proximity to Pakistan, which has developed into the epicenter of global terrorism during the last 30 years, has resulted in New Delhi absorbing most of the blows unleashed by tho
AT THE US SENATE Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in January 2009, Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Endowment, strategic affairs expert and an influential policy adviser, testified post26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008 began his testimony thus, “India has unfortunately become the sponge that protects us all. India’s very proximity to Pakistan, which has developed into the epicenter of global terrorism during the last 30 years, has resulted in New Delhi absorbing most of the blows unleashed by those terrorist groups that treat it as a common enemy along with Israel, the United States, and the West more generally.” Tellis advised that Barack Obama Administration should keep Pakistan’s feet to the fire and ensure that Islamabad makes good on its promises to take on terrorist groups. Tellis also termed India’s response to the Mumbai attack as inadequate and suggested India sets up a national counter-terrorism centre (NCTC) with US help.
Unfortunately, neither the Obama Administration nor New Delhi took Ashley Tellis’s advice seriously. The former obviously thought that it is good for the US and the West if India remains the “sponge”. Even in the recent US Congressional hearing slamming Pakistan’s dual game, the focus is Afghanistan, not India despite loads of evidence. India’s politicians are too busy politicking from one state election to another while the bureaucracy that holds India’s jugular is least concerned about the vital need for setting up the NCTC. Hence, Pakistani military-ISI, being the nerve centre of a conglomerate of interlinked terrorist organisations and enjoying total Chinese support has a field day in targeting India.
Jammu and Kashmir—Killing of Burhan Wani
Given the current situation in J&K, that is where one should start looking while reviewing developments in terrorist activities in the country. The killing of Burhan Wani was just a trigger but the phenomenon of mobs consistently attacking police stations and indulging in violence and stonethrowing hardly transformed overnight. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says that the present state government has compounded the mistakes done by his government without elaborating what mistakes his government made. But it is obvious that both governments continued to ignore the politico-socio-economic aspects of soft-peddled terrorists and terrorist acts for politico-economic benefits, lacked requisite administration, leaving everything to security forces. This encouraged Pakistani military-ISI to increase the radicalisation of the Muslim population of J&K, rallying even those who only had genuine grievances only against the lack of administration. The manner in which the Sufi culture of J&K has been qui- etly killed and replaced by radical Wahabism is clear by the Arab type headgear that is common sight now, distributed freely along with Pakistani and ISIS flags – same headgear worn by Hafiz Saeed. While Pakistan exploited the social media and even religious leaders to ignite anti-India sentiment, the state government did nothing to curb this wave. On the contrary, even the rehabilitation of surrendered militants remains unaddressed. There have never been attempts to connect with the population particularly the youth by the state administration, leaving it to Hurriyat separatist who always preach sedition, adding fuel to fire.
The J&K state government has been ignoring the periodic unfurling of Pakistani and ISIS flags in J&K and the vitriolic from loudspeakers of mosques during Friday prayers. All this clearly facilitates LeT’s Islamic jihad which is linked to global jihad. Some 634 jailed stone-pelters were granted amnesty just in time to join the protests. Pakistani infiltration attempts, encounters with terrorists are periodic while police posts are being attacked regularly. Despite the help rendered by the military during the disastrous floods of 2014, ISI and terrorist organisations have successfully been able to fan anti-India sentiments in the Muslim population. There is no effort on our part to bring home to the youth they are being ‘used’ by forces inimical to their welfare, and that of their kith and kin. They are not even being made aware of the subsidies and state benefits they enjoy compared to rest of India, and comparative development and living conditions between J&K and the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), latter being far worse. To top this, the Mehbooba Government appears intent on making some policemen scapegoats for ‘excesses’ despite the casualties the police forces have suffered. But then similarly weren’t personnel of Rashtriya Rifles made scapegoats just before the J&K elections for making political brownies?
Our soft response encouraged stonepelters in J&K to become even more aggressive. So the situation in J&K has deteriorated and our paid media supports the separatist upsurge, exhorting that even armed terrorist not be killed despite police stations being burned, weapons looted and attempt made to attack an airbase. Constant media coverage helps the terrorists spread the discontent further. Sure democracies have constraints but Israel, also democracy, jails stone-pelters, terminating their state benefits. Pakistan is a sham democracy, but they blackout occurrences in Balochistan, GilgitBaltistan and NWFP fully. We don’t have to copy how China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka deal with insurgency but certainly we could draw lessons. Pakistan is fully determined to keep raising the pressure in J&K, the statements within Pakistan including of Nawaz Sharif, the assembly resolution, observance of black day, and the machinations of LeT-JuD’s Hafiz Saeed and HuM’s Salahuddin with Pakistani military backing are evidence enough. Unless we adopt a well coordinated approach (not just soft-pulp), including proactive actions to get hold of Pakistani fault lines, Pakistan will continue to radicalise J&K Muslims increasingly and fan the fires further.
Radicalisation of Educational Institutions
The second major development in India has been the success of the ISI to fan anti-India and seditious sentiments in our educational institutions, particularly the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)-supported by a section of our media that obviously is on payroll of forces inimical to India, including funds being funneled through so-called NGOs. The separatist call was started by the JNU, Jadahvpur and Hyderabad universities picked up the same line – all supported by J&K separatists on Pakistan’s behest. Home Minister Rajnath Singh went on record to say, “What happened at JNU has been fully supported by Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed. I appeal to all political parties that whenever such situations arise where anti-India slogans are raised, the entire nation must speak in one voice.” Unfortunately, our slow and malleable legal system has permitted what may be termed as competitive radicalism.
Radicalisation at Large
It was ironic that post the restaurant massacre on July 2, 2016, that Bangladesh had to ask India to probe Zakir Naik and it is only now that his preachings are being probed, as also the dubious funding of his Peace TV, which it emerges has been broadcasting for years without licence to do so. Had the terror attack in Dhaka not occurred, this individual would have continued his activities unabated. But then there are so many other radicals like Zakir Naik that preach hatred and social unrest. At the same time occurrence of this nature are quickly politicised and so we witness some politicians, a jaundiced cross-section, so-called activists of freedom of expression and the paid media jumping in to support Zakir Naik. This unfortunately has become the patent characteristic in India where national security is consigned to the dustbin.
The J&K state government has been ignoring the periodic unfurling of Pakistani and ISIS flags in J&K and the vitriolic from loudspeakers of mosques during Friday prayers. All this clearly facilitates LeT’s Islamic jihad which is linked to global jihad
ISIS and AQIS
Asim Umar, AQIS chief, recently gave a call to undertake ‘lone wolf ’ attacks to target senior IPS and IAS officers, saying Indian Muslims must follow the example of youths in Europe and strike against Indian police and senior officials. According to him, senior government officials should be held responsible for communal violence, adding that the state and its departments were equally responsible for the incidents against Muslims in India and senior officials must be targeted to cause financial loss to the government and start
riots in the country. Considering the developments in J&K, it would be stupid to not take this seriously especially given that Asim Umar is ISI protégé and Pakistan’s aim is to destabilize India and retard our economic progress.
In June this year the National Investigation Agency (NIA) busted an ISIS module in Hyderabad detaining 11 persons including five accused in terrorist activities, seizing weapons, ammunition, urea, acids, hydrogen peroxide, other unidentified chemicals, electronic gadgets, other incriminating material and 15 lakh. Searches are being conducted in Bengaluru also from where NIA had arrested ISIS suspects earlier this year. Our youth getting under ISIS influence, in whatever numbers are of concern, even as the NIA has busted few modules, there is talk of ISIS presence in West Bengal as per NIA, the ISIS affiliated Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh took advantage of the overly secular approach while setting up its modules in West Bengal. Today the outfit which allies with the ISIS has become a headache not just in Bangladesh, but in West Bengal as well, and the current news of some youth from Kerala having joined the ISIS travelling via Iran. The notorious case of Mehdi Masroor Biswas recruiting for the ISIS under Twitter handle @shamiwitness is well known but according to an NIA official there may be some 100 persons involved in such activity.
China not only has been supporting Pakistan’s terrorist activities in India, we can hardly ignore Chinese intelligence establishing the United Liberation Front of West, South, East Asia (ULFWSEA) bringing nine major North East militant groups including NSCN (K) and ULFA under common umbrella in Myanmar during May 2015. Threat from ULFWSEA should be viewed in its formation simultaneous to the announcement of India’s ‘Act East Policy’, in conjunction China’s claim to entire Arunachal Pradesh and the groups sitting astride the strategic IndiaMyanmar-Thailand Highway. Our media is hollering to lift AFSPA from Manipur little realising how China will exploit the UNLFWSEA to wreak havoc in our North East, China having made her animosity towards India amply clear.
Unless we take a concerted relook at the terror threats facing us and ensure high level coordination and synergy between political, military, intelligence agencies and other departments, we are likely to face more violence. The need for establishing credible deterrence to proxy wars being waged on us by our adversaries is vital.