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Issue No.: 550 | April 2013
 

Terrorism Strikes Again, and Again, and Yet Again

B. Ramesh Babu
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Each time the terrorists strike, we go through the same post facto tragic drama, which has become a disgustingly routine affair over the decades

Last month’s article in the series ended by suggesting, "What cannot be cured must be endured.”  The twin blasts of 21 February 2013 in Hyderabad tell us once again that a lot can, and must be, cured at home immediately.  Otherwise, India will remain condemned as a soft state, an easy target for terrorists of all hues; whether they are homegrown or those that sneak in from across the borders, or a deadly collusion between the two.

 As a nation, we seem to be unwilling and unable to learn much despite repeated terrorist attacks all over the country. Mumbai and Hyderabad seem to be the favoured targets. Since the serial blasts in Mumbai two decades ago, terrorist attacks on our soil have become routine tragedies involving loss of many innocent lives, serious injuries to many more, and a lot of destruction of property. The saddest part is that we have failed to prevent, forestall, and abort the Dilsukhnagar blasts even when advance alerts were received. These warnings were ignored even when the local police knew about the two-month-old recce of the blast area by known accomplices of the terrorists. The Indian Mujahidin (IM) suspects and their handlers in Pakistan must be patting themselves on their back for yet another macabre mission accomplished. This certainly is the worst possible indictment of the panoply of "high power” bodies established to fight the menace of terrorism at national and state levels. 

Each time the terrorists strike, we go through the same post facto tragic drama, which has become a disgustingly routine affair over the decades. One sees a frenzy of feverish activity in the aftermath of the attack:

promises of quick investigation and stern punishment of the guilty whoever they may be;
a lot of brave talk to the effect that such things would not be allowed to happen again; 
big and small leaders descending on the scene for photo opportunities shedding tears for the                     victims and praising the helpless victims as ‘brave people’; announcing ex-gratia relief to the dead         and seriously wounded citizens;
indulging in the now familiar political blame game;
huge crowds milling around the targeted area destroying evidence; 
media hype for a few days.
Inevitably and predictably the finger of suspicion is pointed to our treacherous neighbour i.e.                   some terrorist outfit based in Pakistan, and ISI, the devil incarnate. 

Soon afterwards, we relapse into the ‘business as usual’ mode.

This time, in the midst of all this, India received the Prime Minister of Pakistan, who came on a piligrimage! Our Foreign Minister Salman Kurshid hosted a lunch for him in Lucknow.  However, the nation was assured that there would be no discussion of any issues of importance at the meeting! Our official position is that of ‘no talks’ till Pakistan does something substantial in apprehending terrorists involved in the Mumbai carnage! In the meanwhile, the religious head of Ajmer Shariff announced that he would boycott the visit of the Pakistani Prime Minister in protest against the beheading and mutilation of our soldiers in J&K! No wonder people are at a loss to understand exactly what the Government of India’s policy is towards Pakistan! India is indeed a free country, all are free to do whatever they choose to do and anything can happen any time anywhere! 

What is most alarming is that in a few days we sit back and relax, and wait for the next attack, which is bound to occur sooner than later. What follows then is the wonder of wonders, the disgustingly familiar aftermath routine! ‘Business as usual’ is in full swing. There are wild reports that the extensive drive of checking vehicles and people all over the city had come as a ‘wind fall’ for the Hyderabad police. Obviously, sense of shame is not among our great virtues! 

Learn From Others

We as a nation should learn from other countries, big and small, which have a good track record on the terrorist front. The most successful among them is the US. After the mega tragedy of 9/11/2001, America has not suffered a serious terrorist attack. That is an inspiring record and we should go all out to learn from the US, which is willing to help. America is more federal in principle and practice than India. Yet, we have fumbled and failed in creating a strong all-India anti-terrorist agency. Even such a crucial need of the hour is bogged down by narrow partisanship and turf wars between the Centre and the States. Homeland Security Act may not fit our needs in all respects, but nothing prevents us to learn from them the intelligence sharing dimensions of the massive operation and the nitty-gritty of their best practices. The real issue is not that of resources. It is the lack of political will, absence of integrity at the highest levels of bureaucracy and political leadership. 

Another country that could be of immense help is Israel. The country may be small. But their passion, commitment, and grit to stand the daily grind day after day, year after year and for long decades are worthy of emulation. Israel is able and willing to help, we should work closely with the country’s security and anti-terrorist agencies. 

There is no need to cite other foreign examples of relative success in tackling terrorism.  There is a surprising inability and unwillingness to learn even from our own successes. We should go back to the drawing board on our very successful fight against the Khalistani terrorists in Punjab. K S Gill is alive and well. Between Gill, Israel, and America, there is a lot to learn and unlearn. We are good at diagnosis and in delineating the complexities involved. However, when it comes to putting into practice what we preach and swear by, our track record is very poor.  Failure in implementation is our biggest inadequacy.

Local Connections

Almost all the terrorist attacks on the Indian soil tell us that local linkages are very critical at all stages of the operations. Without some degree of sympathy, empathy, and collusion at the local level, the terrorist attacks do not happen so frequently. Availability of and accessibility to local accomplices makes it easy for Pakistan to carry on its ‘proxy war’ of bleeding by thousand cuts. Transferring the attack operations to local accomplices makes the Pak strategy of ‘denial' more plausible. 

Indian Mujaheeddin (IM) and its sleeper cells spread across the country are the most convenient and willing tools for Pakistan in its nefarious activities in India. In this particular case, there were reports of an official of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) being in communication with a Pakistani spy soon after the blasts in Dilsukhnagar. It was immediately claimed that no vital information was passed on, naturally! A day later, another suspected case of Pakistani intelligence services efforts to break in to India’s critical security network came to light. It was also reported that police and telecom departments in the state did not have the expertise and the wherewithal to crack such calls! Voice over Internet Protocol or Internet Telephony is being used by the terrorists and ISI agents from Pakistan and occupied Kashmir. In this context, the MHA claims to have neutralized many ISI modules and Pak spies. (See The Hindu, 6 March 2013, p.13 for more details) Obviously, this is a cat and mouse game and will go on forever. With our known skills and talent in the fields of IT and communications, we should be able to play our hand better in the game.

Follow-up and Political Interference

Failure to do a quick follow-up and to act in time on the leads received and recurrent political interference are among the other inadequacies in our fight against terrorism.  It is reported that the NIA got leads suggesting that a three-member team including the much wanted IM operative Asadullah Akhtar alias Tabrej arrived in Hyderabad a week before the twin blasts. The police are now grilling several suspects including Mohammed Rayeesuddin to zero-in on the members of the sleeper cells in Hyderabad. It is necessary to note that the Hyderabad Police Department admitted that the alert from MHA about the possible terrorist attacks in some localities in Hyderabad was received ahead of time and they had ‘acted’ on it. Yet, the blasts could not be averted. It is rather ‘interesting’ that one of the police officers ‘rued’ that the terrorist were very clever and ‘left no clues.’ In fact, the latest reports on the ongoing investigations highlight how techno-savvy the attackers have become. They are using disposable emails and self-effacing websites to enhance their efficacy in operations and deniability. Our side has to do a lot of catch up with, and also stay a few steps ahead of, the adversary, which should not be insurmountable given our avowed technological prowess and enormity of our network.

Political interference in the Police Department is an unedifying constant in our country.  This hard reality has come out in the Dilsukhnagar case as well. For example, Syed Maqbool, one of the accused in the Pune blast case, was given remission (along with others) by the YSR Government following requests from ‘some political quarters’, it was reported.  He was actually released on 2 October 2009 when K. Rosaiah was the Chief Minister. Soon after his release, Maqbool was involved in several acts of terror including the four bomb blast cases in Hyderabad! Now the Police are questioning him about the recce conducted by his associates in some localities in Hyderabad including Dilsukghnagar. In response to the revelations, the current CM cancelled the remission given by his predecessor! Such wishy-washy attitude towards the menace of terrorism and the avoidable interference in the due process are not isolated examples. They impede investigations and undermine the morale of the law enforcing agencies.

Controlled Retaliation: a Way Out? 

Obviously, our police and national security agencies have to pull themselves up at home on many fronts, including some of those highlighted above. Our political leaders must stop vote bank politics when it comes to terrorism, internal security of the nation, and safety of our people. Be that as it may, it is high time to be more assertive and aggressive in dealing with Pakistani intransigence and perfidy. We should explore, seriously and urgently, ways and means of punishing Pakistan on a case-by-case basis. Our armed forces, top bureaucracy in MHA and MOD, and the political leaders at the very top must think carefully and thoroughly and agree on a set of punitive actions whenever terrorist attacks traceable to Pakistani actors (State or non-State) take place on our soil, as per our investigations. The top most political leaders and the top brass of the armed forces should sit together and work out a detailed and hierarchy of specific acts of retaliation in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere. As a layman, I cannot suggest what they could be. However, I firmly believe that the time for retaliation is on hand and such a policy, short of war, would restrain Pakistan and the fundamentalist groups in the country. This approach deserves serious consideration because the withdrawal of the American and other western troops from Afghanistan is not far. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Taliban straddling both of them will soon work out modus Vivendi. Then all the Islamic terrorists in the region will be free to turn their attention to India. In fact, the various actors in Pakistan have already indicated such a future. Unless we put our act together now, the promised future will be here before we are ready! 

Graduated and controlled retaliation may be the only recourse left for us to deal with Pakistan sponsored terrorism now and hereafter. 

Dr. B. RAMESH BABU is a specialist in International Relations, 
American Politics and Foreign Policy. He is currently associated with the 
Foundation for Democratic Reforms led by 
Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan. Dr. Babu was formerly the 
Sir Pherozeshah Mehta Professor of Civics & Politics at the 
University of Mumbai.
Email:brameshbabu08@gmail.com
 
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Other Articles in this Issue

Editorial

Water Thievery - Cause of Droughts in Maharashtra

Sharad Joshi
 

Main Feature

Budget 2013 – An Elaborate Exercise in Denial

M. R. Venkatesh
 

Twelfth Plan and the 2013-14 Budget - 3

Sunil S. Bhandare
 

Reflections: The Gang Rape and After

The New Delhi Protest

Nitin G. Raut
 

Justice Verma Committee Report

Suresh Sharma
 

Death of a Rapist

Ashok Karnik
 

Reflections: A Flawed Democracy

Are We Really Free?

Firoze Hirjikaka
 

A Travesty of Justice!

H. R. Bapu Satyanarayana
 

'Trousering’ a Brown Envelope in Myanmar and Communal Politics in Britain

Professor Christie Davies
 

Reflections: In the midst of Blasts, Turf wars continue

National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC)

Ashok Karnik
 

Foreign Relations

Terrorism Strikes Again, and Again, and Yet Again

B. Ramesh Babu
 

Cornucopia

Preamble to a Farce

Firoze Hirjikaka
 

The Art of Giving

Firoze Hirjikaka
 

Point Counterpoint

Terror Strikes Again!

Ashok Karnik
 

Phone Tapping and CDRS

Ashok Karnik
 

The Helicopter Deal

Ashok Karnik
 

Books

Disenchanting India: Organised Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India By Johannes Quack

Reviewed by Prabhakar Nanawaty
 

Educating Adults

The Right to Education Act (10)

Suresh Sharma
 

Children First Party of India Debut

Dilip Thakore
 

My Mother Pramila

R. C. Saxena
 

Anandi Gopal Joshi

B. M. N. Murthy
 

Maha Kumbh: Time to Come Clean

Sunita Narain
 

Nostalgia

Freedom First, this month in April 1956

 

In Memoriam

Professor P. V. Indiresan, R.I.P

 

Viren J. Shah, R.I.P

 

Remembering Hari Shankar Singhania

 

From Our Readers

Perpetuating the Status-Quo

Kaiser Ansary
 

Yet another Strike!

Kaiser Ansary
 

India’s Growing Leadership ‘deficit’

Saratchandra Panda, Bhubaneshwar
 

In case you have not heard this one

The Hijacking of Wharton

Rajiv Malhotra
 

Color

an African child
 
 
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