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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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  Wait Until next Blast - Kalyan K. Mitra*  

The repeated bomb blasts in Mumbai city have once again brought into sharp focus the threat of mass casualty terrorism to kill innocent citizens. As the terrorists find it more & more difficult to strike at visible symbols of state power & security establishments, they are shifting their attention to soft targets that are easier to hit. With virtually endless supply of such soft targets and places of public congregations, India faces the formidable challenge of countering terrorists who seem to be motivated by a strong desire to vent their anger against the Indian state. The threat of terrorist strikes at soft targets has added a new dimension to terrorist violence because the ISI of Pakistan has established its network of modules not only in Nepal and Bangladesh, but in many towns and cities of India. The suspected role of educated youngsters recruited by the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) has made the battle against terror even more difficult. Being educated, these youngsters quickly learn how to make bombs, arrange safe houses, Communicate clandestinely & transfer funds. This new breed of terrorists have made common cause with the ‘Jehadis’ to punish the civil society for perceived injustice meted out to fellow Muslims in India.

The serial blasts in Mumbai on 11th July, unlike the blasts in 1993, left the investigative agencies clueless. There is no doubt that months of preparation went behind the well-coordinated plot which was meticulously planned and thoroughly rehearsed. The intelligence agencies claim to have forewarned local authorities. But there was no specific intelligence input as a result of which Mumbai police were caught unawares. Such specific intelligence can be obtained either through interception of communication or through a tip off from someone who has penetrated a terrorist module. Terrorist strikes of such magnitude are planned and financed by Pakistan-based outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, but these cannot be implemented without local support & well-trained local operatives. The Counter-terrorism establishment in India including our intelligence agencies do not seem to have penetrated the numerous terror support cells which rely on misguided Muslim youth as foot soldiers of terror. Many of these youngsters are motivated by money or the ideology of radical Islam or both. Off late these homegrown operatives are being targeted by the ISI which has an active recruitment campaign amongst section of muslim community which has been radicalized. These youngsters only need to be reminded about anti-Muslim violence in India and the riots in Gujarat.

Following the blasts, the police have been visiting Muslim neighborhoods, picking up suspects and looking for clues. Since most of these suspects are innocent and have nothing to do with terror strikes, the result of such thoughtless action will be to generate further resentment amongst the community members. This, in the long run, will prove counter-productive. Without the cooperation and support of the muslim community the majority of whom are law-abiding and patriotic, the security establishment in India will hardly ever succeed in neutralizing terrorist cells within the country.

In Pakistan, the initial tip off about the horrendous plot to blow up several airliners came more than a year ago from an informant belonging to the muslim community. Intercepted message from Pakistan to Britain, the arrest of Rashid Rauf and an alert from an informant led to the subsequent arrest of Rauf’s brother in Birmingham. The MI5 had infiltrated a bomb factory and found liquid explosives and detonators weeks before they actually foiled the plot. The MI5 eavesdropped on the suspect for weeks before arresting the suspects whose houses were bugged after covert raids. The elaborate surveillance exercise enabled the MI5 to unearth the group’s plan, contacts and time of actual strike.

It has now been established that the Al-Qaeda cell which plotted the strikes has operational links with terrorists operating in Kashmir. Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, it has been proved again, is an integral part of the global arc of Islamic terror. The role of Lashkar-e-Toiba and several other Pakistan-based groups have once again come under sharp international focus. The money provided by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (a charity front of LeT) for earthquake relief in the POK is believed to have been used to finance the plot. Several suspects have reportedly visited Pakistan & attended training camps run by Tablighi Jamaat, an organization used as recruiting base for Jehadis. A year ago, following terrorist attack on London’s transportation system, Pakistan came under focus because two suspects were found to have visited militant Islamic outfits in Pakistan.

This time Pakistan helped Britain in nabbing the suspects and, as expected, Musharraf has received Kudos for his role in the global war against terror. Nevertheless, the chain of events has proved conclusively that Pakistan, the much touted ally of America in the war on terror, remains a seedbed and primary source of Islamic terror. Khalid Muhammad Sheikh (The Mastermind behind 9/11), Ramzi Yousef (Who carried out the attack on WTC in 1993) and now Rashid Rauf (Key Player in the recent London blast) all had Pakistan connection, one way or the other.

The British Police and the intelligence deserve credit for painstaking work to prevent a mass casualty attack by terrorists the like of which the world has yet to see. Within 24 hours, they released the names and addresses of those arrested in sharp contrast to the performance of Mumbai Police and our intelligence agencies. They had the photographs, phone conversation intercepts, technical surveillance inputs, bank account details of suspects which led to the U.S., Germany, Pakistan and several other countries.

In the sixtieth year of its Independence, India’s march to progress seems to depend largely on its ability and determination to tackle the roots of terrorism nurtured in Pakistan and assisted by Bangladesh. India has sent strong messages asking Pakistan to end cross-border terrorism besides urging the international community to put pressure on Pakistan. The Indian Prime Minister, is an unusually tough stand, has announced on 15th August that the ‘Peace Process’ would not progress unless Musharraf kept his (January 2004) pledge of not allowing Pakistani territory for fomenting terrorism in India. The PM has said “No one can make India kneel”. But firm and decisive action, not tough words, is the need to the hour. India has displayed lamentable lack of political will and courage to neutralize cross-border terrorism. Musharraf will not dismantle his terror training camps or stop infiltration across the LOC or through Bangladesh and Nepal unless India makes it really costly for Pakistan to export terror. While the intelligence gathering efforts are beefed up and the terrorist modules are neutralized, covert operations against, selected targets across the border should be launched. India has the capability. What it lacks is courage & the will to act.

It is unfortunate that our law enforcement agencies and counter-terrorism outfits do not have a terrorism-specific law. The ruling political elite in their mindless pursuit of political advantage and vote bank have abolished the POTA whereas the US & the UK had promptly passed the stringent Patriot’s Act & the Anti-Terror Act respectively. India does not have a cogent policy for combating terrorism yet. In the final analysis, the logic of overriding national interest must prevail over petty short-sighted electoral interests. Harsh and unpopular law’s have to be enacted, at least as temporary measure, to combat terrorism. Bin Laden’s ‘International Islamic Front’ for Jihad against the crusaders, the Jews & the Hindus comprise Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jihad-Islami, among others. The India focused Jihad is no longer restricted to Kashmir. The targets of Jehadi attack are now spread all over the country in its mass transit systems, places of worship, shopping areas, cinema halls & so on. The primary threat comes from LeT which, as the National Security Advisor has reminded us, is the most visible manifestation of Al-Qaeda & a part of the Al-Qaeda compact.

The terrifying spectre of the rise of radical Islam is not only haunting the South Asian sub-continent, but most parts of Europe today. This phenomenon is threatening, democratic secular multi-religious nations which are especially vulnerable to this kind of terrorism. In India, the fear of terrorist strikes in public places have turned the daily lives of people upside down. The credibility of the security apparatus of the state has been severely undermined. Earlier, it was a conflict between the terrorists & the security forces. But it is no longer so. Now it has touched the common people’s lives. The fear of the bomb is a constant factor in day to day life of people. Hence, the sooner the government acts to strike at the very root of terror, the better. If our leaders fail to meet the challenge headlong, the people will have no choice other than leaving in fear and waiting for the next blast. The Prime Minister has assured the nation that we would win the war against terrorism. But he has not said how that war will be won. Does he know the answer? That is the question.

*Former Principal Director, DG Security


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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