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Home > India > News > Columnists > B Raman

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Playing into the hands of the jihadis

August 13, 2008

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India is still reeling under the impact of three rounds of serial blasts in quick succession in Jaipur on May 13, 2008, in Bengaluru on July 25 and in Ahmedabad on July 26. The police have been unable to make much headway in the investigations into the Mumbai suburban train blasts of July 11, 2006, in which 188 innocent civilians were killed and other terrorist strikes, which have followed one after the other in different parts of the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states of Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat have been as clueless in the face of this terrorism as the non-BJP ruled states.

There is a huge jihadi iceberg, which has been moving from state to state spreading death and destruction. We have not been able to locate this iceberg, trace its movement and destroy it. We don't even know who are behind the so-called Indian Mujahideen, which has claimed responsibility for many of these terrorist strikes. They have had many failures in the form of unexploded improvised explosive devices -- over 30 of them.

The conventional wisdom in investigation is that every failure by the terrorists takes the police one step closer to a successful identification of the terrorists responsible. Over 30 failures -- over 20 of them in Surat in Gujarat -- and yet we are as clueless as ever. Were these failed IEDs examined by a single team? What were their conclusions? No answer.

The so-called Indian Mujahideen [Images] had sent three e-mail messages claiming responsibility  -- two before the explosions took place and one after the explosion. It has been reported by The Hindu that one more message purporting to be from the Indian Mujahideen has been received by a newspaper warning of terrorist strikes in Godhra in Gujarat where a group of Hindu pilgrims travelling in a railway compartment were burnt to death by a group of Muslim fanatics in February 2002, which provoked acts of retaliation by sections of the Hindus all over the state.

We take pride in the fact that we are a nation of high-class experts in information technology. And yet, we have not been able to make any break-through in our investigation through an examination of these messages.

It is agreed by all analysts that one of the objectives of the perpetrators of these blasts in different states of India outside Jammu and Kashmir [Images] was to create a divide between the Hindus and the Muslims. Fortunately -- thanks to the prompt action by the concerned state administrations and to the good sense of the two communities -- the terrorists have not succeeded in this objective.

But what the terrorists have failed to achieve so far in other parts of India through their repeated acts of terrorism, the Government of India and the Bharatiya Janata Party have achieved for them in Jammu and Kashmir -- the government through its shockingly ham-handed handling of a sensitive issue and the BJP by its cynical exploitation of the communal tensions arising from the government's mishandling for partisan  political purposes with an eye on Hindu votes in the next elections, which are expected before next May.

Ham-handed handling of vital national security issues has become the defining characteristic of the Government of India. We have been seeing it again and again since the Mumbai suburban train blasts of July 2006. Important decisions have been taken -- whether relating to Pakistan or China or terrorism -- without examining their implications for national security. Many sensitive issues have been handled in a shockingly inept manner -- thereby giving the impression of its being a government of novices with very little understanding of such issues.

Nothing illustrated its ineptitude more dramatically than the casual manner in which it watched without intervening when the decision to transfer a plot of land to the ownership of a board for the maintenance of a Hindu shrine (Amarnath) in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley was taken by the local administration headed by the Congress party without a proper examination of its likely  impact on Muslim public opinion and its likely exploitation by the Muslim radicals, and then when the leaders of the Muslim community protested against it, it was cancelled without examining its likely impact on Hindu public opinion in the Hindu-majority Jammu division of the state.

The agitation launched by the Hindus of Jammu against the cancellation could have been justified if they had kept it confined to demonstrations and protests. Instead of doing so, they used the agitation for indulging in deplorable acts such as trying to disrupt communications with the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and allegedly preventing the Muslim farmers of the valley from sending their produce of fruits to the rest of India for sale.

This was a dangerous turn in the agitation and was interpreted by many as an economic blockade of the Muslims in order to force them to concede the demands of the Hindus in relation to the transfer of the land. A similar situation was sought to be created in 1990 by the jihadis in the valley by preventing the fruit farmers and artisans from sending their produce to the rest of India for sale. The government of V P Singh, the then prime minister, immediately intervened and had their fruits etc flown from Srinagar [Images] to the rest of India at the government's expense on special Indian Airlines flight. It also organised Kashmir trade fairs in Delhi [Images] and other parts of India and helped the Kashmiri farmers and artisans to bring their produce out for sale.

One would have expected the Government of India to have promptly acted in a similar manner to break the alleged blockade by the Hindus of Jammu. It did nothing of the sort. It kept fiddling as the situation went from bad to worse. Angered by government inaction, the fruit farmers, instigated by the Muslim radicals and jihadi terrorists, decided to take their produce to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir for sale. No government could have allowed this. The government's efforts to stop this have led to instances of firing by the security forces on unruly mobs resulting in over 15 deaths.

One would have expected the BJP, which aspires to come to power in New Delhi after the next election, to exercise self-restraint and resist the urge to exploit the situation for partisan political purposes. The expectations have been belied. Its crude attempts to exploit the situation with an eye on the next election have added oil to fire and are threatening to take Jammu and Kashmir back to 1989, when the insurgency started. All the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism gains of recent years in the state face the danger of being wiped out by the government's inept handling and the BJP's cynical exploitation of it.

In the situation as it is developing in Jammu and Kashmir, nobody seems to be interested in the national interest and in protecting the lives, property and economic interests of its citizens -- whatever their religion. Partisan political interests have taken precedence over national interests.

Public opinion should force the government and the BJP to wake up and prevent a slide back to 1989. Otherwise, the Indian Mujahideen, whoever is behind it, and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence will be having the last laugh.


B Raman



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