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Home > India > News > Columnists > Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retd)

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No Islamic burial for Mumbai terrorists

December 19, 2008

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It has been over nine years since I have been pleading that Pakistani terrorists killed in India should not be given a traditional Islamic burial. All these years my plea has fallen on deaf ears.

Writing on strategic and security issues is a tricky affair. One reason one writes is to generally share one's experience and help in sensitising the general reader on this all important issue. But there is another motive as well, and that is to contribute and help the authorities with ideas and suggestions. By its very nature these have to remain confidential, so that the concerned bureaucrat/policeman/soldier can take credit. Establishments the world over hate an 'outsider' advising them. I have strictly followed this rule, but wish to break it this once for the issue is far too grave to be left to the tender mercies of the 'establishment'.

As a frequent visitor to the trouble-torn Kashmir valley, I have been appalled that out of a mistaken sense of decency, we have been permitting the local Waqf board to take charge of the slain foreign terrorists's bodies and bury them with religious rites. There is a 'foreign militants' graveyard in Kashmir that is a site of pilgrimage for the separatists.

One can understand Indian terrorists being buried in India, for howsoever misguided, they are Indians. But pray what are Chechens, Arabs, Afghans, you name it, doing in Kashmir? By permitting this 'atrocity' we the people of India have 'internationalised' the Kashmir issue and even legitimised the role of international jihadis.

Even during the Kargil [Images] border conflict in 1999, we had sufficient evidence to show to the world that regular Pakistani army soldiers from the Northern Infantry had taken part in the fighting. I had then suggested that we bring down those dead bodies to the Wagah border and hand them over to the Pakistanis in full media glare. Let them refuse to take the bodies -- which they could not have due to pressure of the families. But again due to reasons of 'decency' we refrained from doing so.

The bodies of nine psychopath killers involved in the Mumbai massacre are today similarly waiting for claimants. Pakistan has already disowned them. We should now dispose them off as per procedure adopted for unclaimed bodies. At no cost should they be handed over to the Waqf board for an Islamic burial. Earlier, in the case of the attack on the Akshardham temple [Images] in Ahmedabad [Images] or elsewhere, this has been the practice.

It is believed that the lone terrorist in police custody is proving to be resistant to interrogation. It is futile to expect a fanatic to break down. In fact, the biggest problem we face is the 'suicide attacker' who is not afraid of death. He is convinced that in the afterlife he will go to heaven. But here it should be possible to turn his own fanaticism against him. While the jihadi is not afraid of dying, he is fearful of not getting a proper Islamic burial. He is conditioned to believe that should that happen then he will not go to heaven.

This gives us the golden opportunity to get to the mind of the captured terrorist. By demonstrating that the nine of his colleagues are denied a burial he can be pressured to tell all that he knows by merely promising him a decent burial should he come clean with all the information.

By publicly denying a burial to the killed terrorists, with enough publicity worldwide, we can hopefully make a dent in the brainwashing of the would-be suicide bombers that since they are not assured of an Islamic burial they will not go to heaven. Maybe, just maybe, that may dissuade some of them to desist from carrying out suicide missions.

Colonel Athale is the Chhattrapati Shivaji Fellow at the United Services Institute, New Delhi [Images], working on a project on internal security. He is also coordinator of the Pune-based think tank Inpad.


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