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Tackling terror: Raje meets top experts
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | June 13, 2008 21:40 IST
Last Updated: June 14, 2008 00:11 IST
The death of sixty-four innocent people in the Jaipur serial blasts on May 13 had shocked even terrorism analysts. Within days of the shocking blasts, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia did something that none of the chief ministers of terror-hit states had done before.
Raje sought to educate herself about the entire dimension of terrorism. She wanted to know its root causes, related issues and possible solution.
On May 24, she called an unusual meeting, where she invited several terrorism experts, including B Raman, author of Terrorism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, A S Dulat, former chief of Research & Analysis Wing and special director of Intelligence Bureau and Ajay Sahni, executive director of the Institute For Conflict Management.
Sahni told rediff.com, "This meeting was serious. The Rajasthan government tried to make an overall assessment of the entire situation. I spoke about issues of capacity, deficit in intelligence and policing. As we know, there is nothing new to learn about security."
In the four-hour meeting, Raje discussed the future course of action to deal with terrorism in Rajasthan. She was present at the meeting throughout -- except for a 30-minute interval when she discussed the law and order situation arising out of the Gujjar agitation � with her officials in another room. She took a keen interest in the discussions and took copious notes.
"Raje wanted to do something to safeguard her state's security. This was politics with a difference. She wanted to know how we went about conducting our investigations," said Dulat.
"She was so straightforward," he added.
He advised the state government that India need its intelligence inputs -- both human and cyber. Also, India needs a proper threat assessment of all its major cities. "Yeh bimari janewali nahin (the sickness of terrorism is here to stay)," said Dulat.
Dulat believes that technical intelligence is not enough to tackle the menace of terrorism, without credible intelligence about the terrorist infrastructure. He added, "When terrorist attacks take place, it is important to have proper media management. One should target the real culprits without targeting Muslims."
The meeting was also attended by senior officers from the state police force and the Indian Administrative Service, counter-terrorism experts from Delhi, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and the head of the subsidiary Intelligence Bureau in Jaipur.
Ajit Doval, former director of the Intelligence Bureau, was also invited, but he could not attend the meeting due to personal reasons. Raje had also invited counter-terrorism experts from the UP police, but they did not come.
Senior officers of the Rajasthan police gave a briefing about the progress made in the investigations till now. They told the officials and experts present that the explosive used to trigger the blasts was made of ammonium nitrate and not RDX. They added that all the cycles used in the explosions had been bought from different shops on the same afternoon.
The photograph of a cycle, with the explosive device attached to it, which was sent to various TV channels by a group called "Indian Mujahideen', had been taken near the Kotwali police station, said the officials.
So far, the identity of the perpetrators and of their organisation has not been established.
References to the involvement of the Lashkar- e-Toiba and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami are purely speculative, said the officials.
During the course of the meeting, police officers from Delhi, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh explained their counter-terrorism set-ups.
During the discussions, Raje said she wanted to prepare a time-bound roadmap to deal with terrorism and asked for suggestions. The experts suggested that she could set up an Anti-Terrorism Task Force, along the lines of the Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh, which had an impressive track record against the Maoists.
Another suggestion was strengthening the counter-terrorism capability of all police stations, by modifying the training syllabi in police training schools, to emphasise on lessons about counter-terrorism.
The experts also stressed on the importance of improving human intelligence and garnering technical intelligence by monitoring the Internet. She asked senior police officials of the state to chalk out a road map for immediate implementation of short-term, medium-term and long-term measures.
Raje said while the state governments received excellent co-operation from the central agencies after a terrorist strike, the co-operation in preventing terrorist strikes should be strengthened.
However, like most terrorist attacks in India, the culprits behind the serial blasts in the Pick City are still at large. Many questions regarding the motive and forces behind the blasts remain unanswered.
The Rajasthan police had initially arrested Rashid Hussain, an electronics engineer working for Infosys [Get Quote], Mohmmad Sajid , leader of the Students Islamic Movement of India and Mohmmad Ilyas Kari, a Madressa teacher from Bharatpur in Rajasthan.
Hussein and Sajid have been let off after rigorous interrogations, while Kari has been charged for possession of fake passports and wealth disproportionate to the known sources of income.
The media had cried hoarse about the 'major breakthrough' by the Special Investigation team when the three accused were arrested, but the media hype fizzed when it was revealed that Hussein, 35, had no role in the blasts.
Hussein had been an employee of Infosys, Bangalore for over three years. He was transferred to Jaipur shortly before the blasts.
After his release, Hussein told journalists that the police had asked him to keep his mouth shut about the case. He had been arrested as he was acquainted with a few members of the SIMI, before the outfit was banned by the Centre. He was released only after a senior police officer from Bangalore was convinced about his innocence after thorough interrogations.
A month has elapsed since the blasts shook the tourist hotspot, and the only silver lining is that like other cities torn apart by blasts, Jaipur has remained calm and not succumbed to communal disturbances.
In a knee-jerk reaction against 'Bangladeshi immigrants', anybody with a Bengali Muslim name was rounded up in and around Jaipur. But the ensuing Gujjar agitation shifted the state administration's focus off the illegal Bangladeshi migrants issue.
Like in other blasts cases, the investigation into the Jaipur blasts case is likely to be a long drawn-out one. Blasts in public places are not only difficult to solve, they are even more difficult to solve in a convincing manner.
"Terrorist attacks are pan-Indian phenomenon. You can't blame state governments for it," B Raman told rediff.com.