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'Terror outfits born from political agenda, not incidents'

July 22, 2013 13:18 IST

Former chief of R&AW C D Sahay dismisses comments linking the Gujarat riots and Babri Masjid demolition to the formation of the Indian Mujahideen. Vicky Nanjappa reports

A senior Congress leader’s comment on Sunday linking the formation of the Indian Mujahideen to the Gujarat riots drew sharp reaction from the Bharatiya Janata Party. But a National Investigation Agency charge sheet is what has been quoted for making this statement.

Almost every terrorist arrested on Indian soil has either quoted the Babri Masjid demolition or the Gujarat riots as reason for retribution. But the NIA charge sheet or the first dossier on the Indian Mujahideen paints quite a different picture.

While the NIA charge sheet does not make a general statement on the IM-Gujarat riots link, the dossier speaks of a clear pattern that emerged in 1995.

In 1995, nine foreigners were abducted in Kashmir by the Harkat-ul-Ansar seeking the release of Pakistani mujahideen leader Maulana Masood Azhar. While the demand was made, the HuA never claimed responsibility for the attack.

A new outfit Al-Farhan had claimed responsibility. Investigations later found out that this was just an operational name of the HuA. American agencies got in touch with India following the incident and sought details on Al-Farhan to declare them a terror outfit.

India, however, clarified that there was no such outfit and even if it were banned it made no difference. The real culprit was the Harkat-ul-Ansar.

The dossier prepared by Indian agencies say that this was for the first time that the Inter-Services Intelligence realised that working under a pseudo name worked wonders.

In the 2001 Parliament attack, investigators knew that the Jaish-e-Mohammad had carried out the operation, but the group did not claim responsibility. It had become a ploy that was working well for Pakistan. This was quite surprising since the Jaish, which was a 10-month-old outfit at the time of the Parliament attack, did not wish to seek credit for the attack.

The next outfit to follow this pattern was the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. While it was open about its intentions in the KashmirValley, it always hid under various banners like the Jammat-ud-Dawa. The Lashkar which is often used by the ISI had its biggest interest in India.

The Mumbai train bombings, India Gate attack or even the 26/11 Mumbai attack, the Lashkar has never claimed responsibility for these strikes. While this was increasingly becoming hard to conceal, the ISI realised that it was time that a homegrown outfit in India to be born. The other reason behind this was that the ISI could not risk sanctions.

The ISI first tapped the Students Islamic Movement of India. When some radicals decided to join the Lashkar, the Home Ministry got wind of it and banned the group. But the ban meant that the SIMI was available for the ISI. The ISI decided that some radicals in the SIMI and the Indian Lashkar modules would work together and carry out attacks in India. There were some attacks that were carried out and the name given to the group was the Islamic Security Force.

The Islamic Security Force, however, did not make any impact. The Uttar Pradesh court bombing in 2007 was the first time the name of the Indian Mujahideen was announced.

According to the dossier, the IM was assigned all the credit for the work and activities of the Lashkar. It worked well for the Lashkar as its name never cropped up during the various attacks. All attacks were blamed on the Indian Mujahideen despite the Lashkar being at the heart of these operations.

Now coming to the question about whether these organisations were formed due to the Gujarat riots or the Babri Masjid demolition.

The statement by the senior Congress leader comes in the wake of several Muslim organisations in India stating that the IM is nothing but a fiction of the Intelligence Bureau.

Former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, C D Sahay, says, “The Lashkar would have got away with the 26/11 attack had Kasab and (Pakistani American terrorist David) Headley not being caught and questioned. Do you recollect that immediately after the attack it was the Deccan Mujahideen that claimed responsibility? This was an attempt to shift focus from the IM and the Lashkar since by then the Indian agencies knew well that these outfits were connected, which meant Pakistan would be blamed.”

Sahay also adds that these terrorists quote incidents as they need to justify what they are doing. “Outfits are not formed due to incidents, these are just excuses that are given to trigger a passion and recruit.”

“When Abu Hamza (under trail in the US) was recruited in London there was no 9/11 or any other such incident that had taken place at that time. It was purely a recruitment that took place in the mosque for the Afghan Jihad. This was purely a political battle and Islam was never at threat in Afghanistan. It indeed is very sad that these politicians today come out with such statements to further their electoral hopes and ambitions. Motivating factors are not incidents, but a political agenda. Pakistan does have a very strong political agenda against India and this is the reason terror outfits crop up,” the former chief of RAW said.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore