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Maharashtra's intelligence setup needs a revamp

July 14, 2011 17:04 IST

Did an intelligence failure result in the Mumbai serial blasts of July 13, 2011? Toral varia finds out what experts think

There has been no intelligence input with either the state or the central agencies this time." This statement by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram is a clear indication of how the July 13 serial bombings have put intelligence agencies on the back foot.

With very little information to push the investigations ahead, anti-terrorism agencies are struggling to get a basic strong clue which could lead them to that major breakthrough.

From time to time several suggestions have been made to the Maharashtra government to bring about important changes in the existing state intelligence set-up. One of the key changes that have been recommended to the state government is to set up a separate wing for intelligence on terrorism in the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad.

Most of the officers who are posted with premium anti-terrorism agencies come on a time-bound posting and hence it becomes important to do a handover of the existing sources to the succeeding officer. Emphasis should be laid more on cultivating a source for the agency rather than the officer.

However, little or no action has been taken on these recommendations.

"A terrorist has to be lucky just once, but an intelligence agency should be lucky always," says retired Colonel RSN Singh who has served both in the Research and Analysis Wing and Military Intelligence.

Home Minister Chidambaram's statement that "it's a very close group and they have worked in a very clandestine manner," has also come in for criticism. Experts feel a terrorist group is not expected to announce an attack and then execute it. In recent times the Indian Mujahideen has gone ahead and claimed responsibility by sending out mails to various media houses, but this time round that has not happened yet.

There have been enough indications for the Indian intelligence agencies to take a cue from and join the dots. From Jama Masjid to Varanasi to Pune's German Bakery blast -- all resonated with the signature style of the Indian Mujahideen. All these incidents clearly indicate that terror was struggling to resurface. Col Singh feels, "These were all dots waiting to be joined. There is a pattern. The trick is to analyse the pattern. And that happens best through people giving the ground level intelligence. This ability to analyse is something that blatantly missing."

According to G Parthasarathy, former high commissioner to Pakistan, "It's time for a more serious crackdown on the Indian Mujahideen." According to him, only after the investigations progress will the loopholes in the intelligence set-up get highlighted. "Let the investigations unfold and only then will we know where the intelligence slipped up."

An officer attached to the state intelligence department told on the condition of anonymity, "Most of the times we are asked to gather inputs which are political in nature. We feel handicapped at times."

According to Jayant Umranikar, who retired as Maharashtra's director general of police (operations), "We need a total revamp of the intelligence system at the state level."

Toral Varia in Mumbai