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Has the terror probe taken a pre-election turn?

November 17, 2008

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The manner of the current investigation by the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Mumbai police into an explosion in Malegaon in Maharashtra on September 30, 2008, which mainly targeted and killed some local Muslims, should be a matter of concern to all right-thinking Indians.

Large sections of Muslims, the anti-Bharatiya Janata Party political class and the so-called secular elements in the Hindu community, which lose no opportunity to demonise the Hindu nationalists and the BJP in order to win the applause of the minorities and project themselves as liberals, have used the investigation to divert attention away from the hundreds of innocent civilians killed by jihadi terrorists, many of them trained and assisted by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh and inspired by the pan-Islamic ideology of Al Qaeda [Images] and its International Islamic Front.
They look upon the leaks from the ATS -- many of them based on narco-analysis of dubious investigation and evidentiary value -- as a pre-election godsend in their campaign to project the Muslims as more sinned against than sinning, and the nationalist-minded Hindus, who call for strong action against the jihadi terrorists, as chauvinists and fascists.

This, despite the fact that resort to narco-analysis -- which was frequently resorted to by Hitler's [Images] Nazis and Stalin's KGB to obtain confessions from political dissidents -- has stood condemned in the rest of the civilised world. Many of the thousands of political dissidents, who were sent to the Gulag and the firing squads by Stalin, were tried and convicted on the basis of narco-analysis.

Dr P Chandrasekharan, the legendary forensic science expert who played a highly-acclaimed role in the successful investigation and prosecution of the LTTE [Images] conspirators involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, has been one of the strongest critics of the police in some Indian states resorting to narco-analysis, which is not a scientific method of investigation. In many countries narco-analysis is viewed as a political tool and not a scientific one.

On the basis of statements and remarks made by the suspects under the influence of drugs, which induce a state of semi-consciousness, large sections of the Hindu community have been sought to be demonised, the army has been unwittingly stigmatised and attention has been sought to be diverted from the investigation into acts of jihadi terrorism and from enquiries to establish the full extent of the so-called Indian Mujahideen [Images] iceberg.

I am proud to have been the first analyst to have drawn attention on October 2, 2008, to the fact that the September 30 explosion at Malegaon and Modasa in Gujarat did not gel with the explosions carried out in other parts of India by the jihadi terrorists. I was the first to have suggested that we should thoroughly investigate the suspected involvement of some Hindus in these blasts in order to gain the trust of the Muslim community and remove the misgivings in their mind about the fairness of the police. I was the first to have suggested in a TV interview that if the Malegaon investigation warranted a re-visit to some of the past investigations into terrorist strikes in which Muslims were the main targets, the police should not hesitate to do so.
I applauded the Mumbai ATS when it started the investigation into the suspected involvement of some Hindus in the Malegaon blasts, but I have been greatly concerned over the manner in which its investigation -- instead of remaining professional and scientific -- has taken what large sections of the Hindus of this country will view as a politically motivated direction. Some of the media leaks attributed to the Mumbai ATS make one think that it has -- wittingly or unwittingly -- started playing to the so-called secularists gallery.
So many obvious questions which should have been asked by objective opinion-makers have not been asked. One of the suspects is alleged to have lent her motorcycle to the perpetrators. Can one think of any instance in the recent history of terrorism in which a terror-suspect created evidence against himself/herself by using his/her own vehicle for planting a bomb?
A private military school which coaches aspirants to a career in the armed forces has been sought to be condemned on the ground that some of the suspects held a meeting on its premises. What is important is, what was the purpose of the meeting? Was it to plan specific acts of terrorism, or was it merely to discuss how to counter anti-national jihadi terrorism? Innumerable meetings and seminars are held every year in prestigious training institutions of the government to discuss, inter alia, appropriate strategies against jihadi terrorism, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Very often, the speakers call for strong retaliatory attacks against the terrorist organisations, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Are they to be viewed as instigators of terrorism and are our training institutions to be criticised for holding such discussions?
We are now told that the explosions on Samjhauta Express in the beginning of last year were also carried out by some Hindus with the help of RDX allegedly supplied by a serving Army officer, who is presently under investigation.
I had written as follows about the Samjhauta Express blasts on February 20, 2007
: 'The blasts on the Delhi-Attari Samjhauta Express (Peace Express) on the night of February 18, 2007, are remarkable for the success as well as the failure of the terrorists. Their diabolic success is evident from the fact that two of the IEDs, reportedly attached to bottles containing incendiary material, functioned without mishap, causing a carnage in which 67 passengers --- mostly Indian and Pakistani Muslims -- perished. Their surprising failure is evident from the fact that at least a half of the IEDs failed to explode and have been recovered by the railway authorities.

'According to some reports, they had planted a total of five IEDs of which three failed. According to others, they had planted four IEDs, of which two failed. So many failed IEDs should normally be a surprise in the case of well-trained, clued-up and experienced terrorists. The failure of the perpetrators of Deewana could indicate a possibility -- remote at present -- that they  were new to this business of terrorism, either new recruits of old and well-established organisations or new recruits of new organisations. A systematic follow-up of the forensic trail left by them should help in determining their identity in course of time.'
The Delhi [Images] police, which investigated the blasts, did not say anything about the use of RDX. From their briefings, it appeared that incendiary devices and not explosive devices were used on Samjhauta Express. That was also the conclusion of many Western experts, including Stratfor, the well-known US analysis organisation. If the Delhi police knew at that time that RDX was used, did they try to find out the source of the explosive? If not, why not?
If what the public is told now -- on the basis of leaks from the Mumbai ATS -- is correct, then what the Delhi police told the public in February 2007 was wrong. And vice versa.

The Mumbai ATS should investigate the blasts thoroughly and need not hesitate to have a second look at the Samjhauta Express explosions, but they should do it in a  professional manner, not in a manner that adds to suspicions that the investigation has taken a pre-election political turn -- with the objective being to fix the Hindu nationalists and not to fix the terrorists.

I have written and spoken repeatedly about the spreading Muslim anger against what many Muslims look upon as the unfairness of the Indian criminal justice system against them. I have equally written and spoken frequently about the spreading Hindu anger against the government and the so-called secularists over the failure to act strongly against jihadi terrorists.

One should be careful that the manner of investigation by the ATS does not add to the Hindu anger and lead to a situation similar to what had happened in Northern Ireland where elements from the Protestant community took to arms and terrorism against the Catholics due to the perception that the government was not doing enough to protect them from the perpetrators of violence from the Catholic community.
This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article titled Anti-Muslim Reprisal Terrorism?

The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:

B Raman

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