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September 18, 2008
Mahendra Kumawat holds one of the most difficult government jobs in India right now. He is the special secretary looking after internal security in the ministry of home affairs and thus is responsible for the security of one billion plus people. Every day, from all states headquarters, reports giving details of what is happening all over India land on his table for his perusal and action.

Right now, after five bomb blasts in New Delhi [Images], probably carried out by the Students Islamic Movement of India turned Indian Muhajideen, the Bajrang Dal-led violence against Christians in Karnataka and Orissa, and the increased tension in Kashmir, India's internal security scenario appears quite bleak.

But it's a truism that while tackling terrorism, the government always appears as either partisan or too soft. But what is missed out in this is that far away from the politics of terrorism, politics of the left parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress and regional parties, there is a world of babus and huge battalions in khakhi who are trying to make some sense out of the chaos.

Although there are huge challenges before them in terms of deficit of trust among the people and allegations of human rights violations, it is people like Kumawat who continue with improving policing in India.

Kumawat, a 1972 batch Indian Police Service officer from Andhra Pradesh cadre, began his career as a superintendent of police in Telengana district, AP, and has served in the Central Bureau of Investigation twice. He is credited with the success of Greyhounds, an elite commando force of Andhra Pradesh which was raised to tackle Maoist violence.

Kumawat, who will soon take charge as director general of the Border Security Force, says by January next year COBRA, or the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, will be ready to take on the challenges thrown by Maoists. About terrorism, he says only a handful of Muslims are with the IM or SIMI [Images]. Calling them "an aberration", he says by and large Indians trust their own country.

In an exclusive interview with Editor (National Affairs) Sheela Bhatt, Kumawat explains how the home ministry is dealing with the gigantic challenge of terrorism.

There is a general perception that the Indian establishment is soft in countering terrorism.

I think this perception is just not correct. We do have a comprehensive policy on countering terror. In whatever form it may be there, in whatever theatre it may be there, we have succeeded in dealing with terrorism and containing it.

Be in Kashmir, in the North-East , be it in areas affected by Left-wing extremism or Islamic terrorism that we now have.

Then how do you see the series of bomb blasts from Varanasi to Hyderabad, Mumbai, Jaipur [Images], Bengaluru [Images], Ahmedabad [Images] and New Delhi? What are you doing about it? Around 13 blasts cases have not been solved. Not a single case has been detected convincingly.

To say that not a single case has been detected is not correct. A number of cases have been detected. The Ahmedabad case has got definite clues, now. In the Jaipur blasts case also some people have been taken into custody. We have good leads in the New Delhi blasts, also. Some cases in Uttar Pradesh [Images] and Malegaon have been detected. 

Sitting in North Block you do have a view from the top. Tell us, what exactly is happening in the country? Would you say that one section of the Muslim community is rebelling against the nation?

There can always some misguided people in any community. They may have grievances or perceived grievances. Such people do take the law into their hands and indulge in these types of activities. After the recent blasts the e-mail has come which does mention that they have been indulging in this activity because of some grievance. This is a fact and we should address those issues, also.

Why are they so successful in their mission of creating fear?

We have examined the blasts of the last few months. We have thoroughly examined them and analysed our findings. We find that these are done by front organisations of SIMI. It is a banned organisation under the Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act.  It has got its agenda and network also. Indian states and intelligence agencies have been sensitised about these organisations. Many modules have been busted also.

You know what has taken place, but many people don't know what has been prevented.

As many as 400 terrorist modules have been busted. They have been prevented from committing blasts or such heinous crimes. That also has to be kept in mind. We do have a comprehensive anti-terror policy, not just at the Centre but even in the states.

How do you explain the series of blasts if you are alert?

Nowhere in the world can police agencies be successful all the time. You have the case of a most modern state like America where one act of terror killed many more people than killed in the last three years in India by terrorism.

But after 9/11 America has been successful so far in putting its act together. But after the 1993 serial blasts, after the attack on Parliament, blasts are going on and seem unending. You can't compare India's case, but if you do then India is not successful in counter-terrorism.

As I told you, more than 400 modules have been busted and if that is ignored then it will be unfair. I agree there cannot be any comparison with America.

You also look at the US's budget for homeland security and our budget. Their budget for infrastructure, communication and equipments may be 100 times more than India's. See their geography and see our geography. We are surrounded by nations some of which are failed States, which are terror factories, which are extending help by way of training, even to SIMI. They are extending help by way of motivation or actual help. America shares borders with a country like Canada [Images] which is not a terror factory. We have Pakistan, the world acknowledges that it is the most dangerous place in world.

When fire has erupted all around your house, how can you have the luxury of a cool home? We have Pakistan and Bangladesh where 67 blasts took place in 2005. In Nepal they had huge insurgency, now Maoists have come to power. In Sri Lanka [Images], what people called the most deadly terrorists outfit, the LTTE [Images], is there.

But this argument doesn't stand now because India is facing terror made in India. Now you can't blame Pakistan. SIMI is having 100 per cent Indian membership. Your investigations in UP, Malegaon and now in Ahmedabad suggest that all the accused are Indian and they have no backing from Pakistan. Correct?

To say that it is totally homegrown and they had no connection in the present or in the past in any manner will again not be correct. SIMI had ideological support from organisations which are there in Pakistan, some of them had been to Pakistan and had  training there or they are in touch with such other organisations. So, to say that it is totally homegrown and had no connection is not correct.

Apart from India's contemporary history, after the Babri Masjid demolition and the 2002 Gujarat riots things have been brewing. Correct?

That's a fact. In their e-mails they themselves are writing that. We cannot ignore these. That is their grievance, a perceived grievance. But naturally the nation as a whole will have to address that particular issue.

I am not saying that only through the security method we can deal with terrorism. First, the various components of society should take everybody into confidence. Nobody should have perceived grievances. A perceived grievance is the most dangerous thing in the human mind.

If a person feels alienated then it creates problems. But at the same time armed outfits and elements which are hell-bent on spreading violence will have to be dealt with by the security apparatus.

To be concluded

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