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September 19, 2008

In the first part of his interview with Editor (National Affairs) Sheela Bhatt, Special Security (internal security) in the home ministry Mahendra Kumawat spoke about the security infrastructure in the country having busted 400 terror modules. In this the second part of his interview, he expands on the nature and makeup of these modules, talks of the threat posed by the Indian Mujahideen [Images], and outlines the steps taken to contain the threat.

There is a perception that the Indian intelligence establishment is not looking into Hindu fundamental militant organisations as intensely and seriously as you investigate SIMI [Images].

The Government of India bans any organisation on the basis of input it receives through our intelligence agencies, state police and state governments. If they give us such information, if they request a ban on some organisation, we do take action.

We have not come across many Hindu organisations indulging in bomb blasts, I think. But, there are some instances of Hindu organisations. We are alert about the problem.

My straight question: do you think there are Hindu organisations capable of setting off bomb blasts within the country?

In Mumbai two-three Hindus did plant a bomb, the Shiv Sena chief had given some statement also. The damage was not much. But, there are not many cases.

There are cases of sectarian violence, for example the recent cases in Orissa and Karnataka. The central government has told them to take strict action against such organisations.

How do you explain the Nanded blasts where Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists died and recently two Bajrang Dal activists died in Kanpur while assembling bombs?

Don't ask me about specific cases. Ask me about policy matters.

Since you have rich experience in busting terror modules, can you tell us how the terror modules are formed and detected? The NSA M K Narayanan had said some 800 terror modules have been busted�

He must be talking of a longer period

Can you tell us more about these terror modules?

As I mentioned about SIMI , they have small-small groups all over India. The Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the ISI maintain what they call sleeper cells. Normally four to eight persons are there. They are given specific tasks. These small units which translate terrorists' actual design into action were found by us. Because of our intervention it fizzled out.

What kind of Indians join it? What kind of mindset do they have?

They join the modules for various reasons. It can be monetary. In 1993, we saw that it was not only Muslims who were involved, Hindus were also part of it. They did it for money. Indians and Naxals are joining for ideological reasons. It can be religious also.

How many such modules may still be existing?

I will not hazard any guess. Our intelligence agencies are all the time working on it and they are succeeding. There are times when they have not been succeeding and we saw the results recently in New Delhi [Images]. What you see are only the cases when they have not succeeded.

What kind of people are found in these modules?

Generally they are youngsters. Our study has found that they are from good schools with good education. They are not at all from deprived sections of society. Generally people say they come from madrasas or slums. But that is not the case. Those who have been recently nabbed, they had very good schooling in towns of India and there are some technocrats and IT-savvy people. By and large women are generally not found in the modules, or in planting or making of bombs.

How serious is the challenge from what is popularly called jihad in India?

It is a problem. There is no barometer to say how serous it is. But, we are taking it very seriously. The State is taking it very seriously.

What steps are you taking about it?

We have a multi-pronged strategy. We are taking steps on various fronts. We have begun with age-old methods to improve station level policing. What we call the beat constable, he has to be very alert. Who are the new people coming into his area, what are the new developments and all such human intelligence will help. We have six lakh villages. IB can't be everywhere. But, we do have police stations or chowkies everywhere. Human intelligence must be improved. We are telling them to have more manpower, have committed people to collect intelligence. In the old days civilians like cobblers and barbers and such helpful people used to pass on information.

In the Ahmedabad [Images] bombing, 30 to 40 people must have taken part. They must have stayed in hotels, dharamshalas or some dormitories. If the police station's antenna is open and alert they will get intelligence. We are modernising the state IB branches with the latest equipment.

We are creating a more professional database of such people. We are also telling senior police officers to nominate committed and motivated people in our special branches for which the Centre is helping the states. We are strengthening IB in New Delhi by giving them more money and more posts. It is quite small compared to the size of our country. We are asking states to increase the police staff strength substantially. Our police-people ratio is quite poor. We will like to have the involvement of people.

Unless the people are aware of the problem we will never be able to deal with it.

On 9/11, when the US was attacked, the third plane was not taken to the target fixed by terrorists by the pilot. They crashed the plane somewhere else. Same way, the Indian people do have a desire that they will not allow terrorism to flourish in our country. The best example we had in new Delhi when the bomb blasts took place in Greater Kailash-I.

When the first blasts took place the people got alert. In the second blast not many people got hurt. Why? Because the people had been taken on board. Just four days before the blasts a mock exercise was undertaken. They were told how they should react if there was a blast.

People have to be enlightened, sensitised, and people have to be told how to behave in this thing. They will have to inform us if they see suspect items or a strange person. Also, perceived grievances wherever they are must be addressed by society.

Are you very sure that SIMI's Indian Muhajideen is behind the recent bomb blasts?

Initial investigations have revealed that it is SIMI that is behind these blasts. The investigations in Jaipur [Images] and Ahmedabad really reveal SIMI's fingerprints.

So how serious is the IM challenge?

Indian Mujahideen is taken seriously by us because it is taking advantage of technology which was not available just eight-nine years back. Technology has put us on tenterhooks. We have to have more resources to be more tech-savvy. More alertness is required because terrorists can be here today and tomorrow in some other part of the world due to modern transport. Technology has made the world shrink, you know. This terror problem has become quite serious because from any part of the world these guys can organise it.

While SIMI was a banned organisation what were the intelligence agencies doing when they were gathering the capability to rock the nation?

Madam, I told you 99 per cent of the time we succeed, one time we fail also. This may be the cases when we have failed. Let us admit it. The very fact that the blasts took place is because we didn't know about this case. But, many times we succeed also. We didn't have 800 blasts, we are talking only of 14-15 blasts in the last few years! These are the cases that the people (intelligence agencies) could not get. That's why we are trying to revamp policing in the small towns, big towns and metropolitan cities. Efforts are on by way of improving CCTVs, surveillance and intelligence gathering. It's an ongoing exercise. Every time they come up with new modus operandi and new technique, so we have to be very proactive in these things.

What will help you to succeed against terrorism?

First, to take people on board. People should join us to tackle the problem. Half the battle will be won if the people help us. Two, make the Indian police fit to meet the challenges of this century. Increase their numbers, then improve the quality by adopting proper investigation techniques and then we equip them with gadgets. With this synergy we will be able to deal with terrorism.

But, you can't get the people with you unless you create trust. Your investigation is sometime so sloppy. Maulvi Halim was arrested in Ahmedabad but later it was found that he is not a terrorist.

I can't talk of individual cases. We formulate policies. Read the Police Mission launched by the PM himself. That will transfer Indian police into a world-class police. It was launched in 2005, we are working on this ambitious project. I always believe that by and large the Indian police is a secular force. In Karnataka there may be a BJP government but yesterday (September 16) the police dealt with the clashes professionally.

To be concluded

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