January 17, 2006

Terror reaches south India

Date : 2006-01-17

By Tukoji R Pandit - Syndicate Features


The dastardly attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore on December 28, 2005 which took the life of a mathematician from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, has drawn attention to the fact that after north and western India, south India too is now becoming a hub of terrorists’ activities. The east, or more specifically the north-east, has long been a restive place. Thus, there is no part of India which does not face prospects of surprise bomb and suicide attacks on civilians and other soft targets in furtherance of a philosophy of cold-blooded murder, allegedly in the name of religion, and most certainly backed by Pakistan.

The terrorists’ intrusion into south India has a clear design as the bulk of India’s information technology wealth lies there, as does much of the country’s scientific and defence-related research and development work. Less friendly countries in the region look at a city like Bangalore, a symbol of an India on the move, with deep envy and include it among the main Indian targets for carrying out sabotage and killing activities.

It is also likely that the master planners of terrorism lost no time in exploiting the fact that the security agencies in the country have been rather complacent about introducing strict vigilance around scientific and top educational institutions in the south because southern India’s physical and ‘cultural’ distance from the epicentre of terrorism that lies beyond our western borders.

The Bangalore attack, it can be hoped, would compel the authorities to think of ways to neutralise whatever advantages the terrorists have gained in the southern part of the country. More so, after it has been established by the Hyderabad police that Andhra Pradesh is the new nursery for terror.

A King pin for the December 28 Bangalore attack, Razi-ur-Rehman alias Abdur Rehman, was picked up from Nalgonda, a small sleepy town about 100km from Hyderabad. He is believed to head the violent operations wing of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. Naturally, the enforcement agencies are shaken up by the reach and the intensity of commitment of fundamentalist organisations backed by Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

ISI, which began its focus on Kashmir, has been able to spread its network and create sleeper cells across India, largely due to the tardy manner in which India pursues the activities of fundamentalists. Hyderabad and some other areas have harboured fundamentalists for a very long time, from pre-Independence days.

But after 1947 their capability to be a serious nuisance must have eclipsed—till the 1980s when Pakistan adopted a two-pronged strategy to ‘bleed’ India by first infesting Kashmir and Punjab with terrorists they had carefully trained and then by spreading them out into the rest of the country.

Indian agencies were not unaware of the fact that fundamentalists in Hyderabad and some other areas in south India had started to become more active right in the 1980s. Perhaps it was assumed that they could be contained before they posed any serious security challenge. But things changed unexpectedly in early 1990s. First the Hyderabad communal riots of 1990 followed by the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 and then the Gujarat carnage in 2002 saw the fundamentalist elements becoming more active in the south with a lot of youth falling prey to their hate preaching.

The brainwashing of the youth was mostly carried out outside India, in the Middle East where they flocked in search of better life. After picking them up, the ‘raw recruits’ to jihad were almost invariably sent to Pakistan for training. In recent years, training camps have also sprouted in Bangladesh.

It may be na├»ve to imagine that no groundwork for preparing the jehadis is ever done in India. There are enough intelligence reports which speak of youths being ‘motivated’ within India by men trained at ISI-run camps in Pakistan or Bangladesh. Often the ‘recruiting agents’ are Pakistani nationals who have entered India clandestinely or are lodged in jails.

Of late many of these jehadi ‘recruiting agents’ of are found to be Indian nationals. They operate under the cover of some front organisation or operate from a very unlikely place: jail. It is disturbing to see reports that many ‘criminals’ in Indian jails become converts to jihad and terrorism under the influence of some prison inmates.

In fact, many of them come out of the jails as committed operatives, ready to go out on ‘missions’ on order from the masters in Pakistan. This practice has been going on for quite some time and is not confined to jails in south India.

By way of illustration take the case of a group of youths, Asghar Ali, Shamsuddin, Fasiuddin, Abdul Aziz and Mohammed Rafiq who were arrested on ‘criminal’ charges and were lodged in Mushirabad district jail became ‘full-fledged’ operatives of a militant group after daily interaction with hardcore terrorists.

It has also been found that many ‘criminals’ when they come out of jails after serving their sentence just ‘disappear’. Obviously, the security and intelligence agencies have to coordinate to ensure better vigil over the activities of potential terrorists and fundamentalists.

The growth of fundamentalist activists in Andhra Pradesh probably came because the state police have been preoccupied with tackling the challenge from the Naxalites. For that matter, police forces in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka too have had to deal with other serious problems, not the least of which was the long reign of terror during the living years of the ‘sandalwood king’ Veerappan.

That cannot be offered as an excuse because the Naxal phenomenon in Andhra appears to have grown over the years and the law and order situation in the other two southern states cannot be described as perfect.

The Karnataka government, however, seems to have been jolted by the December 28 attack and has decided to raise an exclusive operational unit to be called ‘Operation Tiger Force’ to fight terrorism.

It would comprise commandos trained by the National Security Guards. That may be a welcome move, but only just one of the many steps needed to be taken to put down the menace of fundamentalism in that state. Other states too need to follow the example.

- Syndicate Features -

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