January 26, 2013
The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India has been less than honest with the public by trying to convey an impression that it will continue to try for the extradition of David Coieman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), who has been sentenced to 35 years in prison by a Chicago court for his co-operation with the LET of Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the planning and execution of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and his role in the abandoned plans of the LET to blow up the office of a Danish paper which had published caricatures of the Holy Prophet.
2. His extradition is legally out of question since as part of the plea bargain entered into with him, the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has made a commitment to him that he will not be extradited to India. Moreover, since he has been convicted by the US court for his role in the 26/11 strikes, the bar of double jeopardy will come in the way of his being tried in India.This prohibits the conviction of a person twice for the same offence.
3.When the FBI originally informed the court of the plea bargain, I had written that before the plea bargain is accepted by the court, the Government of India and the relatives of the victims of the 26/11 strikes should oppose its acceptance since its acceptance would preclude the death sentence and extradition.No action was taken by the Government of India and the relatives. His plea bargain was accepted by the court and he has now been convicted under it.
4.The MHA must have the honesty to admit that as a result of its bad handling of the case, the extradition door has been closed for ever. But an option of limited utility still remains open.As part of the plea bargain, Headley has made a commitment to the FBI to continue to co-operate with it and with the agencies of other countries having liaison with the FBI in any future investigation. Under this, a team of our National Investigation Agency (NIA) can still visit the US and question Headley in judicial custody in the presence of the FBI.However, it is doubtful whether anything useful would come out of this exercise, but we may still try it to find out about his network in India.
5. In my reading, the extradition door is still open in the case of TahawurHussainRana, Headley's Chicago-based accomplice. Intriguingly, the FBI did not consider it necessary to enter into a plea bargain with him. Only one logical explanation is possible for the FBI's double standards in the case of Headley and Rana. The FBI wanted to protect Headley from independent Indian interrogation because he was an agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency.Rana was apparently not an agent of the Agency. The FBI, therefore, did not feel the need to protect him through a plea bargain.
6.Moreover, even though there is considerable evidence regarding Rana's assistance to Headley and his prior knowledge of the Mumbai terrorist strikes, he has been convicted by the Chicago court only for his role in the Copenhagen case and not in the Mumbai case. The bar of double jeopardy may not apply in his case.
7. From the moment Rana was arrested, I have been pointing out that while extradition may be difficult in the case of Headley, it may not be difficult in the case of Rana and that we should press for it in order to collect details of the Headley-Rana network in India. Again intriguingly, this option has till now not been vigorously pursued by the NIA, which works under the MHA. At least now, we should try for his extradition.
8. There were definite sins of commission and omission by the FBI which came in the way of the prevention of the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai.Firstly, the FBI was aware that David Coleman Headley had originally an American passport under the name DaoodGilani. Before he started frequently travelling to Pakistan and India, he obtained a new US passport under the name David Coleman Headley.In India, when a person obtains a new passport under a different name, we make an endorsement in his new passport that he previously used to travel with another passport under the name----.Many other countries follow this security precaution. Surprisingly, the FBI did not make any such endorsement. As a result, the Indian Consulate in Chicago, which issued a multiple-entry visa to Headley, was not aware that he previously used to travel as Gilani.After the strikes, we became aware of the various travels of Headley to India as Headley. Are we aware of the travels that he might have made to India as Gilani before he changed his name?
9.Secondly, the FBI was aware that during his travels to Pakistan for the Drug Enforcement Agency, Headley had also been visiting India and going back to Pakistan. He had even visited India once after the strikes. The FBI did not alert India even once before the strikes. It was apparently afraid that if it informed the Indian agencies,they may detain and question him thereby exposing his being an agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency. It chose to keep quiet.
10.Thirdly, immediately after the 26/11 strikes, the "Hindustan Times" had carried a report by VirSanghvi, citing an unnamed high-level officer of the R&AW as saying that the CIA had twice alerted the R&AW that the LET was planning a sea-borne terrorist strike in Mumbai and that the R&AW had conveyed the information to the IB.Wherefrom did the CIA get this information, which proved to be correct? Was it from Headley or from one of CIA's sources in Pakistan or from technical intelligence of the USA's National Security Agency? No Indian journalist or analyst has gone deeper into this.
11.There have been serious sins of commission and omission by the Indian intelligence too. The processing of Headley's case for a multiple-entry visa was handled by the Indian Consulate in Chicago in an unsatisfactory manner.
12.Headley was frequently coming to India from Pakistan and going back to Pakistan with the help of the multi-entry visa.Not once did our immigration question him about his frequent visits to Pakistan and keep him under surveillance in India.Even after we became aware of his frequent travels to India after the 26/11 terrorist strikes, we have not made thorough enquiries about his network in India.
13. In 1988, a source of the US Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) had reported that a Palestinian terrorist group was planning to blow up a US flight to Europe around Christmas.The FAA alerted the CIA, the FBI and the US diplomatic missions in Europe, but did not alert the US public of the likely danger of a terrorist strike against a US flight to Europe.
14. A flight of Pan Am was blown up off Lockerbie in Scotland killing all the passengers.The US media reported about the prior intelligence that was available to the US intelligence agencies which was not shared with the public. Some relatives of the victims took the US Government to court. It was from then that the practice of issuing an advisory about likely terrorist strikes started.
15.As reported by VirSanghvi, the CIA was aware of the LET's plans for a sea-borne terrorist strike in Mumbai. Yet, the State Department did not issue an advisory to the US citizens intending to travel to India about the dangers of a strike n Mumbai. If it had gone public with the warning, that itself might have acted as a deterrent on the LET.
16. We still do not have a completely satisfactory reconstruction of the strikes and the roles of Headley and Rana. It is important for the relatives of the Indian, American,Israeli and other foreign victims to take the matter up before courts in India and the US in order to force the two Governments to come out with the truth. (26-1-13)
( The writer is Additional Secretary ( retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies, Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )
January 25, 2013
January 24, 2013
TahawurHussainRana, of the Chicago cell of the Lsshkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the principal accomplice of David Coleman Headley, has already been sentenced by a Chicago court to 14 years in prison for his association with Headley and the LET in the abandoned plans to blow up the office of a Danish newspaper in Copenhagen which had published caricatures of the Holy Prophet.
2.Curiously, he has not been convicted for his role in the Mumbai blasts of 26/11 despite the fact that he had facilitated the frequent visits of Headley to India at the instance of the LET to collect operational intelligence and, according to his admission, was aware of the impending terrorist strikes in Mumbai even though had no role in it. According to him, a retired Pakistani Army officer told him of the impending strike during a meeting in Dubai before he flew to China on his way back to Chicago.
3.This was sufficiently strong evidence for convicting him as an accomplice before the act, but this aspect seems to have been ignored by the prosecution and the court.This could open the door for the Government of India moving for his extradition since the bar of double jeopardy may not be attracted.Under this, a person cannot be convicted twice for the same offence.
4.Even though officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) have been quoted in sections of the media as saying that they would move for his extradition, I have doubts whether any serious efforts would be made by the NIA to get him to India.
5.Headley is to be sentenced for his involvement in the Mumbai and Copenhagen cases and his co-operation with the LET and suspected officers of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) by a Chicago court on January 24,2013. Since his trial is based on a plea bargain with the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the basis of his total confession, the FBI has not sought the death sentence for him. The FBI has also reportedly made a commitment that he will not be extradited to India. Heis, therefore, expected to be sentenced to a prison term likely to be more than that awarded to Rana.
6. Headley and Rana were the tip of the Chicago iceberg of the LET which facilitated the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai by the LET and ISI masterminds in Pakistan.The FBI and the NIA, whose officials were allowed by the FBI to question Headley in FBI custody, were able to collect details regarding the Pakistani links of Headley and Rana.
7.The hidden iceberg itself consisted of the contacts of Headley and Rana in the Indian Muslimcommunity who facilitated their frequent clandestine travels to India for helping the LET leaders in Pakistanand the ISI in planning and executing the 26/11 strikes.Surprisingly, neither in the narrative of the FBI nor in that of the NIA is there much reference to the Indian cells of Headley and Rana.No attempt has been made to identify them and question them.
8. There has been a huge cover-up of the LET iceberg in India that helped Headley and Rana. While the NIA has shown considerable persistence in repeatedly questioning a few Hindus who had allegedly indulged in some acts of reprisals against Muslims in the MalegaonandSamjauta Express explosions, it has scrupulously avoided identifying and questioning the contacts of Headley and Rana in the Indian Muslimcommunity.
9.Indian analysts and political parties have not shown much interest in exposing this cover-up by the partisan Ministry of Home Affairs and demanding an end to this. One must raise this issue strongly and demand thorough enquiries into the matter. (23-1-13)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associateof the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )
January 22, 2013
In the early 1980s, when I started freelancing in south India, doing photo features on Kalaripayattu, the Ayyappa festival, or the Ayyanars, I slowly realised that the genius of this country lies in its Hindu ethos, in the true spirituality behind Hinduism. The average Hindu you meet in a million villages possesses this simple, innate spirituality and accepts your diversity, whether you are Christian or Muslim, Jain or Arab, French or Chinese. It is this Hinduness that makes the Indian Christian different from, say, a French Christian, or the Indian Muslim unlike a Saudi Muslim. I also learnt that Hindus not only believed that the divine could manifest itself at different times, under different names, using different scriptures (not to mention the wonderful avatar concept, the perfect answer to 21st century religious strife) but that they had also given refuge to persecuted minorities from across the world—Syrian Christians, Parsis, Jews, Armenians, and today, Tibetans.
In 3,500 years of existence, Hindus have never militarily invaded another country, never tried to impose their religion on others by force or induced conversions. You cannot find anybody less fundamentalist than a Hindu in the world and it saddens me when I see the Indian and western press equating terrorist groups like SIMI, which blow up innocent civilians, with ordinary, angry Hindus who burn churches without killing anybody. We know also that most of these communal incidents often involve persons from the same groups—often Dalits and tribals—some of who have converted to Christianity and others not. However reprehensible the destruction of Babri Masjid, no Muslim was killed in the process; compare this to the 'vengeance' bombings of 1993 in Bombay, which wiped out hundreds of innocents, mostly Hindus. Yet the Babri Masjid destruction is often described by journalists as the more horrible act of the two. We also remember how Sharad Pawar, when he was chief minister of Maharashtra in 1993, lied about a bomb that was supposed to have gone off in a Muslim locality of Bombay.
I have never been politically correct, but have always written what I have discovered while reporting. Let me then be straightforward about this so-called Hindu terror. Hindus, since the first Arab invasions, have been at the receiving end of terrorism, whether it was by Timur, who killed 1,00,000 Hindus in a single day in 1399, or by the Portuguese Inquisition which crucified Brahmins in Goa. Today, Hindus are still being targeted: there were one million Hindus in the Kashmir valley in 1900; only a few hundred remain, the rest having fled in terror. Blasts after blasts have killed hundreds of innocent Hindus all over India in the last four years. Hindus, the overwhelming majority community of this country, are being made fun of, are despised, are deprived of the most basic facilities for one of their most sacred pilgrimages in Amarnath while their government heavily sponsors the Haj.. They see their brothers and sisters converted to Christianity through inducements and financial traps, see a harmless 84-year-old swami and a sadhvi brutally murdered. Their gods are blasphemed. So sometimes, enough is enough.
At some point, after years or even centuries of submitting like sheep to slaughter, Hindus—whom the Mahatma once gently called cowards—erupt in uncontrolled fury. And it hurts badly. It happened in Gujarat. It happened in Jammu, then in Kandhamal, Mangalore, Malegaon, or Ajmer. It may happen again elsewhere. What should be understood is that this is a spontaneous revolution on the ground, by ordinary Hindus, without any planning from the political leadership.
Therefore, the BJP, instead of fighting over each other as to whom should be the next party president, or who will be their PM candidate for the 2014 elections, should do well to put its house together. For it's evident that the Congress has decided on this absurd strategy of the absurd, the untrue, the unjust, the treacherous, only to target Mr Narendra Modi, their enemy number One.
It should also fight the Untrue with Truth: there are about a billion Hindus, one in every six persons on this planet. They form one of the most successful, law-abiding and integrated communities in the world today. Can you call them terrorists? Let the BJP compile a statistics of how many Hindus were killed by Muslims since 1947 and how many Muslims by Hindus. These statistics will speak by themselves