INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO.460
"Some sections of the Muslim community suspected that this attack ----like the other attacks targeting members of their community--- musthave been the responsibility of Hindu extremist elements. There was no basis for their suspicions, but they persist. The only way ofremoving their suspicions is through a thorough investigation and the definitive identification of all those involved. The many missing linksin the investigation of this strike as well as in the terrorist attack on the Mumbai suburban trains should be a cause for concern. Targetedattacks on innocent Muslims by Al Qaeda and other jihadi organizations is nothing new. Such attacks take place often in Iraq, Afghanistanand Pakistan. But, in those countries, the attacks on Muslim civilians are generally due to one of two factors. Either the targeted Muslimsbelonged to a rival sect (Sunni vs Shia or Deobandi vs Barelvi) or rival organization or were perceived as collaborators of the Governmentand hence apostates. None of these factors applied in the case of the Muslims----Indians and Pakistanis--- who were traveling by theSamjotha Express. The conventional wisdom was that the Muslims were now being deliberately targeted by the jihadi organizations in orderto provoke them against the Government and the Hindus. I do not subscribe to this wisdom. It is important to keep an open mind whileinvestigating these targeted attacks on Indian Muslims and one should not jump to the conclusion that the LET or the HUJI must have beeninvolved. We owe it to our Muslims, most of whom have kept away from Al Qaeda and other pan-Islamic organizations, to see that thesecases of targeted attacks on Muslims are thoroughly investigated instead of coming to a facile conclusion that jihadi organizations must bebehind them. "-----My comments on the terrorist strike in the Samjotha Express in my book "Terrorism---Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow"published in June,2008, by the Lancer Publishers of New Delhi (www.lancerpublishers.com )
"While there are grounds for suspecting that the blast of Delhi and those of Agartala might have been carried out by the IM ( IndianMujahideen) and its associates from the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Delhi and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) of Bangladesh in Agartala,the blasts in Modasa and Malegaon seem to stand apart. Though the Gujarat Police are reported to have detained some members of theStudents' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) during their investigation of the Modasa blast, the Modasa and Malegaon blasts do not carry anyunique signature. More evidence will be required before one could analyse as to who might have been responsible. "----From my article ofOctober 2,2008, titled "Mushrooming Terrorism: Now Agartala" at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers29/paper2866.html
In the last three years, we have had at least seven terrorist strikes in different parts of the country in which the perpetrators seemed tohave targeted innocent Muslim civilians. Those seemed to be not indiscriminate attacks on all civilians, but targeted attacks on Muslims.There were two such incidents in Malegaon in Maharashtra and one each in New Delhi, Hyderabad, in the Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan, in theSamjotha Express to Pakistan and in Modasa in Gujarat.
2. On the basis of the available reports, I had myself stated after five of these strikes---- but not after the Malegaon and Modasa incidents ofSeptember 29,2008--- that they seemed to have been carried out by terrorists belonging to jihadi terrorist organisations. I had also referredto instances of jihadi terrorists deliberately targeting innocent Muslims in many countries in pursuit of their agenda.
3. Some months after the Ajmer Sharif incident, a young Muslim officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) had met me privately andexpressed his doubts as to whether Muslims would have been involved in these incidents. He strongly believed that no Muslim howeverextremist he might be and to whichever jihadi organisation he belonged would have planted a bomb in or near the Ajmer Sharif.
4.I did not feel convinced, but felt somewhat troubled by what he said. I felt that as a senior (though now retired) officer of the IPS, I owed itto him and other young Muslim officers of the IPS to take note of what he said and re-open my mind. It was in pursuance of this that I madethe above-mentioned observations in my book.
5. Who carried out the pre-September 29,2008, terrorist strikes, which seemed to have mainly targeted innocent Muslims? Where they theacts of the usual jihadi organisations or are they the precursor to acts of reprisal terrorism against members of the Muslim community bysome irrational elements in the Hindu community? These questions, which were already being raised by sections of the public----Muslims aswell as non-Muslims--- even before September 29, have re-surfaced following the publication or dissemination by some sections of the mediaof reports claiming that the Anti-Terrorism Cell (ATS) of the Mumbai Police have detained three Hindus in connection with their investigationinto the recent Malegon blasts. The ATS itself has neither officially denied nor confirmed these reports.
6. The matter is in the initial stages of the investigation. To instil confidence in our Muslim community, the ATS should see that theinvestigation against these Hindus and any others associated with them is carried out thoroughly irrespective of their organisationalaffiliation. Religion is not a mitigating factor in deciding on the culpability of a person suspected of involvement in a criminal act. If they areproved to have participated in the acts of terrorism in Malegain and Modesa, the fact that they are Hindus would not make them any theless criminal or terrorist.
7.Indian criminal laws----the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act and the Criminal Procedure Code--- do not talk of the majority or theminorities or even of Indian citizens or foreigners. Their provisions apply to anyone who commits an offence in Indian territory---whether heor she is an Indian national or a foreigner, whatever be his or her religion, language or ethnicity. The arrested persons must be investigatedand proceeded against without worrying about their background or organisational affiliation.
8. Do these arrests strengthen the case for a ban on the Bajrang Dal or any other organisation to which they might have belonged? Or dothey at least call for a characterisation of such orgainsations----even if they be of Hindus---as terrorist organisations? To characterise anorganisation as a terrorist organisation and to take legal action against it ----and not merely against its members---- two types of evidenceare required. Firstly, that its constitution or manifesto advocates the resort to violence amounting to terrorism for achieving its objective.Secondly, that it has been involved in repeated acts of pre-meditated violene which amount to terrorism. One has to wait and see whethersuch evidence surfaces during the investigation. ( 24-10-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India,New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies,Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )