How Gujarat did it
From Pioneer, 19 Aug 2008
At various stages, other States encountered the Indian Mujahideen terror network. Political compulsions or a weak will forced them to back away. Gujarat pressed on. That is why the Modi Government's mechanism to fight terror is the only one working
In February 2008, a terror suspect in Bangalore was interrogated and subjected to narco-analysis. His revelations were both chilling and fascinating. It was apparent that he was part of an all-India jihadi network and blurted out plans to launch terror strikes at various locations in the country. There were early clues, for instance, that Gujarat too would be a target, as indeed it turned out to be on July 26.
The confession was considered simply too combustible. The administration led by the State Governor -- Karnataka was then under President's rule -- sat on the narco-analysis report and did not share it with other State Governments.
As early as 2006, SIMI cadre held a 'commando training camp' in Kerala's Ernakulam district. It was a rehearsal for a terrorist attack and the police made arrests. However, the would-be terrorists were soon released. As the Kerala Home Minister told mediapersons this past week, "Terrorists are operating in Kerala but their main activities are outside the State. When we took police action against some of them, there was a hue and cry from human rights activists saying that minorities were being targeted."
After a spate of attacks, the Uttar Pradesh Police began investigating sleeper-cells and terrorist operatives within its territory. All was going well till the leads started to point to a madarsa and a maulvii who seemed to hold the key. Worried about a possible community revolt, the State Government retreated.
the Ahmedabad and Surat bombings case and laid bare the structure of Indian Mujahideen, the SIMI offshoot that has emerged as India's home-grown Al Qaeda. It is now clear that The information cited above has all come to light after the Gujarat Police crackedother States and their police forces had, at various stages, encountered the same terror matrix but had baulked at tough action.
If the Gujarat Police succeeded, first and foremost it was because it faced no political pressure, was not told to be over-sensitive to religio-political concerns and was promised support against tendentious and sometimes treacherous criticism from the army of civil rights activists who are, inadvertently or otherwise, crippling India's war against jihad.
By just allowing a professional police force to do its job, the Gujarat Government accomplished three things. First, it identified the perpetrators of not just the Ahmedabad bomb blasts but also of many other recent terror strikes -- Jaipur, Bangalore and Hyderabad, for instance.
Second, it has debunked the idea -- always specious -- that mysterious men from 'across the border' came to India, triggered terrorist attacks and then, with astonishing speed, 'fled' to Bangladesh, Pakistan or elsewhere. India can no longer pretend it is immune to global radical Islamism.
If one considers the demographic composition of the Indian Mujahideen members and resource persons who have been named or arrested, an interesting mix emerges. There are white collar professionals -- ranging from doctors to IT specialists -- religious preachers and small-time fixers from the underworld who have seamlessly made the switch from organised crime in the 1990s to terrorism today.
What unites these disparate elements is a common interpretation of religious duty, one that is inspired perhaps by jihad icons like Osama bin Laden. Their cause is pan-Islamic; it has nothing to do with Kashmir, poverty or any perceived oppression in India. A mastermind of the Gujarat conspiracy was an engineer who worked for a Wipro Technologies affiliate in Mumbai. He resigned in 1998, allegedly saying he wanted to devote himself to "religious work".
That is why to claim that the Gujarat bombings may have been vengeance for the post-Godhra violence, which took place in 2002, is laughable. The seeds of Indian jihad were sown in the 1990s, as they were in the rest of the world.
Despite the recent arrests, the battle against terrorism is far from over. It would be worth studying what the Gujarat Government is doing to take on the enemy. It is one thing to give the police operational autonomy; there is also a capacity-building process underway, one that other States could learn from.
The Gujarat Government has announced the setting up of two new institutions. A Forensic Sciences University will offer post-graduate and doctoral courses in the use of new techniques and technologies to study crime -- be it cyber-crime, detonating sophisticated explosives, narco-terrorism, money-laundering.
That aside, a Suraksha (Security) University will offer graduate-level training to those who want to join the intelligence, police or military services or set up their own security agencies, and want to intellectually equip themselves for their future careers. This represents a dramatic shift from a mindset that sees policing or the providing of security as a non-cerebral task that only requires muscles and batons.
The Gujarat template cannot work if it is limited to one State. It has to be scaled up and institutionalised nationally if India is serious about fighting its war on terror. The combination of determined detection, political resolve and anticipatory thinking that the Gujarat Government and its police have shown is waiting to be adopted across the country.
Of course, there is the inevitable political consequence. The arrest of Mufti Abu Bashir and his accomplices has put terrorism back on the electoral agenda. The BJP can claim that it is better equipped to meet the challenge than a confused Congress, dragged down further by compromised regional allies.
The real benefit will, however, accrue to Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He now has the trademark on combating terrorism, having established himself as the one political administrator most alive to and capable of thwarting India's domestic jihad. He is the last man standing.