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Hydrabad Twin Blasts: Q&A

I was in Chengdu, China, from August 26 to 31,2007, for a discussion on likely threats to security at the Beijing Olympics of 2008. Hence was not in a position to write on the Hyderabad blasts of August 25,2007, except for a small piece for Rediff.com, which was carried by it on August 26 morning. This article seeks to answer some of the questions received from readers in my absence

Why are Pakistan Jihadi terrorists repeatedly targeting Hydrebad & when did they start doing so?

The Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations look upon Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and Junagadh in Gujarat as rightfully belonging to Pakistan because, according to them, the then rulers of these two States, who were Muslims, had pronounced themselves in favour of the two States acceding to Pakistan at the time of the Partition of India in 1947. They allege that the Government of Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, rejected their stand and forcibly occupied these States. They further accuse the Government of India of having followed double standards in 1947. According to them, the Government of India sent troops to Jammu & Kashmir on the ground that the then ruler of the State, who was a Hindu, had acceded to India, but they incorporated Hyderabad and Junagadh in India despite the expressed preference of the ex-rulers, who were Muslims, for accession to Pakistan. When the Government of India took military action in Hyderabad after 1947 to put down the rule of the Nizam and arrest the pro-Pakistan members of his Government, many of them escaped to Karachi. From there, they had been canvassing with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the various ISI-sponsored jihadi terrorist organisations to take up the cause of Hyderabad.

Photo: A citizen pays homage to the blast victims
The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) was the first to come out in 1995 with a statement explaining that it looked upon J&K as the gateway to India and that after having "liberated" J&K from "Hindu rule", it would "liberate" not only Hyderabad and Junagadh, but also the Muslims living in other parts of India. The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), in its present form, which came into existence in 1997 following a split in the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA), which was declared by the US as an international terrorist organisation, adopted the same objective after its formation. The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), which was re-born in 1997 after the split in the HUA, and the Jaish-e-Mohammd (JEM), which was born in 2000 following a split in the HUM, also now subscribe to this objective of the "liberation" of Hyderabad and Junagadh and the Muslims living in other parts of India too. Thus, their original interest in Hyderabad was purely historical and religious. Their initial sleeper cells focussed on radicalising the local Muslim youth and creating a divide between the Muslims and the Hindus. Their efforts did not succeed. They, therefore, started a movement for radicalising Muslim youth from Hyderabad working in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For this purpose, the LET set up a branch in Saudi Arabia and the HUJI in Dubai. Their overseas recruitment efforts among Muslims from Hyderabad met with some success. During the fighting between the Serbs and the Muslims in Bosnia in the 1990s, some of these Hyderabadi Muslims from Saudi Arabia and the UAE were taken by the LET and the HUJI to Bosnia for giving them jihadi experience. While practically no Indian Muslims fought in the jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, a few Indian Muslims, mainly from Hyderabad working in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, fought in the jihad in Bosnia in the 1990s. In the 1990s, a person,introduced as Aziz, an Indian Muslim living in Saudi Arabia, used to attend the annual conventions of the the LET at Muridke, near Lahore. He used to be honoured by the convention for his role in organising assistance to the Bosnian Muslims. Subsequently, he stopped attending, but he used to address the convention by phone from outside Pakistan. The LET organisers used to claim that he was addressing the convention from Saudi Arabia. His full identifying particulars could not be established, but he was believed to be from Hyderabad. Since 2000, the interest of the LET and the HUJI in Hyderabad has taken an additional economic dimension too when Hyderabad emerged as a growth centre of the Indian economy.Now, the Pakistani jihadi organisations in Hyderabad have a two-fold objective---radicalising the local Muslims in order to pave the way for "liberating" Hyderabad from "Hindu control" and damaging the Indian economy.

Why did the Jihadi terrorist organisations spread their activities to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu?

They have no historic pretexts for thei activities in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but they project their interest as related to their over-all objective of "liberating" the Muslims not only in Karnataka and Tamil nadu, but also in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. While they have succeeded to some extent in spreading their sleeper cells to Karnataka, they have not succeeded in Tamil Nadu. Some Tamil Muslims, who had met one Abu Hamza (assumed name) of the LET in Saudi Arabia, did form in the early 2000s in Tamil Nadu a secret organisation called the Muslim Self-Defence Force, but it was detected in time by the Tamil Nadu Police and neutralised before it could cause any harm. It reportedly came out during the investigation that Abu Hamza had asked the organisers of the Muslim Self-Defence Force to come to the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka for another meeting. They did go there, but he did not turn up. They, therefore, returned to Chennai without any meeting. In Karnataka, the objectives of the jihadis have also an important economic dimension---namely, to damage the economy and shake the growing confidence of foreign investors in India in general and in Bangalore in particular.

What has been the role of Alqaeda?

Al Qaeda has two global objectives---operational and ideological. Its operational objective is to defeat the US and Israel and drive the US out of Muslim countries. Its ideological objective is to form a world Islamic Caliphate consisting of all the existing Muslim States of the world plus what it projects as historic Muslim lands, which are presently under the control of non-Muslim states. J&K, Hyderabad and Junagadh come under this second category. While Al Qaeda has not come to notice for any desire to damage the Indian economy, one of its tactical objectives is to attack the Americans and the Israelis whereever they are easy targets. In view of the growing contacts of India with the US and Israel, it looks upon India as providing suitable tagets of opportunity in the growing American and Israeli presence.

Why the let and the Huji have been more active in South India than the Hum and the JEM? Why is the HUJI of Bangladesh known as Huji(B) more active in South India than the Huji of Pakistan?

Presently, the jihadi organisations are depending on the Muslims from South India working in Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their recruitment and operations.Only the LET and the HUJI have a presence in these countries, but not the HUM and the JEM.When the US intelligence agencies stepped up their operations in Pakistan post-9/11, Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations decided to transfer some of their activities to Bangladesh to escape detection and neutralisation by the US agencies.Jihadis from South-East Asia based in Pakistan were sent to Bangladesh. The HUJI (B) was asked to take over the responsibility for training and co-ordination in respect of the jihad in Southern Thailand, the Arakan area of Myanmar and North-East and South India. Now the operations are jointly handled by the Gulf branches of the LET and the HUJI of Pakistan and HUJI (B). The HUJI (B) does not have a presence in the Gulf.

What has been the success achieved so far by these organisations?

It is assessed that they have succeeded in recruiting only a small number so far--- more from the Gulf than from the Muslim community in South India. In terrorism, what is important is not the number, but the motivation and determination. Though the number involved is small, their motivation and determination is strong, but not yet strong enough to give birth to suicide or suicidal terrorism, which has till now remained confined to J&K and has not spread to other parts of India.

Why have they achieved greater success in Andra Pradesh and Karnataka than in Tamil Nadu and Kerala?

Any foreign-inspired terrorist group needs local support for logistics and the ability to communicate. The foreign organisers of the LET and the HUJI, who can communicate only in Urdu and Arabic, find many Muslims in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka who can speak these languages, but not in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Thus, the inability to communicate in a mutually-understood language has been an impediment in these areas.

What should the Government do to deal with the Menace effectively?

The Police is the weapon of first resort in counter-terrorism. It has had a fairly good record in the past, but its hands have been tied due to the increasing politicisation of counter-terrorism.The solution lies not in creating more and more organisations, which would only further complicate the difficulties of co-ordination. It lies in giving the Police all the resources and powers they need and a free hand to deal with terrorism in accordance with the law with no political interference. Every political party without exception has been exploiting terrorism and counter-terrorism to serve its own partisan political agenda. After 9/11, in the US and many other Western countries, counter-terrorism plays an important role in influencing voter opinion. Any political leader, who is viewed by the public as soft on terrorism, finds it difficult to win an election.In India, perceived softness of politicians in dealing with terrorism has unfortunately no influence on voter opinion. This has to change and this change can be brought about only by public opinion. If half a dozen well-known politicians lose their election because of their perceived softness or ambivalence on this issue, the message will spread across the politial community that they risk losing their election. They will sit up and mend their ways.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E mail:seventyone2@gmail.com )

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