Where and Who Do We Target?
Maxwell Pereira

mfjpkamath@gmail.com

Three days before the Malegaon blasts, speaking to the country’s chief ministers at an internal security meeting called by the centre, Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh spoke of “externally inspired and directed terrorist outfits”. Thereby, clearly indicating that the perpetrators could well be homebred locals. Even so, he went on to warn, while it would be incumbent on the police to be firm, care should be taken not to brand or target any community as a whole for acts of some misguided elements within that community.

The Prime Minister’s words were heavy laden with a deep and direct meaning. In the media debates that followed, everyone agreed and no one could fault the over all import of his caution. A heavy responsibility indeed devolves then on the citizenry and more particularly on its law enforcement authorities not to target any particular community while on their quest for the perpetrators.

All very well said and accepted. Who then do we target? …and where exactly do the police search for the miscreants?

Former intelligence man SP Talukdar is candid when he categorically declares it is well nigh impossible for intelligence services or security systems to come up trumps always, and be able to pinpoint accurately the identities, the locations and targets of terrorist attacks – that too, in a country bursting at its seams with a billion plus people in sprawling urban areas and bottomless rural hinterlands. Precise and accurate prior information can never be guaranteed.

In the circumstances, it is the community’s role that stands out. In the sustained effort for collection of intelligence, community support is a must. Each individual in a community has to be a security warden with regard to his environs and each community has to be a surveillance entity in respect of its location,

For proper investigation it is paramount for the concerned agencies to probe every angle, search every nook and corner for the perpetrators. And hunt for the source from where the terrorist could have received support – something that has to be identified and physically cleaned. The task is made formidable since terrorist attacks are made possible mostly by elements from within the system and the community providing local modules for execution.

In the recently exposed UK plot to explode trans-Atlantic flights, all suspects arrested were second generation British Muslims who had benefited from the country their parents had adopted as their own. Unlike in India where the communal divide has brewed hatred and discrimination for considerable period due to various factors one will refrain from going into here, in the UK one could safely say social relations there in no way differentiated one Briton from another. And yet from what happened one is confronted with a situation where Britons with some special characteristics, their religious adherence being the most dominant, have come under serious suspicion. While the vast majority from this community would be totally innocent, British Muslims are under a cloud for the perversion of some fanatics among them, which has warranted the security agencies to screen the entire community.

How much more then, should the needle – nay the mighty arrow – of suspicion tend to point at this unfortunate community of our Muslim brethren in India! In both – the Mumbai serial blasts of July 7 and the Malegaon blasts of September 8 it is the Islamic terrorist outfits of the Lashkar e Tayyeba that are believed to be the perpetrators. It is immaterial by which new name these terrorist outfits operate for each new venture – be it the Harkat ul Mohammed, the Lashkar e Jhangvi or the Jamaat ul Dawa, when it comes to launching terrorists attacks against India there is no difference one from the other. It is the diverse identities that provide them wider space for safe havens among the militant minded in the community, and here lies the danger.

Writing in the Indian Currents, Talukdar says “it is natural for these criminals to locate themselves in the most hospitable environment with an advantage of disguise and merger with the demographic landscape”. Most often the immediate members of the community in the neighbourhood may be blissfully unaware of such pernicious presence in their vicinity, but there could also be many who acquiesce while being suspicious of the activity around, if not conniving or being well in the know and/or supporting.

Recent incidents have thrown up evidence in Maharashtra of rootless and unemployed young Muslims under influence of extremist organisations being covertly on the rampage. Authorities have unearthed in the past months arms and explosives meant for causing disturbance, civil unrest and communal disharmony. At the same time radical elements from within the majority community have not been above suspicion either. In April this year two persons believed to be from within the ranks of the Bajrang Dal and the VHP met their end while making bombs. Similarly the hand of terrorists from within the majority community was also established in blasts that targeted mosques in 2003 and 2004.

In conclusion then, while it is necessary for the intelligence and security agencies to further hone their machinery and ground execution without in any way targeting communities at large, there is need for the political community no less to desist from competitive politics based on religious fundamentalism and communal loyalties. No less is the role for the voice of reason, pragmatism and idealism from community elders and religious leadership to expose support systems if any from within local environs and to condemn unequivocally the acts of those identified from within their ranks.

19.09.2006: Copyright © Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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