MORE THAN two decades have passed since the first terrorist strike in India but we are yet to learn how to cope with such attacks. It is not we have not learned any lessons are good at protecting our VIPs. the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, the whole machinery state was revamped to ensure no VIP is killed. And, touch wood, have been successful in that mission — witness the Special Protection Group and the Z- category system that ensured that no “ protectee” has killed. as for the rest of the country, it different story.
It is true, as terrorism expert B. Raman said on his on Wednesday, that soft targets are used by terrorists to demonstrate the ability of the “ to operate without being detected by the intelligence and counter- terrorism agencies”. Anyway, Vikram Sood, former India’s external intelligence R& AW, notes that India is easy country to operate in”. He out that we have three virtually open borders, and a sea frontier is more or less unguarded. system of checks and controls by other countries is simply available in India, or doesn’t as it should.
According to A. K. Doval, a former director of the Intelligence Bureau expertise in operations, the years of fighting terrorism have their toll on our security “ The element of surprise and innovation are key weapons in the against terrorism, but I am we have run short of new at the tactical and strategic Counter- intelligence or counter- terrorism is a cat- and-mouse game that requires highly and innovative responses. we have instead is a tired security force, more worried about and emoluments than the grinding task it has been involved a generation.
The way our has been functioning is that only do they fail to solve a case ensure the conviction of the but they do so in a manner brutalises innocent people to point that they become potential recruits to the terrorist cause. resulting from over- reactions facilitates their [ terrorist] recruitment,” notes Raman.
In 1993, the authorities were able identify most of the perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts within a month and track their trail to Pakistan. But in the past couple of the security agencies have unable to tell us with certainty who has been behind, say, the October 2005 Delhi blasts in which people died. In February 2006, Delhi police filed a chargesheet naming Tariq Ahmed Dar of the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba, Mohammed Hussain and Mohammed Fazili has happened since. Most knowledgeable people believe that the case is a weak one.
But this is the story of most cases in recent times. So far there has been little evidence of forensic science being used to track terrorists. More often than not the nature of the device and its composition is found out by unexploded bombs rather than chemical analysis.
The procedure in other countries is quite stringent with the scene of the terrorist strike being cordoned off and a systematic search for clues which could range from fingerprints to tell- tale remnants of an explosive, timer or integrated circuit. Such data are invaluable in providing the “ signature” of a particular bomb- maker or group.
The US, for example, maintains a large facility in Baghdad which looks at every aspect of an IED — its dimensions, any possible fingerprints left by its makers on the parts, the nature of its trigger, its explosive. The police’s modus operandi at present is to arrest all suspects, which can mean all the Kashmiri shawl sellers following the Delhi blasts, or Muslims elsewhere.
After the Mumbai blasts of 2006, a Tablighi Jamaat missionary group travelling in Tripura was detained for a while.
Late last year Aftab Alam Ansari of Kolkata spent 22 days in jail because the UP police arrested him in a case of mistaken He faced torture and beatings and was not able to stand on his feet for more than 15 minutes after his release. Multiply this instance by a hundred and a thousand, if you will, and it is apparent that this is a recipe for creating rather than neutralising potential recruits.
Sood points to George W. Bush’s boast that the US homeland has not faced another terrorist attack since 9/ 11. He says the draconian action taken by the US, including tough laws and measures to check potential terrorists, has clearly had an effect. India, he points out, has no law to deal with terrorism. “ In fact we have several laws,” and this results in the slowing of the judicial process. It took more than a decade to convict those guilty of the Mumbai blasts of 1993, and the process has not quite ended. Mind you, these convicts were tried under the now defunct Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. The slow judicial process ensures that the criminal justice system does not act as a deterrent for a potential terrorist. The bigger question is of political will.
There are critics like Doval who feel that India simply lacks the guts to respond to what he terms as Pakistani complicity in terrorist attacks on India. This is obviously a sensitive issue as it is linked to “ how far our adversaries think they can push us”. Political will, he points out, is critically linked to executive action. He says no national party today has a leader who can inspire our security forces and intelligence services, and fire them with the kind of zeal that is needed to combat terrorism.
This article appeared in Mail Today May 16, 2008