No immunity for Indian Muslims
The probable involvement of two Indian
doctors and an engineer in the latest terrorist strikes in the UK should
finally put an end to the ludicrous, but long-held, fiction that Indian
Muslims are somehow mystically immune to mobilisation by international
It was a major tactical error on the
part of the Indian establishment to invest so much political and emotional
capital in the international projection of this flawed notion, and the
irrational sense of shock and disappointment that is currently being
widely articulated is a direct consequence of this miscalculation.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims
in the country have categorically rejected extremist Islam and the rising
tide of violence associated with it.
However, it has long been the case that
this insidious ideology has won at least some adherents among Indian
Muslims, and these elements have engaged in terrorism on Indian soil
over an extended period of time. There was, consequently, no rational
constraint – other than the absence of specific mobilisation to such
an end – that would necessarily exclude the possibility of their involvement
in acts of terrorism abroad.
Regrettably, news relating to these
bombings has been greeted with a new hysteria, with many analysts feeding
the myth of an ubiquitous al-Qaeda making sudden inroads onto Indian
The fact is, al-Qaeda has and can have
little direct role or involvement in India. Al-Qaeda affiliates – members
of the Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front – including the
Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahiddeen and Harkat-ul-Jihad
Islami – have long operated in India and will continue to do so.
Drumming up panic over al-Qaeda’s ‘arrival’
in India distracts from the realities and imperatives of the ground:
intelligence and enforcement agencies need to focus on any Islamist
terrorist group that has actual capacities to provoke and execute terrorist
acts here, not on monsters largely conjured out of an international
Unless there is clear evidence of operational
links between al-Qaeda and Indian groups – links that result in a manifest
augmentation of capacities to engage in terrorism – invoking the al-Qaeda
bogey serves no useful purpose.
Current reports suggest that the Indians
involved in the UK bombings were probably recruited and motivated not
in India, but during their stay in the UK itself. This is no ground
for complacency, and extreme vigilance is needed to ensure that comparable
processes of mobilisation and recruitment do not become entrenched here.
On the other hand, there is an urgent
need to monitor the Indian diaspora for subversive elements and activities,
including the periodic movement of Indians abroad into the home country.
There is a tremendous need to understand
radical Islamist sub-cultures, both within India and abroad, in order
to discover why Muslim youth from the most extraordinarily diverse backgrounds
have been susceptible to recruitment in the current ‘global jihad’.
Generalised examinations of the ‘real
nature of Islam’ and the ‘unique culture’ of Indian Muslims cannot help
us understand the pernicious group dynamic that dominates secretive
extremist and terrorist organisations.
Intelligence must penetrate this sub-culture
in all its manifestations, not only the tightly knit ideological and
terrorist core, but the wider network of front and sympathetic organisations
that comprise the broader recruitment base of this nucleus.
(Published in Daily
News and Analysis, Mumbai, July 07, 2007)