SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
No Surprises in Bangalore
as the senseless killing of an elderly scientist at one
As usual, there has been much media furor over the opening of a ‘new theatre’ of terrorism, but this is, again, misleading and misinformed. ‘South India’ has generally been projected as an area free of the jihadi scourge, but it has been systematically targeted for years now, and has been the site of several waves of terrorist attacks in the past which have, unfortunately, been forgotten in the absence of a public and media memory that extends beyond immediate sensation. The sarkari (state-supported) jehadi groups based in Pakistan, as well as the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) have systematically developed an elaborate network across South India, and while this manifests itself in the drama of a terrorist attack only occasionally, it has been continuously discovered through a relentless chain of arrests and seizures of arms and explosives across the region, and over the years.
is useful, first, to assess the more proximate indicators
that augured the outrage at
had, further, been a suicide bombing at the office of the
Police Special Task Force (STF) at
has, for some time now, been instructing cadres to attack
unconventional targets such as the IT industry, as well
as leading scientific and industrial establishments across
the country, particularly in
in May 2005, the police in
is useful, also to take a brief overview of the major ISI-jehadi
modules discovered and disrupted in the region in 2004 as
To detail the sequence of terrorist attacks and activities in South India even further, it is useful to recall the series of 13 bomb blasts in various churches in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa between May and July 2000, executed by a Peshawar (Pakistan)-based Islamist sect, the Deendar Anjuman.
Another series of 19 explosions had earlier, on February 14, 1998, left over 50 dead and more than 200 injured in the Coimbatore District of Tamil Nadu. While the Al Umma group, founded by S.A. Basha, was blamed, investigations and subsequent arrests exposed the involvement of the ISI and a wide network of extremist Islamist organisations across South India. These included the Indian Muslim Mohammadi Mujahideen, the Tanzim Islahul Muslimeen, the Jihad Committee in Tamil Nadu; and the Islamic Sevak Sangh, subsequently banned and revived as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), headed by Abdul Nasser Madani, in Kerala.
The first major bomb blast in Tamil Nadu occurred in 1993 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) office was blown up in Chennai. It was reported that Islamic fundamentalist groups, which had been proliferating, had masterminded the blast. Imam Ali, who was arrested in 1994 in the in the Mettupalayam forests in 1994 while imparting weapons training to youth, was believed to have been trained by extremist organizations operating in Kashmir, and some linkages were also established with Bangladesh. Three bomb blasts were subsequently reported on different trains in Tamil Nadu and Kerala on December 6, 1997, and pamphlets recovered from the incident site pointed to the involvement of the Islamic Defence Force (IDF). Ten members of two Islamic fundamentalist groups were chargesheeted on October 5, 1998, for a bomb blast on a Coimbatore-bound train on December 6, 1997. The IDF also claimed responsibility for a bomb blast that occurred under the Anna flyover in Chennai on January 10, 1998. This was followed by another blast in a rice mill at Thanjavur on February 8, 1998. Police investigations revealed that Abdul Khader, son of the mill owner, Abdul Hameed, was connected to Muslim fundamentalist organisations.
These various arrests and activities need to be assessed within the context of declarations by the Pakistani Islamist extremist leaders regarding an India-wide campaign of terrorism to further their objectives. Thus, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the Amir of the LeT, declared, in July 2005, “The jihad in Kashmir would soon spread to entire India. Our mujahideen would create three Pakistans in India.”
Syed Salahuddin, the head of the
HM had similarly declaimed,
“Almighty Allah, by his will and tactics, is bringing the
Jihad Movement of Kashmir on a track that will liberate
not only the oppressed people of
Unsurprisingly, according to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, at least 54 ISI-jehadi modules have been disrupted just over the years 2004-2005, leading to hundreds of arrests across India – outside Jammu and Kashmir and the troubled Northeast – in locations that extend from Uttaranchal in the North, to Andhra Pradesh in the South, and from Gujarat in the West to West Bengal in the East. Further, official sources indicate that, between 1998 and 2003, security agencies had neutralized more than 180 ISI-backed terrorist modules across the country (excluding J&K and the Northeast), who had been tasked to target security and vital installations, communication links, and commercial and industrial centres, as well as to provoke instability and disorder by circulating large quantities of counterfeit currency and by drug trafficking.
The attack in Bangalore was only the more visible evidence of a long-term war of attrition by Pakistani state agencies and their jehadi surrogates, intended to undermine India’s political stability, increasingly by attacking its economic, scientific and technological strengths. The objective is to gradually undermine India’s capacities for growth, as well as to weaken international confidence in the country and to create an atmosphere of pervasive terror over wide areas that would dampen the country’s capacity to attract foreign investment.
It is important to note, however, that despite occasional and inevitable ‘successes’, this relentless strategy – which has targeted virtually every concentration of Muslim populations in India for decades – has overwhelmingly failed to secure a base within the community, beyond a minuscule radical fringe. Further, the record of intelligence and security agency successes against such subversion and terror, although lacking the visibility and drama of a terrorist strike, is immensely greater than the record of the successes of this strategy.
: The State Retreats, the Maoists Pursue
year 2005 has been a roller-coaster ride for
With the Maoists dismissing any idea about peace talks and rejecting the King’s regime as a “medieval feudal autocracy”, Kathmandu’s strategy relied increasingly on heavy-handed repression to ‘restore order’ in the country, barricading the capital and putting senior political party leaders under house arrest.
King was on weak ground to secure his first objective of
‘restoring order’ in the country. With an estimated strength
of just 80,000 soldiers in the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA),
17,000 personnel in the Armed Police Force (APF) and a poorly
equipped Police Force comprising 47,000 men, the King simply
lacked the numbers to contain an insurgency of the magnitude
of the Maoist movement, in a population of nearly 27 million
people, with every one of the country’s 75 districts currently
afflicted. The Maoists have an estimated strength of between
8,000 to 10,000 well-armed and trained ‘regulars’, an additional
25,000 (on conservative estimates) ‘militia’ armed with
relatively primitive weapons such as pipe guns and crude
bombs, backed by a substantial number of ‘sympathisers’, officially estimated at about 200,000 in 2003,
who can, under certain circumstances, be mobilised
– voluntarily or coercively – for violent action. The current
strength of 144,000 men in all state Forces cannot even
provide a fraction of a minimally acceptable counter-insurgency
Force ratio, which would have to exceed at least 1:10, and
would approach a desirable (though far from optimal) level
at 1:20. The ratio was further skewed in favour
of the Maoists with the withdrawal of significant numbers
of troops from the countryside to
47,000-strong civil Police provided little comfort within
this context. With just 110 of the country’s 1,135 police
stations still operational, this ill-equipped and demoralized
Force remains huddled in District headquarters, divesting
In the initial days following the emergency proclamation, though, a semblance of a military offensive was visible, when the RNA launched operations in selected areas in the Far West Districts of Baitadi, Achham and Dailekh, and in the Eastern Region Districts of Sankhuwasabha and Morang. However, these offensives were quickly dissipated, with the Maoists increasingly gaining the initiative. From April onwards, the insurgents launched major attacks in their stronghold areas.
Complementing its defensive posture, the RNA has also encouraged the formation of village level militias to fight the Maoists. These ‘vigilante’ groups have targeted Maoists and their sympathisers, often leading to bloodshed, as was the case on August 14, when villagers at Matiniya in the Banke District killed five Maoist insurgents, including three women cadres. Such incidents of violence were also reported from the Districts of Dhading, Makwanpur, Nuwakot and Kapilvastu. The Minister for Information and Communication, Tanka Dhakal, had announced that the Government would implement development packages in those areas where the people take “courageous retaliatory action” against the Maoists. However, such encouragement projected a regime relying on unsound tactics, the results of which have often proven disastrous. As one commentator noted,
Though portrayed as a spontaneous uprising by common villagers against Maoists, village vigilante groups in Kapilvastu District have wrought carnage that can only invite Maoist retribution. A field study by a group of human rights organisations found that at least 42 villagers have died there, 31 of them killed by the vigilantes on suspicion of being Maoist sympathizers. What has gone underreported is that most of these killings, which occurred in the last half of February, have taken an ethnic/communal colour, as most of the victims are said to belong to hill tribes, who had settled in the fertile Terai plains over the last few years.
on July 28, the King asserted there had been “considerable
improvement… in the internal law and order situation of
* Institute for Conflict Management data
However, a comparison of the January to August data for the years 2001 to 2005 reveals that the violence in year 2005 was headed towards a larger figure, till the Maoist ceasefire intervened in September. Further, a 2005-monthly breakdown of fatalities reveals that the violence reached its zenith in April and May.
The Maoist response to February 1 ‘takeover’ was typical and swift. ‘Chairman’, Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka ‘Prachanda’, announced a succession of general strikes, ‘wheel-jam’ agitations, shutdowns and blockades at the local and regional level. A ‘general strike’ was announced for three days between February 3 and 5, a 13-day blockade from February 13-26, countrywide ‘mass mobilization and military resistance’ between March 14 and April 1 followed by a countrywide general shutdown from April 2. The success of these shutdowns and blockades were guaranteed, as the insurgents overwhelmingly dominated the three major highways of the country – Mahendra, Prithvi and Tribhuvan – and had the capacity to lock down the economy virtually at will, though Kathmandu was able to keep at least a single principal supply line open along the Tribhuvan Highway, under heavy military escort, to support a trickle of essential supplies to the capital.
Some differences within the senior Maoist ranks came to the fore during the first half of the year, when ‘disciplinary action’ was initiated against senior ideologue Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and his wife Hisila Yami. However, the differences were not sufficient to split or significantly weaken the outfit, and the leaders were later ‘reinstated’.
All Maoist offensives came to a halt, on September 3, when Prachanda, issued a Press Statement declaring a three-month truce, under which the Maoists would not undertake any ‘offensive activities’, but would “remain in a position of active defense and resist if there is an offensive from the side of the enemy (the Government)”. The Maoist chief also warned that, if the Government intensified its military offensive or expanded Army bases by interpreting the Maoist move as ‘weakness’, the ceasefire could be ended ‘at any point’.
Maoist strategy that prompted the ceasefire announcement
was multifaceted. The announcement was a first – and extremely
successful – step towards the polarization of political
The unilateral truce, moreover, has allowed the Maoists to concentrate on overground mobilization and political activity, while at the same time continuing with a process of quiet military refurbishment. A report released by the Kathmandu-based Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC), titled "Three Months of Ceasefire – An Assessment of Human Rights Situation during the Unilateral Ceasefire by CPN (Maoist) in Nepal", noted that 75 persons were killed by both the state and Maoists during the three month period of the cease-fire, between September 3 and December 2 – 62 persons killed by security forces, and 13 by the Maoists. The report noted further that, though number of killings from the Maoists’ side had decreased, there had been a rise in incidents of abduction. The Maoists abducted 8,777 people, mostly students and teachers, during the period, the report stated, adding that the studies of at least 30,000 students had been affected, as the Maoists continued to target schools in remote areas.
the ‘King’s coup’, foreign countries and international aid
agencies expressed strong disappointment and suspended crucial
financial and military aid to
the suspension of arms supplies from traditional sources
To appease the international community, the King, in a message to the nation on October 12, directed the Election Commission to hold parliamentary elections to the House of Representatives by mid-April 2007. He also urged the international community to cooperate actively in the conduct of the parliamentary polls, in a free and fair manner, adding that the ‘misguided lot’ (Maoists) were free to join the political mainstream by ending violence. The King’s announcement implied that he was no longer rigid about ruling the country for three years, as earlier announced in his ‘takeover’ speech. However, few would give much credence to the possibility of elections by the April 2007 deadline, in the absence of a radical and improbable settlement with the Maoists.
a prelude to the parliamentary elections, the Election Commission
(EC) stated on October 9 that elections in all 58 municipalities
would take place on
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
December 26, 2005 - January 1, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
LTTE-triggered claymore mine explosion kills 11 soldiers in Jaffna: On December 27, eleven soldiers were killed and four others injured when Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres triggered a remote controlled claymore mine targeting an army truck in the Puloly West area of Jaffna district. Two other Army vehicles that were following the targeted truck with another batch of soldiers, however, escaped the blast.Situation Report, December 28, 2005.
Assam offers safe passage to ULFA cadres: All United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) cadres desirous of visiting the State on Bhogali Bihu, the harvest festival of Assam, will get a 14-day safe passage period beginning January 7, 2005, Chief Minister (CM) Tarun Gogoi announced on January 1 in Guwahati. “Our Government, whether in the State or at the Centre, wants to resolve the insurgency problem through peaceful negotiations, and the safe passage offer is a gesture to indicate our sincerity,” Gogoi said. The CM claimed that his Government, “unlike previous Governments” was not in favour of any confrontation with the militants and looked forward to a peaceful settlement. The Government, however, made it clear that any ULFA cadre willing to visit parents or other relatives during Bhogali Bihu would have to give prior intimation to the authorities. This they could do by calling up the Home Department or the Police, Gogoi said. “But there is one small condition: they cannot come with arms,” he added. The Indian Express, January 2, 2006.
Inspector General of Police killed in Manipur: The Manipur Inspector General of Police (Intelligence), Tunglut Thangthaum, was killed along with a Constable, and two police personnel were injured, in an ambush by unidentified militants in the Bishenpur District on December 31, 2005. Heavily-armed militants in a truck overtook the vehicle of Thangthaum at Oinam area, 25 kilometres south of capital Imphal, and fired indiscriminately killing the two on the spot. The officer was reportedly returning to Imphal from Churachandpur District along National Highway 153, when his convoy was attacked. The Sentinel, January 1, 2006.
Terrorist attack kills scientist in Bangalore: On December 28, 2005, a scientist, Prof. M.C. Puri, was killed and at least five persons were injured when an unidentified gunman opened fire and lobbed grenades in the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) campus in Bangalore, capital city of Karnataka. The attack occurred when delegates at an international conference of the Operational Research Society of India were coming out of the J.N. Tata Auditorium in the IISc campus. Police recovered five magazines, believed to be from an AK-47 rifle, a used grenade, a live grenade and spent bullets in front of the auditorium. Police Commissioner Ajai Kumar Singh told newspersons that the police were yet to ascertain who was behind the attack, the first of its kind in the city The Hindu, December 29, 2005.
441,565 students enrolled in Punjab seminaries: According to a report prepared by the Punjab Police Department and quoted in The News, as many as 200,246 students are enrolled in seminaries representing the Deoband school of thought, while 199,733 students are associated with seminaries belonging to the Barelvi school of thought in the Punjab province. While 34,253 students are affiliated with the seminaries representing the Ahl-e-Hadith school of thought, 7,333 students are getting education from the seminaries of Ahl-e-Tashi school of thought. The classified report showing the situation till September 2005 states that a total of 441,565 students are getting education in Madrassas (seminaries) across the Punjab province. Jang, January 2, 2006.
Sipah-e-Sahaba cadre plans base in Japan: Police believe a member of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), an outlawed Sunni extremist group, has entered Japan with the aim of setting up a base in that country, a report said on December 30, 2005. A male member of the SSP entered Japan in 2003, according to documents from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper said. Police have discovered that this man, in his 30s, frequented mosques in the Tokyo area, and that he told other people that he had come to Japan to set up a launch pad for the group, the report said. Japanese police are on heightened alert for possible terrorist activities and fear a move by the militant group to recruit members from Japan’s Muslim community and create a support network, the newspaper added. Daily Times, December 31, 2005.
Government not to review decision on expulsion of foreign students in seminaries: The Government will not review its decision about extradition of foreigners studying in different seminaries of the country, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said in Islamabad on December 29, 2005. Sherpao said that the Government had set no deadline for extradition of foreign students but they would have to leave the country in any case. "The decision was taken after a lot of consideration and we have no plan to review it," he said. The Minister, however, said that no visa of any foreign student was cancelled, as the Government wanted them to leave the country voluntarily. December 31, 2005 was the deadline set for registration of seminaries with the Government. Jang, December 30, 2005.
Recommend South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) to a friend.