INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO.451
The Gujarat Police announced on August 16, 2008, the identification and arrests of 10 activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India(SIMI) in connection with the serial blasts in Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008. Nine of the arrests were made in Ahmedabad and Vadodara inGujarat and the tenth arrest of their leader Mufti Abu Bashir was made with the co-operation of the Uttar Pradesh police in Azamgarh in UP.According to details given by a team of senior Gujarat police officers at a special press conference, the arrested persons formed the hardcore of a larger group of SIMI activists, who had planned and carried out the blasts in Ahmedabad, under the name of Indian Mujahideen(IM). They also said that while they had definitively established the involvement of these persons and their associates not yet arrested inthe blasts in Gujarat, they had some indications that some of these persons might have also been involved in the serial blasts of May inJaipur and in the blasts of November, 2007, in UP.
2. A week later, on August 23,2008, another E-mail message purporting to be from the IM was received by a TV channel, in which the IM debunked the claims of the Gujarat Police of having arrested the perpetrators of the Ahmedabad blasts. It denied that the SIMI hadmetamorphosed into the IM as alleged by the Gujarat Police. It sought to convey the impression that the real perpetrators had not beenarrested by the Gujarat Police. ( http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers29/paper2821.html )
3. Following the serial blasts in New Delhi on September 13,2008, a group of Delhi Police officers raided a suspected terrorist hide-out in theJamia Nagar area of New Delhi on September 19,2008. Information reportedly collected by them through phone intercepts and other meansindicated that five persons living in the hide-out might have participated in the serial blasts. There was an exhange of fire between theraiding party and the inmates of the hide-out. Two of the inmates were killed and one was arrested. Two managed to avoid capture andescaped. Two police officers were injured by the inmates, of whom one---an Inspector of Police--- succumbed to the injuries. On the basis ofthe interrogation of the arrested person, the Delhi police arrested a number of others in Delhi and Azamgarh in UP. Their interrogationindicated their involvement in the planning and execution of the serial blasts. The evidence collected by the Delhi Police also indicated thatthe serial blasts in Jaipur on May 13,2008, at Ahmedabad on July 26,2008, and at New Delhi on September 13,2008, were the joint work ofthe IM, the SIMI and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan.
4. Acting partly independently and partly on the basis of the clues collected by the Delhi Police, the Mumbai Police arrested on September24,2008, five suspected members of the IM hailing from Azamgarh and residing in Mumbai, who were allegedly planning to carry out terroriststrikes in Mumbai. Further investigation is in progress by the Delhi and Mumbai Police.It is almost two weeks now since the arrests made bythe Delhi Police and one week after the arrests by the Mumbai Police. The IM, which promptly came out within a week with a messageridiculing the claims of the Gujarat Police, has remained silent till now on the claims of the Delhi and Mumbai Police. This could indicate that the Delhi and Mumbai Police are on the right track in their investigation and that the IM leadership is probably in a state of confusion, notknowing how it should react to the arrests.
6. While the IM, the terrorist organisation, has thus far refrained from disputing the claims of the Delhi and Mumbai Police, some leaders ofthe Muslim community in these two cities, some members of the so-called secularists community and sections of the media have vigorouslyquestioned the authenticity of the version of the police raid in Jamia Nagar and of the police claims regarding the involvement of thepersons arrested by the Delhi and Mumbai Police in the serial blasts. There has been an unfortunate attempt by these elements in the civilsociety of Delhi and Mumbai to discredit the investigation being done by the police and to create doubts in the minds of our own public andthe international community about the dependability of the police.A deplorable attempt has even been made to allege that the death of theInspector might have been due to " friendly fire". There cannot be a 'friendly fire" when the members of the raiding party are known to eachother and operate in an enclosed space as inside a flat." Friendly fires" take place when one party is not aware of the identity of anotherparty.
7. They have not only tried to damage the credibility of the police, but also wittingly or unwittingly tried to provide an alibi to the jihaditerrorists by bringing in the name of the Bajrang Dal, an aggressive Hindu self-defence organisation, and projecting it as a terroristorganisation comparable to the SIMI. They have tried to insinuate that the police are avoiding any enquiry into the possible involvement ofthe Dal in some of the terrorist strikes. A prominent leader of the Muslim community in Chennai has also called for an enquiry about the realoriginator of the messages being received in the name of the IM since November last. His apparent insinuation is that these messages mightnot have been sent by jihadi terrorists at all.
8. At a time when a demoralising campaign has been launched against the police in order to project the police as the adversaries of theMuslims, one would have expected the Government to come out strongly in defence of the police and in praise of the difficult work they aredoing. Unfortunately, the Government has refrained from doing so. After the London blasts of July,2005, some police officers on duty near ametro station in London saw a suspicious looking man heavily clad moving towards the station. They asked him to stop for questioning. Hedid not. Instead, he ran into the metro station. The police pursued him and shot him dead before he could get into a train since they wereafraid that he might be another suicide bomber. The search of his body and subsequent investigation indicated that the police fears werenot correct. Despite this, the Government of Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, and an enquiry commision appointed by the Government didnot fault the police. They held the police action in firing at him as justified since he failed to stop. Even in the British public, there wasconsiderable understanding for the police action. That is the way they build up the confidence of their police and encourage them to takewhatever action they consider as legitimate and necessary in order to prevent an act of terrorism.
9. There is a lot of debate in India as to how the US and other Western countries have been able to prevent serious terrorist strikes after theLondon blasts.It is not only due to the additional legal powers given by them to the police. It is also due to their total support to the police intheir investigation and preventive action even if such action occasionally results in unfortunate deaths. After the London blasts, the BritishPolice made a number of arrests to prevent orchestrated explosions on some US-bound flights in August 2007. Many of those arrested onstrong and legitimate suspicion could not be successfully prosecuted for want of equally strong evidence. They were recently acquitted bya jury.But the court and the civil society in the UK have not criticised the police for making arrests on suspicion in order to prevent a fearedterrorist strike. The Government has held that the fact that adequate evidence could not be collected subsequently did not mean that theoriginal arrests based on suspicion were mala fide. One does not see any orchestrated disparagement of the police in any of the Western orSouth-East Asian countries, which have also been faced with the problem of terrorism.
10. Unfortunately, in India, there is a systematic disparagement of the police whenever they act against jihadi terrorists. This campaign ofdisparagement comes not only from some leaders of the Muslim community, but also sections of the so-called secular elite. Our policeofficers should treat this as an occupational hazard peculiar to India and go ahead with their investigation without worrying about thestones being trown at them from all sides. (1-10-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )