Recent interrogations of terrorist Syed Abdul Karim alias Tunda and Yasin Bhatkal have thrown up startling facts and also raised some difficult questions.
The trouble with information sourced from sleuths interrogating terror suspects is that a journalist has no way of corroborating this information independently.
The interrogations sometimes throw up chilling information as to how terror networks are seeking to expand their footprint. But, at the same time, they sometimes reveal information that tends to question what we thought were settled facts on earlier terror attacks.
Indian Mujahideen’s (IM) Yasin Bhatkal, for instance, recently told interrogators that Himayat Baig, a 33-year-old school teacher sentenced to death in the 2010 German bakery blast case, was not involved in the blast, which he (Bhatkal) had planned with another accomplice.
At the same time, Bhatkal has also told investigators that the IM is looking to join hands with al Qaeda for joint operations in India. If true, this hints at terror becoming an even larger threat to India than it is now.
The interrogations raise a series of difficult questions for India. While they remind us of the real threat of terrorism, they also bring out a key human angle: innocents facing the heat as the government attempts to combat terror.
And both the concerns are serious. The country has been bled by terror time and again, each key city having faced multiple terror attacks till the chilling attack in Mumbai in 2008 left scores dead and maimed in its wake.
Ajmal Kasab may have been sent to the gallows, but the threat remains.
And it may well be expanding, if it is true that the IM is looking to tie up with al Qaeda for deadlier strikes against India. This necessitates a strong response from the State, which is duty bound to protect its citizens.
But a strong response stands the risk of alienating citizens from the State, with the possibility of innocents being charged. So far as the Pune blast is concerned, one interrogation is at odds with the results of another interrogation, which incidentally led to Baig’s conviction and death sentence.
It is indeed a tightrope walk for India. Terror remains a threat to the security of Indian citizens and cannot be wished away.
At the same time, with each innocent getting booked, the State loses the battle for winning over the minds of its own citizens, particularly the religious minorities, something India can ill-afford.