The terror attack on the Hunkar Rally in Patna, which was attended by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, has brought the focus back on the terror outfit, the Indian Mujahideen (IM).
The probe into the attack has surprised investigators and the intelligence community, which failed to anticipate it. Our security apparatus was still in a celebratory mode, flush with the successful arrest, of Mohammed Ahmed Siddappa aka Yasin Bhatkal, believed to be the mastermind of several terror attacks between 2007 and 2012, in August. However, they were rudely awakened by the Patna blasts and this once again revealed that the IM had made inroads into new states raising fresh modules while intelligence agencies were busy looking elsewhere.
The IM has challenged a new generation of India’s intelligence and police officials since it is a ‘home grown’ terror outfit. The Patna serial blast investigations also reveal that luck played a greater role in cracking the case rather than skill. Subsequent lapses, like the escape of a key witness from the NIA’s custody, have once again highlighted the major gaps in our counter-terrorism efforts. Ever since the Batla House encounter in September 2008, the intelligence community has learnt that the IM has a better understanding of technology than earlier terror groups. They work in modules, making it difficult to track them. They make few mistakes and learn quickly. Dealing with such an opponent demands better coordination between intelligence agencies, state police forces and investigating agencies like the National Investigation Agency. Any credible counter-terrorism mechanism also needs better understanding between various ministries. It has been reported that while the ministry of home affairs shows urgency on some occasions, the ministry of external affairs drags its feet on areas that need international cooperation. Unless these systemic issues are addressed, India’s counter-terrorism will continue to be in a shambles.
But terrorism is a manifestation of a larger conflict that emanates out of political failures. Therefore, the solution also lies in a better political management of terrorism. So far, whether it is response or resolution, politics has failed to shape an effective response to the challenge. Politics has to ensure that there is a better outreach programme directed at communities which feel alienated. It has to also ensure that there are no mass scale illegal detentions, as highlighted in this paper, since that leads to further radicalisation and alienation and needlessly widens the circle of suspicion.