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Waiting to explode

india Updated: Dec 18, 2011 23:03 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta

National-Security-Guard-NSG-experts-use-sniffer-dogs-to-check-outside-the-Delhi-high-court

After the September 7, 2011, bomb blast outside Delhi high court, two incidents merit serious consideration: the seizure of five kilogrammes of high intensity explosives from a car outside Ambala railway station on October 12, and the busting of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) terror module with the arrest of Pakistani national Mohammed Adil aka Ajmal in Madhubani, Bihar, on November 25.

Investigations into the Ambala case have revealed that the RDX consignment was pushed into India by the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF). The KTF is reportedly funded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the explosives were delivered through couriers affiliated to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The KTF's founder, Jagtar Singh Tara, a former Babbar Khalsa International terrorist, an accused in the assassination case of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, had escaped from Burail Jail in Punjab and is now based in Pakistan.

The unravelling of the IM module showed that northern Bihar districts bordering Nepal are the 'new Azamgarh' for this indigenous terror group. The police claimed that the 14 identified group members, of whom seven were caught, were responsible for the German Bakery bombing in Pune in February 2010, the RK Chinnaswamy stadium bombing in Bengaluru in April 2010, and the shoot-out at Jama Masjid in Delhi on September 18, 2010.

These two seemingly disparate incidents point to certain developments. One, there is evidence of serious attempts to revive militancy in Punjab by Pakistan-based elements. Two, the fig leaf of deniability in the name of 'indigenous terrorism' no longer holds. We may see more Pakistan-based 'jihadists' getting directly involved in terror strikes in India in the future. Three, the IM's leadership, which survived the 2008 Batla House encounter and evaded the country-wide police dragnet thereafter, is not only getting fresh recruits but is also preparing for new terror strikes. Four, Islamic radicalisation continues unabated within India, with new pockets such as Basopatti in the Madhubani district in Bihar, Tumkur in Karnataka, and Tambaram near Chennai coming up on the radar.

Also, the interrogation of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)-trained Ajmal revealed that after years of being choked by the ISI for conducting assassination attempts on then president Pervez Musharraf, the group has been unshackled in Pakistan and is apparently preparing to target India. That India is back in JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar's cross-hairs has also been corroborated by intercepts of communications among the group's key handlers in Pakistan and Nepal.

Given the fact that IM co-founders Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal managed to hide in Delhi for two months after the Batla House encounter, and that Yasin Bhatkal was trying to settle down in the same city this year, India's internal security set-up has much on its hands. Yasin, who managed to give Indian agencies the slip, is the current pivot of IM operations in India with Riyaz and Iqbal now safe in Karachi. The radicalisation of IM recruits in Salafi mosques in north Bihar require an urgent counter-terror response. As the UPA is committed to improving relations with Pakistan, New Delhi should insist that Islamabad take visible action against anti-India groups, freelance jihadists and rogue agents. There is an urgent need to regulate human and material traffic along the Bihar-Nepal border. This means that the ongoing construction work of four integrated check-posts along the 1,751 km border should be conducted on a war footing and be completed by end-2012.

With Bangladesh and Myanmar on board on mutual security issues, India should put pressure on Nepal to weed out radicals from its Terai region. Within India, human intelligence capacities should be built in ghettos and gated communities to ensure that terrorists and radicals do not get shelter. The ability of the Indian State to neutralise terror modules has to move up a notch or two. There is no other option.