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The Rise of Indian Mujahideen

 
Wednesday, 20 July 2011 14:20
 
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by Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra (EPOS)
EPOS Insights

 

The recent bomb blasts at three locations in Mumbai that killed about 20 people and injured about 130 people have brought into focus not only the vulnerability of big Indian cities, but also the rise of a particular variety of homegrown extremist group called Indian Mujahideen. The attacks also pricked the claims of authorities that after the Mumbai attack of 2008, Indian security and intelligence agencies have been successful enough to foil terrorist plans and attacks.

India’s home minister recently observed that so far the year 2011 has been peaceful as there has been no terrorist attack. And within days of his statement, the bomb blasts took place. Though India invested heavily in anti-terror operations post-2008, it still appears not fully capable to counter the attacks.

After 2008 India witnessed five terror attacks in various parts including New Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Pune and Varanasi. In all these attacks including the recent bomb blasts in Mumbai, the role of Indian Mujahideen has been suspected; and as the recent investigations into the blasts show the authorities are increasingly zeroing on this fundamentalist group as the perpetrator of the attacks.

In fact after the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, the role of the nascent Indian Mujahideen (IM) came to light. Looking back to the David Headley-Tahaur Rana duo’s complicity in giving shape to the Karachi project (project aimed at creating a fundamentalist group comprising Indian citizens) in fomenting terrorist violence in India, it becomes clear the project aims to use terror as a policy against India. So far, almost till the year 2008, the terror attacks in India were perpetrated by the foreign nationals including Pakistani nationals like Ajmal Kasab, a culprit of Mumbai attack.

In all terror attacks on India, the role of Indian citizens was seldom established prior to 2008. All the attacks were planned and operated from abroad. The Karachi project aimed at changing this foreign dimension to the terrorist violence in India and attempted to give it color of a homegrown movement in India led by Indian citizens. Its operational aim was to recruit disenchanted or otherwise Indian youths particularly Muslims in camps particularly in the camp of Karachi, and train them with deadly activities such as planting bombs, making bombs, tackling the police encounter, etc. and send them back to India for action.

Pakistan based Abdur Rehman Makki, the Deputy Chief of Jamaat-ul-Dawa, a branch of Lashkar e Toiba, in his public speech in Islamabad February last year had called Indian Prime Minister by name as ‘evil,’ and ordered his followers in the name of jihad to target Indian cities. There appeared to have complicity on part of Pakistan establishment particularly its intelligence agency ISI to patronize this Karachi project.

The tracing of David Headley’s emails by the agencies clearly reveal that the Karachi project is not a very old idea. And in a distinction between good and bad Jehadi (good are those who do not target Pakistan, but free in fact prompted to target India or other countries; the opposite is bad Taliban).

Since 2008 Pakistan’s intelligence agency has thrown its full weight behind this Karachi project, mainly mooted by Lashkar-e-Toiba, which is a banned terrorist organization based in Pakistan. The project aims at recruiting Indian Muslims and then diverting them to Indian cities and target soft targets. The emails of Headley to his Pakistan handlers clearly reflect his reference to the Karachi project. During his visits to India in 2008 and 2009 Headley had visited various Indian cities including Mumbai to plan the terror attacks. In fact the terror attacks in 2008 in Indian cities of Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, besides Mumbai, clearly brought into picture the existence of Indian Mujahideen, with their direct allegiance to their recruiters in Karachi.

The Bhatkal brothers, Riyaz and Iqbal, originally from the Indian city of Pune, played an important role in strengthening Indian Mujahideen. Currently they have reportedly taken shelter in Karachi. The Indian Mujahideen has a strong presence in Pune as some of its prominent members like software engineer and head of the media wing of the group Mohammed Mansoor Asgar Peerbhoy, Mohammad Atiq Mohammad Iqbal, Anik Shafiq Sayyad, and doctor Anwar Abdulganj Bagwan are arrested and imprisoned in Pune.

Most of the members of IM belong to the Students Islamic Movements of India (SIMI), which was banned by Indian government due to its fundamentalist and extremist agenda. India which is a multiethnic and pluralistic society with all the political and legal features of secular country has not promoted violence as a means for conflict resolution. In fact Muslims in India have abhorred violence as a means for addressing their grievances. This aspect of Indian polity came to light when the Muslims of Mumbai refused to allow the bodies of slain terrorists, also Muslims, to be buried in Mumbai. But now, with the gradual strengthening of Indian Mujahideen, with the active support from across the border, Indian policy makers have expressed concern about the future prospects of stability, order and communal harmony in India.

Probably, the terrorists with the religious fanatic zeal aim at exploiting the religious balance in Indian society and by target the innocent civilians in the name of jihad they want to perpetrate their devious designs. How far this attack on the background of emerging Indo-Pak rapprochement after about three years will impact the tense atmosphere in the South Asian region is yet difficult to say.


Dr Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is part of the research faculty at the Centre for Central Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai, India.

Last modified on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 13:44

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