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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 38

Urban Terrorism on Maharashtra

Wednesday 10 September 2008, by Ashok Kumar Sahay, Kshirod Chandra Patra


The toll of urban terrorism has so far caused a loss of 30,000 innocent Indian lives in the last 13 years due to 33 serial blasts in Maharashtra. The end of terrorist violence is nowhere in sight. As things stand, in the coming days India in general and urban areas in particular would have to brace up for more deadly terrorist attacks. The intentions of the terrorists are clear, as their capacity for deadly strikes has demonstrated. Unless some out-of-box surgical response is worked out, the urban areas may be heading for further terrorist attacks.

The Mumbai serial train blasts clearly show that the terrorists enjoy the support of same local Muslims in the form of logistics, sanctuaries for stay and storage for explosives. The hard fact is that Pakistan is encouraging terrorism directed against India, though it is trying to curb terrorism directed against the West. Pakistan should be plainly told that its intention will be judged by its actions and not by its words. It is clearly recognised that Pakistan’s ISI is the principal terrorist organisation in South Asia. Other groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad are creatures of the ISI. The ISI helps them with money and arms. They are nothing but the instrumentalities of the ISI.

Before the Mumbai blasts, there were a number of arrests and seizure of arms and explosives from different parts of Maharashtra, but it was a question of time before the terrorists succeeded in breaking through the ring and scored a big success. They eventually did that on July 11, 2006. The terrorist strikes at Mumbai clearly mirrored their intentions: (i) derail the economic studes taken by the commercial capital of India; (ii) try to discourage the foreign direct investment in India; (iii) compel the Government of India to divert more funds for security cover rather than the development plan; (iv) divide the city’s population on religious lines; and (v) gain worldwide media attention.

The terrorist organisations have established a close network of linkages with other terrorist organisations through coordination among various elements on the domestic front—local boys and elites like doctors, engineers, software engineers. In fact during the 1993 terrorist strikes at Mumbai the underworld attacked the Bombay Stock Exchange with the local boys’ support. But now the trend has changed. Terrorists want to recruit more professional people like doctors, engineers and software engineers, through whom they can undertake terrorist operations with greater accuracy and in a time bound way.

This is due to the changing perceptions of the terrorists by their outlook whereby the police is often misguided by them. But the ground reality is that a large number of these people are Pakistan- trained and those indoctrinated are local boys who have sprouted on the home ground.

THE growing menace of urban terrorism in Maharashtra started after the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. Thereafter, a continuous spell of terrorist strikes took place following some interval of time starting from 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003 to 2006. The trend has spread across Maharastra within the last 13 years. But this has become more effective due to the well-organised activities of Pakistan’s ISI. Terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s members get the training and motivation from SIMI and these members receive financial support from the Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba. The operational plans of execution are being conducted by Jaish-i-Muhmmad which has spotted 54 various potential targets in India, including temples, malls, software park and prominent personalities.

Intelligence and security forces can do as much as political sanction allows them. There can be no permanent victory over terrorism. Concessions to the terrorists and their sponsors will never bring permanent peace in India. Therefore in order to tackle urban terrorism in Maharashtra it is essential to : (i) fight the ideological battle with the help of lawyers, academicians and religious leaders of different communities; (ii) mainstream the minority communities though legal and administrative measure with the help of the administration in order to remove local support; (iii) formulate adequate terror related laws at the State level with full support of the Central Government for the benefit of the law enforcement agencies and (iv) seek international co-operation to help the State governments combat the transnational terror network with the aid of the Central Government.

Ashok Kumar Sahay is a Research Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Kshirod Chandra Patra is a Research Scholar, University of Delhi.

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