It is important to understand that of the multiple objectives a terrorist attack has, the least articulated and understood is the cycle of terror and hate. When groups like LeT carry out attacks, they expect and know that there would be a harvest of hate that inevitably follows in the wake of mass (and mindless) arrests of people from Muslim community, harassment and torture of perfectly ordinary citizens and demonising the community by parading bearded accused before the media even before the investigations have been completed (most often even carried out).
Three weeks after the Mumbai serial blasts (July 11, 2006), Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD), the Pakistan-based parent organisation of terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) said “Hindus and Muslims are two different nations who can never reconcile as far as social and cultural values are concerned…This all proves Two-Nation Theory had and still has the validity. Hindus could have changed this theory with their behaviour and attitude. History is witness they could not do it in the past, and there are no signs they could do it in future. ‘Jihad’ becomes incumbent when injustice, tyranny and suppression prevails under these conditions…another Pakistan is in the making”.1
When groups like LeT carry out attacks, they expect and know that there would be a harvest of hate that inevitably follows in the wake of mass (and mindless) arrests of people from Muslim community
It will be too farfetched to draw any connection between the blasts that killed over 200 persons in Mumbai and the JuD’s references to the demand for creation of a new Muslim state carved out of western Uttar Pradesh. The association in fact is broader and deeper, an indication of LeT’s new stratagem to capture the minds and hearts of the Muslim community which no longer lives in isolation and ignorance.
The community is greatly influenced by events in the world and politically aware and empowered to protest, thanks largely to the communication revolution which allows an individual to connect with others, similarly anxious and enraged at imaginary and real contentious issues, to share and broadcast doubts and fears which otherwise remained in the realm of hearsay and rumour. Communication tools like mobile phones and internet have given a certain sense of urgency and legitimacy to rumours fuelled by fear and doubts.
This is amply reflected in what the mainstream Muslim media like the respectable Milli Gazette published about the Mumbai serial blasts, the mass rounding up of Muslim residents of poor encampments that dot the Mumbai skyline, targeting of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activists across the country and the police inability to track down those responsible for Malegaon explosions.
The Milli Gazette (posted online on September 16, 2006) said “SIMI is filling the same role for the anti-Muslims in India, as the mythical al Qaida, for Bush and his neocons. If SIMI was not there, they would have to invent it, to articulate and focus their hatred against their countrymen from a different religion…while the innocent masses are being fed the communal poison day in and day out…government authorities are oblivious to the deepening of the divide in the polity, that may assume more menacing proportion and give open invitation to outside elements to exploit divisions among us…”2
It was only after the Kargil intrusion, LeT, which (along with other groups) acted as a frontline for the Pakistan Armys surreptitious plans to capture commanding heights on Srinagar-Leh Highway, began a concerted attempt to set up an operational and training base in Kashmir.
There are similar articles on Mumbai blasts and the large number of arrests of Muslim residents (Muslims in Mumbai at the Receiving End, October 14, 2006) and the hanging of the Parliament Attack guilty Afzal Guru (a 36-page downloadable PDF document claiming how Afzal Guru was framed by the Special Operations Group of Jammu and Kashmir Police).
This increasing ability of the Muslim community to voice, and often broadcast widely, and thus breakdown the walls of perception and communication among different groupings within the community, is what terrorist groups like LeT (and in the near future, al Qaida) are beginning to exploit in their plans to destabilise India and carve out an exclusive Muslim conclave within, which will then become the critical bridge between Islam in the western hemisphere and its proponents in the east.
It is, therefore, important to understand that of the multiple objectives a terrorist attack has, the least articulated and understood is the cycle of terror and hate. When groups like LeT carry out attacks, they expect and know that there would be a harvest of hate that inevitably follows in the wake of mass (and mindless) arrests of people from Muslim community, harassment and torture of perfectly ordinary citizens and demonising the community by parading bearded accused before the media even before the investigations have been completed (most often even carried out).
In Mumbai blasts, more than 300 persons were picked up and interrogated for days before being freed. Many of them were perfectly innocent and happened to be poor and Muslims. Several among them in fact had rushed to the blast site to help the injured. The mindless detention of such people may not have created new jihadis, as some might like to believe, but the experience has certainly left hundreds of young and middle-aged Muslims embittered and angry. This is what groups like LeT expect to happen, a cycle of hate and terror that will fuel their jihad while keeping India trapped in a communal inferno of its own making. This is the most pressing challenge facing India’s counter-terrorism strategists.
There are also reports of the group organising protests against the killing of militants in encounters, making it difficult for the security forces”¦
Another critical dimension to this challenge is the almost naive interpretation and analysis of religious beliefs and perceptions in arriving at conclusions, quite often misleading and, therefore, counter-productive. The oft-repeated argument that the Muslims, whether in India or elsewhere, are radicalised by reading Quranic verses on jihad or listening to speeches on the theme is fallacious. The radicalisation of the community, at least some sections of it, needs to be studied in the context of political events and processes, changes at the social, economic and religious level.3 Analysing religious beliefs in isolation is not enough to understand why and how some sections of a particular community, in this case the Muslim, are prone to get radicalised, and take up arms against the state in the name of religion.
It must be added that no less a flaw would be endlessly repeat, what is a largely politically convenient, argument that Indian example of pluralism and secularism was a workable and ideal solution to the growing conflict between Muslims and Christians in other parts of the world. It could be true to a large measure but it is not the truth. Radical Muslim groups like SIMI or early LeT activists like Dr Jalees Ansari, Abdul Karim Tunda and Azzam Ghauri chose the path of extremism as a response to the growing Hindu militancy as reflected in the rise of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Shiv Sena. It was a reactionary response to address a situation emerging from certain groups, often supported and aided by the state, threatening the identity and character of a community of religious believers. It was also instigated, in large measure, by the state’s failure to address these fears politically and socially.
Today, groups like LeT are playing on these fears and failures to expand and extend their ideology and conflict. LeT’s recent action in Kashmir bears it out. LeT has, for long, remained as a fringe group active in Kashmir, largely due to its religious ideology. LeT owes allegiance to an extremely puritanical Sunni sect, Ahl-e-Hadith, which emerged in the 17th century in north India, specially in Delhi, to rid the religious of all external influences and restore the glory to Islam as it experienced during the Mughal period in India. Ahl-e-Hadith has close affinity to Wahabi brand of Islam practiced largely in Saudi Arabia and hence the continuous and extraordinarily generous financial support LeT draws from the Kingdom.
When groups like LeT carry out attacks, they expect and know that there would be a harvest of hate that inevitably follows in the wake of mass (and mindless) arrests of people from Muslim community.
Terrorist groups like Hizb-ul Mujahideen (HuM), Harkat-ul Ansar (HuA) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) are Deobandi groups believing in a comparative liberal interpretation of Islamic tents. Since Kashmiri Muslims, influenced in no less measure by the Sufi movement, have practiced a version of liberal Islam, it was not difficult for Deobandi groups to find recruits, shelter and support for the jihad in Kashmir. It was only after the Kargil intrusion, LeT, which (along with other groups) acted as a frontline for the Pakistan Army’s surreptitious plans to capture commanding heights on Srinagar-Leh Highway, began a concerted attempt to set up an operational and training base in Kashmir.