The article was written one month prior to 26/11 and was published in Indian Defence Review issue No. 23.4 (Oct-Dec 2008) under the the title “Spare the Army“.
Going by the selective and flip-flop leaks by the Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra, and the manner in which the media is lapping it up, it appears that there is a concerted and rather a desperate bid to make an ‘Osama bin Laden’ out of Lt Col Purohit and prove that the Sadhavi Pragya and her accomplices are the new ‘Hindu Jehadis’. The credulity of the general public is being stretched on various scores.
Firstly, the speed at which fresh revelations is being disseminated by the ATS on a daily basis, in complete disregard to professional propriety and in gross prejudice to the ongoing investigation. Secondly, the unprecedented number of ‘Narco Tests’, the accused are being subjected to. Thirdly, there is a total blank-out with regard to the version of the accused. Fourthly, with every passing day, the network is being enlarged, as if to suggest that the entire country is being consumed by ‘Hindu Terrorism’, and has pan-Indian rather regional and global dimension.
The approach of ‘two wrongs make a right’ or ‘one wrong is equal to another wrong’ does not address the root causes of a problem.
Fifthly, if intercepts of some of the accused was available much prior to the blasts as suggested, then why no pre-emptive measures were taken. Sixthly, no army representative has been included in the interrogation team. Seventhly, the most intriguing aspect is the timing and the developing political tenor of the investigations i.e. during the eve of elections.
No two security problems especially those having religious and social overtones have the same character, motivation and orientation. Any attempt to draw parallels between terrorism of all kinds though politically beneficial can be counter-productive, and detracts the security agencies.
Each form of terrorism, whether home-grown or externally inspired—like Maoist, religious, social, secessionist, and political terrorism—has to be dealt on different planes. Even though, one terrorism feeds on another, the tendency to link various terrorisms, as is happening in the wake of ‘Malegaon case’, must at all costs be avoided.
This is not to say that the entire investigation process is a miscarriage of truth and justice. It was only expected that the chain of terrorist strikes across the nation over the years, wherein innocent people and the country’s integrity and economic interests have been targeted, would at some point of time provoke retaliatory measures in unknown ways. Although words like ‘retaliation’ or ‘reaction’ have become blasphemous in the present Indian context, it however cannot be wished away.
I have deep apprehension that the complete truth, as and when it unfolds in the future, could have several unsavoury and damaging twists.
It is an exercise of responsible and perspicuous governance to ensure that the retaliatory susceptibilities are contained, rather given a positive direction. The approach of ‘two wrongs make a right’ or ‘one wrong is equal to another wrong’ does not address the root causes of a problem. It only contributes to creation of new undesirable elements and organizations, and further polarizes the society. In my interactions with various segments of the society, the polarization in aftermath of ‘Malegaon blasts’ , appears to have grown more acute.
The investigation following the ‘Malegaon blasts’, is extremely complex in nature due to the alleged involvement of an Army officer belonging to the Military Intelligence. The media therefore needs to be extremely cautious and circumspect about the manner in which it reports the briefs by the ATS. I have deep apprehension that the complete truth, as and when it unfolds in the future, could have several unsavoury and damaging twists.
The Colonel is a legitimate intelligence operative. Interaction with the police authorities, other intelligence agencies, desirable and undesirable elements was very much a part of his duty, without which no intelligence can be gathered and no counter-intelligence operation can be effected. No intelligence agency issues written orders in pursuance of intelligence operations. The entire system is based on trust and faith. It is yet to be established how much of disconnect is there between the legitimate and illegitimate activities of the officer during the course of his duty.
A Military Intelligence officer is hardly competent in providing training on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
The level and extent of intelligence interaction and cooperation with other intelligence agencies that this officer had, is also not known. That is why, it was very important to have a representative of the Military Intelligence, when the interrogation of the officer began. To that extent, a state police organization is not only under-equipped but also out of sync with central intelligence agencies in dealing with an official of Military Intelligence.
There can be no greater travesty in the suggestion by certain quarters that the alleged involvement of Lt Col Purohit is symptomatic of a deeper malaise taking roots in the Indian Army. An officer of the Military Intelligence is not in direct command of troops. He has only a small complement of personnel working under him. A Military Intelligence officer is hardly competent in providing training on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Importantly, the nation must trust in the legal procedures of the Army, which is far more stringent. The Army will brook no ideology, which impacts on the established secular character and credentials of the organization. As and when Lt Col Purohit is handed back to Army custody, it is inevitable that he will be meted out the appropriate punishment, if found guilty, notwithstanding any misplaced sense of patriotism that he may attempt to invoke. I would therefore request the media to be patient and for the time being spare the Army.