Indian Mujahideen- Tracking the enemy within is a book which deals with the recent acts of terror which have exploded the myth that Indian youth is insulated from the global terrorism phenomenon and had little time for extremism. The communal riots post the 1992 incident, the rise of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the mutation of a section of aspiring Muslim youth into terrorists with the help of forces across the border.
Shishir Gupta the Editor, Express News Service of The Indian Express Newspaper who is the author of this book says that this book deals with the various trends of Home Grown Jihad in India apart from a host of other issues on the subject.
The story of home-grown jihadists would have been skewed had it not been for the testimonies of David Coleman Headley and Sarfaraz Nawaz on the involvement of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence, top Lashkar-e-Taiba leadership, the Al Qaida and the Karachi project, whose demon child the Indian Mujahideen is. This book is the first-ever attempt to link up jihadists all over India and trace their linkages with terrorists based in countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
In this interview with rediff.com, Gupta discusses in detail the various aspects of terrorism that has rocked our country, the future trends and a host of other issues pertaining to the subject.
Sir, could you tell us what your book is about?
Basically the book picks up various trends of Home Grown jihad in India. It is all about the growth of Home Grown jihad in India and its inter-section with the conservative Salafi ideology. Further the book also deals with how funding for terrorism and the ideology got mixed up and it joins the dots on the various incidents of terror in the past one decade. It gives us details about how all this took place and also looks at the various revealations made by David Headley and also Sarfaraz Nawaz. Further the book also deals with the manner in which all these cases of terror were probed in India and also goes on to point out some instances where investigations were not carried out in a proper manner. Each of these incidents are analysed.
Further it also gives us a full fledged picture of the Headley confessions and also what the Karachi Project is. On the 26/11 front it deals with the various players such as Sajid Mir and the other players in this plot. The book charts the growth of home grown jihad in India and the influence of conservative Islam or Salafism along with funding from Pakistan and Middle-East on already radicalised SIMI youth in India. It joins the dots as far as terrorist incidents of the past decade are concerned with detailed insight in the support given to local Indian youth through testimonies of David Coleman Headley, Khawaja Amjad Sheikh and Sarfarz Nawaz. The book gives insight into Abdur Rehman Saeed’s so-called Karachi project, a joint venture of ISI-LeT, and the filure of the Indian law enforcement agencies in detecting the tale of retribution and counter-retribution being palyed out between Muslim and Hindu extremists. It enphasises on the need for police to properly investigate terror cases and not come up with tailor made accusations or the real culprits like in the cases of blasts in Makkah Masjid, Sarojni Nagar and local trains will never be found.
Today there appears to be a lull in India where activities of terrorists are concerned. Do you think groups such as the Indian Mujahideen are on the backfoot?
I would not say that the Indian Mujahideen is dead and neither would I agree that it is on the back foot. It is slowly re-grouping and that is my understanding of it. Two days ago there was a report of the NSG regarding the IED which was found outside the Delhi High Court. The device had ammonium nitrate, grease, wax and detonators. In this particular case the detonators had mal functioned. Look at the September 19 2010 incident where a car had been burnt. There again the detonators had failed. Had these bombs gone off properly then it would have been a major incident. This is an indicator that there is a group which is still active
Indian Mujahideen according to the Intelligence Bureau is an off shoot of the Students Islamic Movement of India. Did the ban on SIMI lead to the emergence of a more dreaded outfit?
SIMI was basically the feeder cadre. I am not saying that everyone in the SIMI is out to kill people. There was an element within the SIMI which was radicalised. Safdar Nagori would have seen the Hindu aggression post Babri and Gujarat. There was an element under pressure in this group which was under pressure and some got mutated into this.
There was already a critical mass in India in the form of radicalised SIMI cadre, which got mutated into IM under pressure from Hindu assertiveness and support from ISI and its sponsored groups with significant funding from the
For the ISI a home grown outfit was always important in order to keep focus away from Pakistan and groups such as the IM and SIMI provided this solution. If the police are to be believed then the IM is down and out as of today. In such a situation what happens to the concept of home grown Jihad?
The basic ideology is to destablise India and this they will continue to do irrespective of the name of the terrorist organisation. The core continues to be SIMI and if you look at the activities in Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh there are still certain groups which are active. Take the case of T Nasir who was first part of the lashkar-e-Tayiba and then the Indian Mujahideen. Despite him changing outfits the intention always remained the same for him. There continues to remain a huge dissatisfied lot and these are the people who will continue to destablise India. The ISI has always been looking for such elements and have even tried to penentrate into the naxal movement. The objective to destablise will always remain.
The big wigs of the IM such as Abdus Subhan continue to be on the run. Do you think that men such as these are capable of re-building the outfit again?
My understanding of him is different. It has been claimed that he is behind almost all the incidents undertaken by the Indian Mujahideen. Subhan is not on the CBI’s most wanted lost. There is no red corner notice on him. He is a friend of Nagori. He had an ideology and was a die hard SIMI cadre. Till 2008 I have nothing on paper to say that he was a terrorist. Once the likes of Nagori and the rest were arrested we see him getting closer to Bhatkal and it is said that he sought revenge for the Gujarat riots. Both he and Safdar were not talking about bombs. They were talking about shooting incidents. To say he is the king pin is not correct. The likes of Amir Reza Khan, Ilyas Kashmiri and Sajid Mir are all very much around and these men are very dangerous. Then there is also Dr Shahnawaz who is equally important in this outfit who continues to be out.
What do you make of the alleged death of Riyaz Bhatkal? Do you think this news is true?
Now I have tried to cross check it in various places. We are not getting much about his movements. So there could be a possibility of him being bumped off. But the point is there is no confirmation. Amjad Khwaja Sheikh’s interrogation confirmed the killing of Shahid Bilal in Karachi. So till such time there is a substantive corroboration of Riyaz Bhatkal’s demise, one should keep their fingers crossed.
Which states do you think cadres of the IM would utilize today to re-build their organization?
South India is the next base. Kerala is worrisome, Karnataka will have a bad mix since the naxalism is spreading out there. Then again there is Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh always has a political element to it. However my key concern will always remain Kerala.
Speaking of the 26/11 attack, do you think these home grown outfits had any role to play at least in helping the likes of David Headley survey their targets?
It is very hard to swallow what both the IB and the police say. They say that there was no local support. Looking at the scope and bandwidth of the attack it is clear that there were local players. However these local players had limited roles to play If you look at the various reports you get a feel that there were locals who played a part but all through never knew about the scope and the magnitude of the attack. There are a lot of aspects we never knew regarding this attack. Had it not been for the Americans, we would have never know about David Headley.
The Gulf angle to Indian terrorism is something that we cannot rule out. Do you think India needs to be more assertive while dealing with the cadres of the IM settled in these nations?
The point in this is that we need to build up developmental and economic leverage with these countries. There is a lot more we need to do regarding this. Last year there was an alert from the Home Ministry regarding three persons, but they were allowed to go. At the end of the day if we do not take this issue lying down then those countries will start to take us seriously.