The future terrorist attacks on India

A year has gone by since Mumbai was attacked by the Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Following this attack India put a lot of pressure on Pakistan to shut down terror factories in their country. Several arrests and releases were carried out of Lashkar militants and Pakistan claimed that they have been able to deal with the problem to a large extent.

The big question now is whether the threat of terror in India has come down or does it still loom large. What plans do outfits such as the Lashkar have on their mind and how do you think they would try and attack India once again.

We spoke to security experts and officers in the Intelligence Bureau to assess the situation in India and what sort of threat the country faces still.

According to security experts the terror factories in Pakistan are still very much open and they are constantly trying to destablise India. Ajith B Doval, former Chief of the Intelligence Bureau points out, “ threat from the terrorists depends on their intentions, capabilities and the opportunities they can seize. Larger the space that these variables provide, the more varied and higher the level of threat. As the strategic intention of the terrorists is to destabilise India, which they consider necessary to establish supremacy of Islam, their tactical objectives stretch from targeting senior national leaders, destroying country’s vital installations, striking at economic targets to bleed its economy arousing religious passions and shaking faith of the people in the ability of the government in protecting them by wanton depredations leading to mass killings. Fortunately, the capabilities of terrorists fall far short of their intentions. However, they are still sufficiently high to inflict unacceptable losses against inadequately defended soft targets. Considering their present capabilities, they can target busy public places, centres of economic activity, tourist spots, infrastructural facilities like those in power and communications sector, etc. Of late, they have also been trying to acquire skills to hit cyber critical infrastructure. What is a matter of serious concern is the consistent and perceptible increase in their capabilities.

Intelligence Bureau officials also point out that terrorist outfits have been constantly upgrading their skills. A senior IB officer points out that terrorists have undoubtedly upgraded their skills — particularly in leveraging and improvising commercially available technological aids to supports their operations. Their technology, communications, fabrication of Improvising Explosive Devices (IEDs), acquire use sophisticated weapon, obtain genuine or forged travel documents, ability to operate clandestinely using covers and alibis all have increased manifold. This has enabled them to inject higher degree of surprise, speed and deniability in their operations. However they can counter our security forces and out-smart them in any engagement. The situation in Pakistan is, however, qualitatively different. The terrain, tribal factor, local support, large-scale culture of violence among certain societies for centuries, weaponisation of the civil society, etc. make it an entirely different ball game. It is compounded by the dubious policy of the government – particularly its intelligence of selectively patronising and supporting different terrorist groups. They have been running with the hare and hunting with the hounds and working as the single most important factor in accretion of the striking capabilities of the terrorists.

Preventing terror post 26/11

K P S Raghuvanshi, Chief of the Mumbai Anti Terrorist Squad says that the scenario as of today is different. We are better equipped to fight terror when compared to a year back prior to the Mumbai attack. Forces have been upgraded and we are also working on a separate intelligence unit considering the fact that Mumbai is very high on the terror radar. However we need to keep upgrading since the opponent cannot be taken for granted. We have to be prepared for a surprise element that they may spring upon us.

A senior police official in Delhi who is part of the Anti terror team says that there needs to be proactive operations and intelligence will be a crucial aspect. We need to be constantly informed and upgraded about the new threats so that we can prepare ourselves accordingly.

Ajith Doval points out India has tried to strengthen its protective security regime to deny them tactical opportunities by hardening the targets. However, in a country of India’s size, vulnerabilities, limited resources and democratic freedoms, it is not possible to make all the potential targets impregnable. This leaves large gaps providing opportunities to the terrorists to take on soft targets. This will require high interdicting intelligence capability. This will also require greater technology support and strengthening of our emigration, border security, check on flow of illegal finances, action against gun runners and breaking collaborative networks of terrorists with underworld, drug traffickers and organised crime syndicates. I think this area still requires much greater strengthening through structural reorganisation, pumping additional resources and accretion in operational capabilities. Only a high proactive intelligence capability can keep the country ahead of the terrorists and surprise them before the strike, rather than chasing them after the event.

Biological warfare: This is an often spoken about threat by intelligence agencies and security ex This is an often spoken about threat by intelligence agencies and security experts. IB officials point out that while terror groups like the Lashkar have the capabilities of launching biological warfare, it is high likely that they may resort to this option immediately. The fact of the matter is that the Pakistan agencies such as the ISI and also the government machinery is not in favour of terror groups launching an attack of this nature. No terror group in Pakistan can independently launch biological warfare or use weapons of mass destruction against India unless and until there is a definitive nod from the government or the ISI. The IB says that it would be a whole other scenario if they even attempt using such methods against India. The consequences of such an attack would be severe since there is every chance of the international community isolating Pakistan in case they resort to such tactics. Doval points out that Pakistan will do everything under the sun to exercise necessary restraint and control over terrorist groups in order to restrain them from using WMD against India.

The Al-Qaeda threat and threat from foreigners:

Off late India has seen unexpected threat perceptions from both the Al-Qaeda and also from foreign nationals. It is only a clear indication that we are unaware of what sort of threat is looming large over us.

The IB says that the man to watch out for is Ilyas Kashmiri and unless and until we deal with him, he could prove to be a nuisance to India. He is the face of the Al-qaeda and there is talk of him taking over from Osama Bin Laden.

Security experts while speaking of the Al-Qaeda threat say that this outfit should be understood and dealt with as an ideological movement rather than a hierarchically structured terrorist outfit. Large number of Jihadi groups around the world draw inspiration from it, subscribe to its ideology and share their world view of enemies of Islam without any organisational alliance. The IB says that the threat to India from the

Al- Qaeda as an organization may not be very high but the ideology it subscribes to and methodology it follows can prove to be dangerous ever if a minuscule minority in the country starts subscribing or getting influenced by it. Moreover, there are many Pakistan-based organisations like Lashkar and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) which owe allegiance to it is and have been targeting India. Ilyas Kashmiri is operational chief of HUJI and till few years ago was a trusted operative of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). He served in the Pakistan elite Special Service Group and was trained with Pakistan’s Special Operation Unit by Britain’s Special Air Service. It was only on the bidding of the ISI that in the early 1990s, he was asked to join HUJI and build it up. He lost favour with the ISI after he turned down their request to join Jaish-e-Mohammad. Both ideologically and operationally he does constitute a potential threat as he is capable of mounting terrorist actions against India through his HUJI activists based in Bangladesh. In last few years he has come close to Al-Qaeda and undertaking operations on their behalf. As far as Brigade 313 is concerned, it is a loose coalition of five Jihadi outfits — Brigade 313 being one of them.

Speaking on the threat from foreign nationals, Doval points out that Lashkar has always maintained trans-national linkages with Jihadi organisations abroad and tried to raise recruits among people of Pakistani origin settled abroad, either as citizens or residents in those countries. It makes use of these foreign based human assets for many errands. Involvement of Lashkar activists have come to notice in many terrorist actions abroad including the London bombings of July 7, 2005. Its activists had been under scrutiny in many countries abroad — cases of David Hicks in Australia, Richard Reid and Dhiren Barot in UK are illustrative.

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An Urdu poem keeps the terrorists going


The brutality with which the 26/11 operation was carried out by “ten” fidayeens could be attributed more to the training of the ‘mind’ compared to physical training.

According to experts, the training which is imparted to these men physically makes them tough fighters, it is the mental training and constant brainwashing that makes them brutal killers.

A dossier prepared by the Intelligence Bureau states in detail regarding the physical training of fidayeens. In the words of an IB officer, these men are trained to become complete commandos.

The IB officer told rediff.com that dreaded outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba give equal emphasis on mental training to ensure the boys who carry out the attack leave their hearts behind and “turn into monsters” while they are sent out on such a mission.

The training on the mental side is done in two phases — one during the recruitment process and second before the men set out on their mission.

The first part of the brainwashing is done by the handler. The handler picks and selects youth preferably in the age group of 20 and 30. The younger men are recruited for two reasons — one they are stronger and last longer in an attack and secondly these youth are easier to brainwash.

These youth are told about the wrong being committed on their religion and also that there is a need to stand up and fight injustice.

The handler also does a thorough study on the history of the youth and on most occasions they always see to it that youth who have been wronged by the system or have financial trouble are picked up.

Once these youth are recruited, they are sent to the camps in Pakistan where they are trained physically. The physical training process lasts for nearly six months.

After the physical training is complete, the crucial phase commences where these youth have to be readied to carry out the mission with a lot of brutality.

The last 10 days of the training programme only involves brainwashing the youth. The IB says that this part of the training is crucial. Documents collected on the mental training process suggest that the fidayeens are brainwashed to kill innocent people. It is specifically told to them that they fight a religious war and also brainwashed into believing that all people except those who believe in the path of Jihad are anti-Islam.

The LeT in particular which masters in fidayeen attacks have collected a lot of material to brainwash the youth. The material includes videos of Muslims being wronged, quotes and writings in which jihad is misinterpreted.

For the men who carried out the attack on Mumbai [ Images ], a particular poem was read out to them several times. The Urdu poem speaks extensively about the need for jihad and why it is important to fight. This poem served as an anthem for the men who carried out the Mumbai attack.

During the training programme, they were asked to rehearse this poem and during their mission these men kept reciting this poem which in turn gave them the strength and determination to carry out the attack non-stop for close to three days.

A few excerpts from the poem:

Jihad jari rahega ta qayamat, Jihad hargiz naheen rukega ( Jihad will continue till the day of judgment and will not stop).

Jihad farman hai khuda ka, Jihad rasta hai Mustafa ka ( Jihad is the path and order of God)
Zameen se fitno ka sar hamesha, Jihad hi se qualam huwa hai ( Jihad has cut of evil from this earth)

Jihad hi se zaban milti, Hai aan milti hai bekason ko (Jihad alone gives voice)

Jihad jhooti khudaion ko, ulat kar be abroo karega ( Jihad will make false God become naked)
Jihad se ijtniab hi ne, ghulamion ko janam diya hai ( Avoiding jihad has made us slaves)

Jihad dushman zaleel hoker, Athaah pasti mein ja girega ( enemies of Jihad will sink and will be dishonoured)

‘No tangible proof of Muslims’ involvement in terrorism’

Upset at what they consider the deliberate implication of the Muslim community in terror attacks, varoius Muslim organisations last week formed an umbrella body — Coordination Committee for Indian Muslims — to raise their voice against the development.
After a meeting at the Jamaat e Islami Hind in New Delhi, held in the wake of the Jamia Nagar encounter in which two youth were shot dead and a police inspector was killed, they formed a five-member panel to counter the campaign against the community.

Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, head of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, who is a member of this five-member committee, tells Special Correspondent Vicky Nanjappa that anger among the Muslim, especially among the youth, is building up over the continuing demonisation of the community.

All the organisations with you seem to completely disagree with the Delhi police on the Jamia Nagar encounter.

There are many question marks about this “encounter”. Three fact-finding reports to date have raised questions about the incident and the police narrative. All pointers indicate that it was a fake encounter. The police team did not go there to kill but to investigate and arrest. They bungled the operation; their officer was killed by his own men. As a result, in a fit of rage they killed two so-called “terrorists” and injured a third. To justify the killing, they invented this whole story making them “masterminds” and extending the conspiracy to their home district Azamgarh where dozens of youths have been picked up both from Azamgarh and Delhi on mere suspicion.

Outlandish stories are being churned out by the police and lapped up by a stenographic media like the claim that the slain youths had received crores of rupees in their accounts while bank managers in Azamgarh said on camera that these youths had paltry sums in their accounts; or the fantastic claim that these same youths had planted bombs in Varanasi, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad etc. This logically means that since all the masterminds have been now killed or arrested, India from now on will not witness a single terrorist attack.

Why do you think that those youth in particular were targeted?

According to the Mumbai police, they had passed on some information about these youths to the Gujarat police and asked them to observe them. The Gujarat police, highly discredited as it is for its communal bias and criminal role in the riots, jumped the gun and informed the Delhi police that these people were planning to carry out explosions. These youths must be one of many under observation in the country. It was their bad luck that a police officer was killed while trying to arrest them and they paid the price for this.

Subsequently, the entire Muslim community is made to pay the price of this khaki crime which is not new to Delhi. We have already experienced fake encounters at Ansal Plaza and Connaught Place in the past.

If the encounter was fake then what do you have to say about the death of M C Sharma?
It is pretty clear that Sharma was killed by his own men at very close range from behind. It was the mistake of the police to rush 2500 policemen into the narrow lanes of Batla House. They were deployed on various floors and rooftops of the same building as well as on the adjoining buildings. Such a mishap was bound to happen in such a situation.

Invariably, after every terror attack, Muslim youth are being accused of involvement. What does the community have to say about this?

It is true the finger is pointed at Muslims after each act of terror, but without proof in every single case. The same security and intelligence agencies which did not know anything about an impending attack a minute before it took place, suddenly and within minutes know every detail of the persons, organisations, funders etc behind the incident. They want to cover up their abject failure, and as the Muslims are the weakest section at this moment, the blame is safely pinned on them.

There are umpteen terrorist organisations in various parts of our country working for a variety of secessionist and political aims. It is possible that there may be a few Muslims too who are taking to terrorism, but till today we do not have tangible proof of this. There is no proof that the Students Islamic Movement of India, despite its extremist views, ever had any armed wing or imparted any armed training to its members. All we have is tall claims by various people and agencies which were trashed by their own hand-picked judge of the tribunal formed by the Union home ministry. Moreover, close to 50 SIMI activists have been acquitted to date by courts across the country.

It is natural that anger is building up among our youth for two reasons: justice is not done in cases of blatant pogroms, riots and demolition of Babri mosque, while Muslim youths are routinely killed in encounters or arrested on baseless charges which are not proved in a court of law.

Do you suspect the role of right-wing Hindu outfits in some of the blasts that have occurred in the country?

We do not only suspect. Rather, we firmly believe that many acts of terrorism blamed on Muslims are in fact the handiwork of Hindutva terrorist outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Shri Ram Sena, Hindu Munnani, Hindu Jagran Manch, Yuva Hindu Vahini, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Durga Vahini etc. Members of these outfits have been caught red-handed in many places like Nanded, Tenkasi, Thane and more recently at Kanpur but these terrorist acts/explosions are hushed up. So much so that the government has conceded that the Hindu outfits are not under its scanner.

How do you think the community should handle such a situation?

There is a high sense of both anger and insecurity in the community in all parts of India. Our message is always that we should not take the law in our hands and that we must use all the legal and constitutional channels to get justice, but I am afraid that this continued victimisation and denial of justice will push many of our youths to the path they are unjustly blamed of today. Perhaps this is the gameplan of the Hindutva organisations in the first place.

What about the ban on SIMI for terrorist activities?

The Muslim community believes that though these people were extremists, they were not terrorists and did not actually commit terrorist crimes, though it an unproven possibility that a few former members of SIMI may have indulged in acts of terrorism, but for this the whole organisation or the whole Muslim community cannot be blamed just as for crimes of the BJP and Congress, all members of the party cannot be blamed.

What you think about the government’s handling of the SIMI issue?

The Bharatiya Janata Party government which clamped the first ban on SIMI in September 2001 did so because it found SIMI to be the weakest point in the chain of a weak community. At the time SIMI was a marginalised group which had little sympathy or following in the community. Now it has sympathy in the community because it is perceived as a victim of State terrorism.

The United Progressive Alliance government had a good opportunity to get rid of this problem by accepting the Geeta Mittal tribunal’s verdict which threw out the home ministry case as it was based not on facts and evidence but on mere claims. But the government chose to appeal to the Supreme Court which acted fast to continue the ban. The same Supreme Court is sitting on three appeals by SIMI since 2002 against judgments by three earlier tribunals and did not find a few minutes to look into them.

With SIMI in the dock, which youth outfit do the Muslim youth look up to?

The Students Islamic Organisation is very strong. The Muslim youth can always join this organisation.

Will SIO too go the same road as SIMI?

What happened with SIMI will never happen with SIO. SIMI never had the supervision and guidance of elders. However, with SIO that is not the case and elders in the community are constantly monitoring and guiding it.

SIMI prior to being banned used to act on its own and somewhere things went haywire. SIMI never had the sympathy of the community prior to being banned, but now we do sympathise since we feel the outfit is being (falsely) implicated.

The nation’s focus has now shifted to the Indian Mujahideen. What are your views on this outfit?

No one knows what this Indian Mujahideen is. All we have is three emails sent to some media organisations. Curiously the first email was sent from the computer of an American evangelist based in Mumbai who was later allowed to flee the country. Under some bargain he was allowed to come back later perhaps to clear his name and that of the security agencies too that allowed him to flee. Before he fled he had claimed that the police were asking him a bribe in order to close his case. It is anybody’s guess why this American was never arrested and why no charges were levelled against him. Is there is an international dimension to what is happening in India?

You say several innocent youth are being targeted by the police in the name of terror. What role are you going to play in securing the release of these persons?

We are highlighting cases where we have reason to believe that injustice is being done. We issue statements, we write to the highest officials, we hold dharnas and conferences and we approach the courts. All these are within the laws and liberties granted to Indian citizens.

Lastly, your views on Saturday’s Mehrauli blast.

I condemn it and my heartfelt condolences to those victims and their families. But I would like to ask the following question. According the Delhi police following the Jamia Nagar incident, all the dreaded masterminds had either been killed or arrested. If this was the case no blast should have taken place. But the fact remains that such attacks continue to take place in the very capital. What happened to the claims by the Delhi police?

‘The Mumbai ATS is a brand new force today’

The Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad came in for a lot of flak post 26/11 since many believe this high profile police unit was caught napping by the attacks. The ATS also lost its chief Hemant Karkare in the terror assault.
ATS Chief K P S Raghuvanshi tells rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa that the Squad is now fully equipped to take on any eventuality.

Is there a difference in the ATS post 26/11?

There is a huge difference. A lot of thought went into upgrading the force following the Mumbai attacks. I would say that today we are a brand new force fully equipped to fight any aggression.

What makes the ATS different?

The Force One team has given the ATS a big boost. There are several commandos who are trained to fight terrorist groups and equipped with state-of-the-art arms and ammunition. We do not want this force to be lacking in anything. They are being constantly trained.

How will this force operate?

This is a force exclusively dedicated to fighting terrorism. The commandos are specifically trained to fight terrorists. However, I would not like to go into further details. There are certain technical details which are confidential in nature. Revealing such details would not be in the best interest of internal security.

Can you provide Mumbaikars an assurance that a 26/11 type attack will never occur thanks to all these measures that you have undertaken?

We are doing everything under the sun to prevent such attacks. But we must never underestimate the opponent. I am not aware of the strength of the opponent and we don’t want to take any chances. All I want to say is that we are in a much better position to take on the enemy.

You have spoken a lot about the might of the Mumbai police. But you must be aware that there was a lack of coordination where intelligence was concerned. You had once said that the ATS would have a separate intelligence wing. What is the status of this?

I had said earlier that the ATS would have a separate intelligence wing. This wing will become a reality very soon. It has been approved by the government. I feel a separate intelligence gathering wing is very essential for the force to work better.

A dedicated intelligence wing would mean that this team reports to us directly. There would not be any lack of coordination or misinformation.

However, I would like to add that there is a great deal of improvement as far as sharing intelligence is concerned. We are in constant touch with the Intelligence Bureau which keeps us updated and informed about developments.

What about the terror modules in Mumbai?

I would not be able to share information on this. But there is a steep decline in the number of terror modules and cells in Mumbai. We are constantly being updated about the situation and anyone who tries to create any disturbance on our soil will not be spared or dealt with lightly.

How Headley used Rahul as a ‘cover’ for his terror plots

Vicky Nanjappa provides a glimpse of what Rahul Bhatt, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt’s son and a ‘witness’ in the case against David Headley, revealed during questioning.
The questioning of Rahul Bhatt, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt’s son, regarding his connection to American national and arrested Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley has revealed several interesting details.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau, who were part of the team that spoke to Rahul, told rediff.com that according to Rahul’s statements it appears Headley used the celebrity child as a cover for his activities.

The IB sources said Rahul mentioned he never followed clearly what Headley was trying to say each time he made a phone call. The Lashkar suspect used words like ‘jannat’, ‘Allah,’ baraf’, ‘Mickey Mouse’ and ‘maal in his telephone conversations.’

‘I never understood what he was trying to say and I didn’t suspect that there may have been something wrong,’ Rahul told the investigators.

On several occasions, Rahul revealed that Headley had insisted he come along to both the Taj Mahal and Trident hotels. The IB sources feel that by taking along a celebrity’s son to these hotels would have allayed suspicion about Headley’s activities since the staff may have been familiar with Bhatt junior.

Rahul told the investigators that at no point did he suspect that Headley could have been into terror activities.

‘He behaved normally with me and sought help. Although he kept insisting that he wanted to spend as much time as possible at the Taj and Trident, I never went with him,’ Rahul pointed out. ‘I never realised what he was up to and neither did he discuss any of those plans with me.’

Another interesting point Rahul made is that Headley often spoken about Gregory David Roberts’s popular book on Mumbai, Shantaram. He said he was a big fan of Roberts’ and was extremely keen on visiting all the places mentioned in the book.

Headley, Rahul said, was on the phone most of the time. ‘I thought he was talking business,’ Bhatt added.

Rahul came into contact with Headley through Vilas Warak, the American’s gym instructor in Mumbai. Once that contact was made, Headley ignored Warak, the sources said.

“We are going to question the actors who were also seen with Headley and get their version so that we have a water tight case,” the sources said.

Meanwhile, investgators believe ‘Mickey Mouse’ could be code for sleeper cells.

Baraf, which means ice in Urdu, could have meant that all was well.

The targets (Taj and Trident) may have been jannat, which means ‘heaven’ in Urdu.

David Headley’s terror mission in Mumbai

David Headley, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative who was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in October, is proving to be an important link in unraveling the terror network.

Intelligence Bureau agents have informed the Mumbai police that Headley made several visits to the city. The police are now probing Headley’s links with the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, IB sources told rediff.com

According to information available with the IB, Headley visited Mumbai in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He changed his name to David Headley from Daood Gilani around 2006.

Sources say Headley traveled on a business visa; he got in touch with a US firm which specialised in creating fake visas and passports. He located a similar firm in Tardeo, central Mumbai, which helped him procure fake travel documents.

With the help of these fake documents, Headley traveled to India at least five times. During each visit, he made it a point to visit the visa agency.

Headley was present in India when the terror attacks on Mumbai was being planned and he may have been aware of such a plan, the IB sources say.

If investigations reveal that Headley activated a local module to assist the 26/11 attacks, the Mumbai police may file an additional charge-sheet detailing this link, the sources added.

IB agents suspect Headley’s brief in Mumbai was to establish a network of sleeper cells to assist terror attacks.

Headley also traveled to other states including Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, using his business visa. The FBI has revealed that Headley had conducted a reconnaissance of the National Defence College in New Delhi where he planned a terror attack.

‘There is no such thing as Hindu terrorism’


If the Mumbai Anti Terrorist Squad is to be believed, then the Hindu activists arrested in Indore were responsible for the bomb blast at Malegaon in September, which killed six people, to avenge the various acts of terror carried out in the country.

The operation undertaken by the Mumbai cops has put several Hindu groups under the scanner. The Maharashtra government has called for a ban on some Hindu groups which includes the Sanatan Sanstha.

Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil and Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar have sought a ban on the Sanstha, alleging that the organisation had played a major role in the bomb blast at Gadkari Rangaytan in Thane in June this year.

Sanatan Sanstha spokeperson Abhay Vartak spoke to rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa about the demand for the ban, Hindu terrorism and also their activities.

Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil and NCP chief Sharad Pawar have demanded a ban on the Sanatan Sanstha. What are your views on this?

It is a politically motivated move. The government wants to appease Muslims and also wants to cover up its non-performance in handling the law and order situation. Take a look at the violence incited by NCP activists in Nashik where a Vishwa Hindu Parishad office was attacked.

The Sanatan Sanstha, a non-political spiritual organisation, is an easy scapegoat. It is surprising that those who are demanding a ban have not paid any attention to the Sanatan’s activities. It has many public awareness campaigns to its credit over the last 18 years.

Does your outfit encourage Hindu terrorism?

No, we don’t encourage terrorism. We denounce the term ‘Hindu terrorism’. Our so-called secular-minded friends declare openly that terrorists have no religion. We are involved in spreading spiritualism as per the Sanatan Hindu Dharma. Obviously the philosophy we propagate is all inclusive and most tolerant.

Your activists are alleged to be involved in the Gadkari Rangaytan blast in Thane, and the Rabodi riots.

We have nothing to do with both. As far as Gadkari Rangaytan case is concerned we have already and repeatedly made our position clear by denouncing the act and helped the police investigate the case. We have nothing to do with the Rabodi riots, which was a result of Muslim aggressiveness. It is political propaganda to malign us. We have demanded proof and are getting legal advice to take action.

Your critics describe you as the Hindu equivalent of the Students Islamic Movement of India. Are you? What exactly do you do?

We are not. There is hardly any sense in it. We are involved in spreading national feelings, dreaming of an India which will show the path of peace to the world. Compare this with what SIMI aims to do. We are a Hindutvawadi spiritual organisation working in society for its spiritual upliftment. And as the spiritual truths explained by Sanatan Hindu Dharma is all inclusive, there are many non-Hindus who are doing spiritual practice as per the Sanatan’s guidance. I think this much shall be sufficient to stop comparing SIMI with us once and for all.

There has been a lot of focus on terrorism allegedly executed by Muslims, but your organisation is said to be in the forefront of encouraging Hindu terrorism. Do you believe in tit for tat?

The whole statement needs a closer look. If you take terrorism as a problem faced by this country then it is wrong to say there is a lot of focus on terrorism. Actually, there is comparatively less focus on terrorism as compared to the magnitude of the actual problem.

There is nothing called ‘Hindu terrorism’. Actually our secular friends say that terrorism is terrorism and it shall not be labeled as ‘Muslim terrorism’. We believe in firm, impartial handling of terrorism cases by the government. But the government and its political allies are not interested in doing so. The neglect of Hindu genocide in Kashmir and Afzal Guru’s case are worth noting. Despite Hindu genocide in Kashmir there is no tit for tat feeling or counter-terrorist attacks by Hindus and this clearly shows that there is no such thing as Hindu terrorism here.

Critics say the authorities are soft on Hindu terrorism, cracking down only on Muslim terrorism. Isn’t it true? How else will you explain away the inaction in the Nanded blasts, the Kanpur blasts?

There is no such a thing as Hindu terrorism so how can the government act against something which doesn’t exist?

There is a Congress government in Maharashtra and this party never is and was Hindutvawadi. In Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati is in power. Better ask them this question. In Maharashtra, the police officers who have honestly worked and controlled the riots at Rabodi are facing punishment in the form of transfer and suspension. It is communalising of the police force. The media seems to have overlooked this angle.

Who do you think planted the bombs at Malegaon and Modasa?

The government agencies are there to investigate. We are not interested in wild speculation.

There have been several appeals made by the Shiv Sena and the Ram Sena in Karnataka to fight terror with an eye for an eye approach. Does the Sanatan Sanstha support this?

To the best of my knowledge, they are seeking resistance to the aggression against Hindus. Now how terror needs to be fought with the government agencies failing, needs debate.

Do you think the only way to fight terrorism is by terrorism?

Terrorism as understood generally is a physical phenomenon. But we understand a physical phenomenon doesn’t appear from nowhere. Behind any physical action there is a thought. And thought is based on beliefs and perceptions. Similarly, terrorism as a physical phenomenon is the result of ideology. An ideology is a product of faith, perceptions etc. The intellectual expression which gives rise to physical acts of terrorism needs to be countered also.

Not only this but any intellectual expression is a manifestation of a spiritual phenomenon. That also needs to be countered. We believe that better attention should be paid to these dimensions if we are considering ways to counter terrorism.

What is your take on the recent anti-Christian violence unleashed by Hindu organisations? Don’t you think such violence shames Hindus, a majority of whom do not share this violent ideology?

No one will support violence on innocents. The violence occurring in Orissa is a reaction to the killing of Swami Lakshmananada and his associates. The reaction is of the common people. Yes a majority of Hindus do not share violent ideology but the majority also don’t want conversions by force and allurement, genocide of their brethren in Kashmir, appeasement of Muslims by instruments like the Sachar report and its implementation, denigration of their deities — the list of such aggression is endless. So if one wants to curb such a physical reaction to violence then one should be willing to address the issues of aggression of various kinds that produce the reaction.

Hinduism today is rife with so many negatives. Caste has become more and more institutionalised, ill-treatment of women is still going on, illiteracy is another bane, and the tribals live beyond the pale of civilisation. Shouldn’t organisations such as yours function as social reformers, remove the negatives from the religion? What are you doing in this regard?

Before we make a list of what is bad in Hinduism, one should make an attempt to see what is good in Hinduism as well. Many things you have enlisted appear as small things blown out of proportion in this context. The issues you mentioned better be discussed individually and separately rather than branding Hinduism as a cause for what you have enlisted in general.

Whatever it is we are actively involved in dharmashikshan (educating people about Hinduism). It is this aspect which has been seriously neglected for various reasons and is an important cause of many of the problems faced by Hinduism today. Apart from this we are active in curbing malpractices in public celebrations like Ganeshostav, moral value education, educating people about stress-free life through spiritual practice. We as an organisation treat all castes and sexes as equal.

There were some photographs being circulated on the internet regarding terror training camps sponsored by the Bajrang Dal. What are your views on this?
We have not come across such a thing. If indeed such is the case then it will be a good question to ask the government authorities.

If the Union government decides to ban the Sanatan Sanstha what will you do?

We will fight the ban in a court of law and on public platforms, apart from praying to God to give some sense to the Union government.

Ilyas Kashmiri plans to spread terror in India


Dreaded terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri runs Al Qaeda’s 313 Brigade. A few weeks ago the United States declared that Kashmiri had been killed in a drone attack. However, Kashmiri resurfaced with an interview to Asia Times this week, declaring he had survived the attack.

In the interview Kashmiri said the 26/11 Mumbai attacks were nothing compared to what was really planned. While India has maintained that the attacks were masterminded by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Kashmiri’s statement has come as a surprise.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, chief of Asia Times’s Pakistan bureau who interviewed Kashmiri, told rediff.com that the 313 Brigade is Al Qaeda’s commando force which trains youth for terrorist operations.

Indian Intelligence Bureau sources suspect Kashmiri is planning terror strikes on the lines of the Mumbai attacks, but much larger in scope.

Kashmiri’s statements indicates that the 313 Brigade was involved in the Mumbai attacks. Indian intelligence sources believe that while the Lashkar undertook a major part of the operation, including identifying the terrorists who participated in the attack, the 313 Brigade was also involved.

Shahzad believes Kashmiri was in the know about the Mumbai attacks. The journalist feels the plan for the Mumbai attacks was originally conceived by a Pakistani security agency.

As a run-up to the Mumbai attacks several low profile attacks were carried out in India. Under the direction of General Ashfaq Kayani — then the Inter Services Intelligence director general; now the Pakistan army chief — low key attacks were initially planned in India. This plan continued when General Nadeem Taj took over as ISI chief after Kayani was promoted to his present position.

A few dozen terrorists were trained at the Mangla dam near Islamabad to be later sent to Gujarat from where they were to travel to Kashmir and give the militancy in that state a terror fillip. Lashkar leader Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhwi, who faces a trial for his role in the 26/11 attacks, was part of this plan.

After Al Qaeda representatives stepped in, they suggested that instead of carrying out a low-profile attack on Kashmir, Mumbai be targeted instead. Lakhwi and his ISI minders disassociated with the original plan of attacking Kashmir and decided to go ahead with the Mumbai attacks.

Ilyas Kashmiri’s 313 Brigade is believed to be one of the organisations that trained the ten men who attacked Mumbai. IB sources say although Kashmiri and his terrorists are currently fighting American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, his primary interest remains India. Kashmiri, a former Pakistan army commando, fought the Indian military in Kashmir before moving on to Pakistan’s western front after 9/11.

Intelligence sources say Kashmiri is building a team to spread terror in India, the Ghazwa-e-Hind.

Shahzad points out that Kashmiri believes India will soon involve itself militarily in Afghanistan. And when that happens the Ghazwa-e-Hind will be launched with a massive terror operation across India. Although Kashmiri has fallen out with the Pakistan security establishment, Shahzad says he continues to be a bigger threat to India than to Pakistan.

Pakistani security agencies, Shahzad adds, believe that without the 313 Brigade’s expertise neither Al Qaeda nor the Pakistani Taliban [ Images ] can successfully operate in Pakistan or in Afghanistan.

‘I felt there were more than ten terrorists’


After the elite National Security Guard took over the operation against the ten terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26 last year, they neutralised the eight terrorists and took control of the Trident hotel, Nariman House and the Taj Mahal hotel.

In an interview with rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa, the NSG’s then director general J K Dutt looks back at the dilemmas, decisions and delays that the force faced during the terror attacks.

You have said that there could have been more than ten terrorists in Mumbai on the night of November 26. What prompted you to come to that conclusion?

It is for the investigating agency to verify that fact. I was the director general of the NSG at that point of time and I was just depending on the inputs given to me by the Intelligence Bureau and other police sources. I did not have independent sources with me to verify this information.

On the basis of the operations conducted by me, I feel that there were more than ten terrorists. Looking at the mayhem and havoc that was created, I felt there were more than ten terrorists.

If there were more than ten terrorists, did the NSG fail to capture them?

That is not correct. We managed to recover all the weapons and ammunition after the operation. I was told by senior officials that I needed to account for ten AK-47 rifles and we would be able to determine the number of terrorists by the number of weapons. We managed to recover all the weapons.

However, two were recovered by the police who had managed to kill one terrorist and nab another.

Since I felt there could be more, I had also told the local authorities to screen every hostage carefully, since we felt that some could have been staying as guests. Our job was to neutralise the terrorists and get the hostages out alive.

Once again, I would like to state that regarding the number of terrorists, it is best for the investigating agency to answer this question.

The report about local support to the 26/11 terrorists has been denied by the investigating agencies. What is your take on this matter?

This again is a question to be posed to the investigating agencies. I personally feel that an operation of this scale would not have been possible at all unless there was local support.

One cannot rule out this aspect at all. We were called in to neutralise the terrorists and we did our job.

Let us come to the most talked about subject at that time — the delay in the NSG team reaching Mumbai. There was also talk of an aircraft not being available. Could you please take us through what exactly happened?

Yes, I know that a big question is whether the death toll would have been lesser had the NSG reached earlier. When our team reached Mumbai, we did not know how many terrorists were there.

In fact, there was no definitive information and we were told that there may be anything between five and 30 terrorists. But that was not the main concern as irrespective of the number of terrorists, we were ready to deal with them.

Please explain why the NSG team was delayed in reaching Mumbai.

The last time the NSG was pressed into similar service was at during the Akshardham temple terror strike. There, the NSG team reached the next day, but such a hue and cry was not raised about that. Maybe because the death toll was lesser there and there was no senseless shooting going on.

The aircraft was available. We did not have a system to keep everything on standby at all times.

The aircraft had to be readied and the NSG had to carry extra arms and ammunition with it. All this had to be loaded on the aircraft and our commandos did it by themselves. This took some time.

How did the authorities in Mumbai respond? Were they late in calling in the NSG?

Initially, the Mumbai police thought it was a gang war and hence they had geared up to fight that battle. They realised it was a terrorist attack only after a while.

I would like to make one thing clear — the NSG cannot act suo motu. Law and order is completely a State subject. The NSG cannot walk into states and undertake operations on its own.

We had to await orders from the state government before we could even go to Mumbai. The siege of the city commenced at approximately 9.30 pm and we received a request at midnight. However, I had told the commandos to be ready and had already moved them to the airport, before the request came in.

After you reached Mumbai, were the state authorities helpful? There was talk about how the transport provided to the commandos was below par.
When we reached Mumbai, the buses were ready to carry us there. I know there were reports stating that we were ferried in BEST buses, but that was not my concern at all.

The fact is that there was transport to ferry us to the target spots. More importantly, after the NSG arrived, we ensured that not a single hostage was killed.

What do you think of the way the Mumbai police handled the situation, before the NSG came in?

The security forces should have pinned down the militants. It was clear that they had inadequate equipment and expertise. They had not undergone counter-terror training.

They were on the backfoot with no protective gear on their bodies and no sophisticated weapons on them.

How would you describe the 26/11 operation? Was it an easy one compared to other operations that the NSG has undertaken?

The operation was not an easy one. The Marcos (the Indian Navy’s Marine Commandos) were called in and they managed to have a brief skirmish with the terrorists at the Taj Mahal hotel.

However, when the NSG came in, there was no information as to where the terrorists were hiding within the hotels.

The first step taken by us was extremely crucial and I had it in my mind that at any cost, I did not want the commandos to become victims.

We needed cover at that point of time. When we stormed the hotels, we were aware of the fact that the terrorists could deceive us and we needed to be on our guard.

The fact is that we took time to establish contact with the terrorists, but once that was done we did not let them get out.

Has the NSG faced a tougher situation in the past?

This was an once-in-a-lifetime type of incident. I would say that this operation was unique and so was the incident. Hotels were targeted for the first time. There were hundreds of rooms. This was not an operation out in the open, where we could have cover.

It was difficult since the terrorists could have been extremely deceptive.

What was the first thing that came to your mind once the NSG landed in Mumbai?

The most important thing was to rescue the hostages. Establishing contact with the terrorists was also important. Each and every room had to be checked. We did not have exact information as to where these terrorists were hiding in the hotels. If we did, we would have stormed the hotel.

What about the layouts of the targets? Were detailed layouts provided to you by the authorities?

Yes, they were given to us. However, the NSG was not looking for extremely detailed layouts. It was important for us to know the nature of the rooms. We wanted to know where the store rooms and the meeting halls in the hotels were, then we would not have to waste time in checking these rooms.

The Taj operation took three days to end even after the NSG arrived. What was the reason for this?

As I pointed out earlier, this was a hostage situation and our primary concern was to get the hostages out safe. The operation was not just restricted to three places for the NSG — it was going on in five places.

Not only did we have to check the Hotel Trident but the adjoining tower had to be combed too. The case was the same at the Taj Mahal Hotel, where we had to check the tower along with the heritage building.

We had an operation to undertake at Nariman House too.

How long was it before the NSG actually established contact with the terrorists?

We had rescued the hostages and ensured that there were no further casualties on November 27 itself. At 3 am on November 28, we established contact with the terrorists at Hotel Trident and by 7.30 am, we neutralised them.

On the same day, we managed to neutralise the terrorists at Nariman House.

On November 29, we completed the operation at the Taj.

Why did the operation at the Taj take such a long time? Was it the toughest operation?

At the Taj, the terrorists kept moving between floors. There was a spiral staircase connecting the first and the second floors that all of us thought was a service staircase. The terrorists kept shuttling between floors via this staircase.

They were extremely deceptive at the Taj. We had to tread carefully since I did not want any causalities.

There were over 400 rooms and we needed to comb each room carefully. We could take no chances. We did not want to storm the hotel and start battling the terrorists until we had checked each and every room and ensured that no guest was trapped inside.

I don’t want to compare and comment on which operation was tougher. All operations were hard and ultimately successful for us.

There was talk that the NSG could have released gas to smoke out the terrorists. Did you consider this option?

Gas was never an option. This was a hostage crisis and that would have only increased the number of civilian casualities.

At any point during the operation, did you feel that you could nab the terrorists alive? Was such an attempt made by the NSG?

We did try and tell them to surrender. In every operation, there is a stage when we know that we have almost won the battle. It happened in Mumbai too.

When we reached that stage, we did tell them to surrender. But they were adamant and each time we told them to surrender, there were nothing but abuses from them.

They repeatedly hurled abuses and got more aggressive. When we tried again, they started intense firing. Then we realised that we were making a futile attempt, so we went ahead and killed them.

The fact they refused to surrender is an indication that they had it in them to go on for longer. Do you share the same view?

After we had finished them, we went around recovering arms and ammunition that belonged to them, and it was clear that they had enough ammunition to fight for another two days.

Do you think India has learnt its lesson following this attack? Are we better prepared to ward off a terror attack of this nature?

There is no fool-proof arrangement to ensure that there would not be such attacks in the future. There are various aspects that need to be changed.

Every wing in the government set-up needs to pull up its socks. The laws and the rules need to change, the inventory of the security and defence forces need to improve. The security forces need to be strengthened.

Vinita Kamte on the goof ups by the Mumbai police


Vinita Kamte, slain Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte’s wife, reveals her long struggle to unravel the truth about her husband’s death on the night of November 26, 2008.

In a book titled To the Last Bullet, co-authored by journalist Vinita Deshmukh, Vinita Kamte details her efforts to piece together information about the sequence of events that preceded her husband’s death at the hands of terrorists Abu Ismail and Ajmal Kasab.

Her inquiries uncovered the glaring lapses in coordination and action by top Mumbai police officers on the night terror struck Mumbai.

“There was a conflict in my mind on whether I should speak out against the police department which my husband loved so very much. Though I was informed about his death immediately, I never got answers about the circumstances leading up to it. The system created a stumbling block in my search for the truth,” Vinita Kamte said at the book launch on Tuesday.

In the chapter titled Will someone tell me the truth, she seeks to know why her husband had gone to the Cama Hospital area in south Mumbai where he was killed by Ismail and Kasab, along with Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar.

She raises questions about whether Kamte’s death was instantaneous as reported and why the investigating agencies have presented multiple versions of the events of that night.

‘After visiting the spot where my husband was killed, I visited Additional Commissioner Sadanand Date who was injured that night in a grenade attack. After that, I visited Hasan Gafoor, the then commissioner of police. Gafoor was not aware why Ashok landed up at the Cama Hospital when he had summoned him to the Trident hotel that night. He also said it was Ashok who had shot at and injured Kasab with his AK-47,’ she says in her book.

‘At the rear gate of Cama Hospital, the terrorists had fired in the direction of Karkare and the others from the terrace. Ashok had responded with a burst of AK-47 gunfire in the direction of the terrorists.’

According to Gafoor, Kasab had admitted during interrogation that the terrorists thought that this type of gunfire was indicative of a trained hand, and presumed that a professional team had arrived. This had made them flee from Cama Hospital in a hurry, leaving behind one of their bags, containing a pistol and AK-47 magazines,’ Vinita Kamte writes.

She claims that beyond a point, Gafoor appeared reluctant to delve into the details of the top policemen’s deaths and she was disappointed by his attitude.

‘I then met Constable Arun Jadhav, the lone survivor of the incident, who told me that they were all traveling in a Qualis when Ashok had spotted something. He aimed with his AK-47 and immediately fired and the terrorists, who were hiding, also returned fire. Minutes later, the terrorists tried to open the backdoor of the vehicle, but it was jammed. They opened the front doors, removed Salaskar, Kamte and Karkare, before occupying the front seat and started driving.’

Meeting with Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria :

‘It was surprising that the Crime Branch officials had been dithering about giving a clear version of what happened, especially when things appeared so simple. We sought a meeting with Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria,’ Vinita Kamte writes.

‘During the meeting, I asked him, “Since you have interrogated Kasab, could you please tell us what exactly transpired?”‘

‘He replied, “What do you want to know?” I asked him what time the incident took place and he said 11.50 pm. I countered him by saying that was not possible; since Ashok’s last call on the mobile phone was at 11.58 pm. Maria kept a straight face. I then asked him who had shot Kasab. He changed his version thrice while replying to this question and finally said that only Ashok could have shot him. I asked him why Ashok went to the Cama Hospital when he was initially asked to go to Hotel Trident, and Maria said he didn’t know.’

‘The days and weeks that followed were not easy and I had a tough task ahead. Slowly, I built up the sequence of events leading up to Ashok’s death. I requested the Mumbai police commissioner for the wireless logs (containing the transcript of the communication between the policemen and the main control room) from that night. This request was forwarded to Rakesh Maria for further action. I waited but no action was taken. I tried to get information through the Right to Information Act and the process was long and painful.’

‘The commissioner of police had called Ashok to Hotel Trident after the mayhem in south Mumbai. Ashok had told me this at approximately 10.45 pm, when I called him on his way to Hotel Trident. The wireless logs which were obtained through RTI clearly indicate the following: During the conversation between Rakesh Maria from the control room and Ashok Kamte’s operator, Maria told Ashok that firing was going on at Cama Hospital and he had to go there. To this, the operator responded by saying that East Regions sir (Ashok) has reached Cama Hospital five minutes ago.’

‘It is so clear. Then why did Maria deny any knowledge of why Ashok went to Cama Hospital. He directed Ashok to go to Cama Hospital and yet he flatly denied the same. Why? Further, the wireless logs also show that Karkare, who was part of the same operation, was lucid and very clear about the situation. Karkare, in his conversation with the main control room, says that they were at Cama Hospital and they needed to encircle Cama, so a team should be sent from the front side of the hospital. This needs to be coordinated so that there is no cross firing.’

‘Despite such specific instructions, they were ignored and the fact that reinforcements did not reach Cama Hospital is inexplicable. Had Karkare’s instruction been complied with, the two terrorists could have been apprehended at the front gate itself. It is clear that even after the incident at Cama Hospital, there were no reinforcements at the front gate for almost an hour.’

‘After sending out the message to the control room, the three officers were discussing their strategy; they did not know that their request for reinforcements had gone unheeded. The last response from the control room was at 11.33 pm and there was no further input for Karkare since there was a lull of over 15 minutes. So much had happened but curiously there was no word from the control room.’

Why did the officers venture out in one vehicle?

‘Despite giving a call for reinforcement at 11.24 pm, sadly there was no response. It was not as though the control room was unaware of the developments; there was enough information from the police officers. The three officers then decided that they will enter the hospital from the front side. The officers were expecting reinforcements at the front gate as per Karkare’s request. However, with scant inputs and meager resources, Karkare had to tackle the situation personally. He had to have his best team with him and it was natural that he took Ashok and Salaskar with him.’

‘An eye-witness pointed out that the terrorists pulled out the people seated in the Qualis and threw them on the road. The bodies were lying there for nearly 40 minutes before another police vehicle came and took them away. The thought of our husbands lying bleeding for 40 minutes with no help haunts all our families.’

Vinita Kamte also questions why Maria feigned ignorance about Karkare’s location when the call logs clearly indicated that the ATS chief was at the rear gate of the Cama Hospital and the fact that Kamte and Karkare were injured.

She also wants to know why the police forces were stopped at the Metro cinema and not allowed to venture near the Cama Hospital. ‘Despite Karkare giving clear instructions, the control room did not send out reinforcements. The Mumbai police claim that 200 personnel were sent to tackle the situation. Then where were they?’ she asked.

‘If only Karkare’s team had the benefit of a proper briefing from the control room on what was happening at the front gate of the Cama Hospital,’ she writes, ‘the story that night would have been different. Karkare’s team manged to injure Kasab even when it had been ambushed. With prior information, which was available with the control room, they would have ambushed the terrorists. This is what stings my heart.’