Ram and Rahim as Good neighbours

Ram Puniyani
The leak and tabling of Liberhan Commission report has created a big turmoil in the country. While most of the sides have been shouting hoarse about their own position on the issue, not much has been talked about the future solution of this vexed problem.
We recall that the mosque built by Mir Baqui around five centuries ago has been deliberately dragged into the controversy. At the time of Independence it was a mosque, no political party had claimed anything to the contrary. As per the understanding in the constitution, the status of 1947 was to be maintained in cases of places of worship. The installation of Ram lalla idols by deceit in midnight of 22nd Jan 1949 sowed the seeds of controversy. Later in 1975 the dispute between two local groups was taken up by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and in 1989, BJP decided to make a political issue out of it. The tragic demolition and the making of makeshift Ram temple there have added new dimensions to the issue. 
It is around this issue that Hindu and Muslim communalists raised the emotional pitch and the tragedies which followed, the demolition, the post demolition communal violence and communalization, polarization of society along religious lines are too well known by now. The court case regarding the same is dragging from last several years without any outcome so far. 
Where do we go from here? Do we let this sore to continue on the body politic of the nation? This may act as the trouble spot for the future. It is time that we look at all the aspects of the issue and try to bring a peaceful solution to the issue. 
The first step in the issue is to realize that it the communal forces from both communities which have claimed that they represent the community and so they will decide on behalf of Hindus or Muslims respectively. The fact of the matter and, this has been confirmed by Liberhan Commission report, is that these communal groups neither represent the community nor reflect the opinion the communities as a whole. It is imperative that we look forward to the liberal sections, leadership from these communities to come forward and talk in the language of reconciliation. The liberal sections are those who have so far been ignored, but they are the one’s who have talked of peace and accommodation. The election results have also shown that those claiming to represent the aspirations of a particular community have been routed in popular elections. The elected representatives of the area have a major role to play in bringing the consensus. We cannot undo the past but we can definitely chart a peaceful path for future. The peaceful talks between these sections along with the local people of Ayodhya are the central core for solution.
The people of Ayodhya have also been the victims of the demolition and other offshoots of the dispute. What they think should be done at the site has to be taken seriously. They have to be taken on board along with the liberal leadership of the communities. Today the most amicable solution has to veer around respecting Ram and Allah both. Both temple and mosque can be accommodated in the area, with equal importance and respect. 
Along with temple and mosque in the same spot we need to bring up a museum dedicated to the great tradition of Ayodhya. Ayodhya has not only been popular for Lord Ram, but it had also been a place for Buddhists and also people of other faith as well. It has been a sort of ‘No War zone’ (A- no, Yudhya-War, Ayodhya- A no war zone), and that spirit has to be cultivated all around. The emotive and divisive appeals need to be rejected by the nation as a whole. In that light the museum-memorial has to be the one of syncretic traditions, of saints who were followed by Muslims and Hindus both, of Sufis who again were respected by Hindus and Muslims both. While the history has been made to degenerate into hoarse shouting, a cool reasoned archeological based understanding should help us to go further. The negotiations between the communities have to be encouraged to the last. 
The second line of action has to relate to the court verdict. The court verdict should be final for all of us. The formulation that faith will decide the birth place of the Lord has no place in a society governed by law and reason. The community leaders must give undertaking to respect the court verdict and act accordingly. Those not having faith in the courts cant be the part of the process of reconciliation as reconciliation has to be done in the framework of Indian Constitution. We have invested too much in this issue and it is time that not only this but even other such issues are not given any importance to ensure that the country, nation, can focus on the issues related to bread, butter shelter, employment and health.


Kashmiri ready with Ghazb-e-Hind

The Al Qaeda, along with the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, has decided to launch a terror mission against India, according to sources in the Intelligence Bureau. The mission is called Ghazwa-e-Hind (Battle against India), said sources, and cadres of the two terror outfits have been apprised about it.

Ilyas Kashmiri, commander of Qaeda’s 313 brigade, has informed all his cadres that they should be prepared to sacrifice their lives for a ‘noble cause’ like Ghazwa-e-Hind.

Kashmiri was helped by David Headley, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in early October in Chicago, said IB sources.

Headley conducted the reconnaissance of several likely terror targets across India and he has provided details about them to Kashmiri, said sources.

Kashmiri has already indicated that the Al Qaeda has outlined a terror plot for India which is far more destructive than the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai.

IB sources suspect that the Ghazwa-e-Hind will conducted by carrying out terror attacks with the help of fidayeens (suicide squads).

According to intelligence reports, Kashmiri has trained over 100 youths in Pakistan for this operation and is also relying heavily on local support to carry out strikes in various Indian cities.

The boldness that Kashmiri has exhibited by announcing his plans to strike terror in India indicates that he might be getting support from the Inter Services Intelligence. The ISI and the dreaded terrorist reportedly had a fall-out earlier, and they had been working separately since then.

Former IB chief Ajit B Doval had told rediff.com earlier that the threat from Al Qaeda should be understood and dealt with as an ideological movement, rather than a hierarchically structured terrorist outfit. He had cautioned that the Qaeda’s ideology and methodology could prove to be dangerous.

Terror outfits like the LeT and the HuJI, which owe allegiance to Qaeda, have been targeting India.

Kashmiri, once a trusted aide of Pakistan’s spy agency, has also served in the country’s elite Special Services Group. He was trained in Pakistan’s Special Operations Unit. Acting on the ISI’s instructions, he set up the HuJI in early 1990s, with its headquarter in Bangladesh.

But his relations with the ISI soured after Kashmiri turned down the spy agency’s request to join the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Both ideologically and operationally, he constitutes an imminent threat as he is capable of mounting terrorist actions against India, through the HUJI terrorists based in Bangladesh.

Dropping Headley’s name indicates a pattern

There appears to be a pattern in the manner that the accused in the 26/11 case are making statements before the court. First Sabahuddin claimed that David Headley had interrogated him along with the FBI team that visited India post 26/11 and today it was the turn of prime accused, Ajmal Kasab to issue a similar statement.

A week back Sabahuddin had made a similar statement in the special court claiming that one of the officers who had come down to interrogate him along with the FBI was David Headley. He had told the court he had seen a sketch of Headley in the newspaper which he gets in prison and it was then that it occurred to him that he was one of the persons who interrogated him in a Mumbai prison. Based on the submission made before the court, he was directed to file an application through his lawyer, Ejaz Naqvi before the Magistrate to seek any sort of orders in this regard.

Today before the special court, Kasab too towed the same line. He too claimed that he was interrogated by FBI agent Headley. Sources in the intelligence bureau told rediff.com that it is highly unlikely that the FBI would have brought down Headley to interrogate the Mumbai accused. The FBI would have been taking too much of a risk in doing so. We have been verifying this information and nothing concrete has emerged as yet on this.

As far as both the accused are concerned, it appears that it is only a tactic to delay the proceedings. If the accused continue to pursue the matter before the court, they will have to move an application before the Magistrate and seek to direct the investigating agency to probe into this matter.

IB sources say that it is highly unlikely that Headley would have come down and interrogated the two accused. First and foremost there is only a sketch of Headley that is available and the accused may have mistaken him for someone else. Sources however say that with the allegation of Headley being termed as a FBI agent and now these statements, the US would be under pressure to hand over Headley to India so that a lot of confusion is put to rest.

Headley was an informer or approver for the FBI who had been sent to the AF-Pak region to pass on information regarding the drug trade in that region. However he cozied up to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and became their operative. The FBI was not in the loop about his operations for a long time. It was only in early 2008 that they started to keep a tab on him and based on this they had also warned India about an attack on Mumbai in September 2008, the same month, the FBI lost track of this man. The Intelligence Bureau says that the fact that Headley was an approver is a confirmed fact, but there is some discrepancy regarding his date of arrest as we believe that he was picked up a couple of months after the 26/11 attack at Mumbai.

German intel helped foil attack on BSE

The Bombay Stock Exchange, which was attacked during in the 1993 Mumbai serial balsts, could have become a target again in 2008 had German intelligence agencies not shared timely inputs with their Indian counterparts.

Intelligence Bureau officials told rediff.com that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had plotted to strike the BSE. The terrorist outfit had delegated their Nepal module — comprising Imran Shehzad — to carry out the attack.

However, this was not to be a ‘fidayeen’ (suicide) attack, but a replica of the 1993 attack.

The Lashkar had planned the attack as early as October 2007. Intelligence regarding this attack kept trickling in, in bits and pieces, and it was only towards the end of 2007 that the plan became clearer.

Specific inputs shared by foreign agencies indicated that a couple of Lashkar youth from the Nepal module were being utilised for this operation. Fahim Ansari, who is being tried in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, too had played a part in this operation. He had conducted a reccee of the BSE building and reported back to his bosses in Nepal.

Shehzad, who also took part in the CRPF attack at Uttar Pradesh in January 2008, was the key person in this plan. He was delegated the job of planting the bombs at the BSE. He was initially part of the ‘fidayeen’ squad for the CRPF attack and had later slipped into Nepal for a while.

However, he was asked to return to India and execute the BSE attack. All arrangements had been made on part of the Lashkar and the plan was drawn out. But the moment he set foot on to Indian soil, he was picked up by security agencies based on intelligence inputs.

For Lashkar Bangalore is next to Mumbai

Rs 50,000 — That’s all it cost to execute the Bangalore serial blasts in 2008, according to T Naseer, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative who is the prime accused in the case.

During his interrogation, Naseer, who was arrested recently on the Indo-Bangladesh border, told the police that local materials were used for the blasts and this ensured that costs were low.

Naseer further said they did not even have to pay for the explosives, detonators and also the timers. “We stole all these things from a shop in Kannur and assembled it by ourselves,” Naseer told interrogators.

Money was only spent on housing cadres. “We found cheap accommodation on the outskirts of Bangalore city,” he added.

‘Bangalore was the easiest to bomb’

Naseer’s confession also reveals the poor security in Bangalore. During his interrogation, he pointed out that they had first picked Chennai, but then decided against it, since the security was top notch there.

When they conducted a reccee in Bangalore, they realised that security was poor and it would be easy to carry out a strike there.

He pointed out that they also had in mind that the growing status of Bangalore. “In the Lashkar circles, Bangalore is next to Mumbai and striking this city, where there is so much American investment, would give us a lot of publicity,” he told his interrogators.

“Moreover, I have been a regular visitor to this city along with (Indian Mujahideen co-founder) Riyaz Bhatkal, and the two of us know the terrain of this city very well,” Naseer said.

Kasab’s retraction won’t hinder the 26/11 trial

While the lone surviving gunman in the Mumbai terror attacks, Ajmal Kasab, retracting his confessional statement before the special court trying the 26/11 case is a stumbling block, legal experts are of the opinion that it will not be an insurmountable hurdle.

Legal experts say had Kasab not retracted his confession, it would have made the court’s job much easier and it could have gone ahead with the sentencing directly. Now it will have to examine the circumstances under which the confession statement was made. The first and foremost point is whether the confession was judicial in nature.

In this case, the confession was made before the magistrate and hence it is judicial in nature. But this does not give the prosecution a blanket protection from having to explain under what circumstances the confession was made.

The prosecution will now have to explain to the court whether the confession was voluntary in nature or if it was forced upon the accused. Had Kasab not retracted his statements before the magistrate, the prosecution could have sought his immediate sentencing.

However, there is nothing for the prosecution to worry about, say experts. The statements of over 200 witnesses have been recorded all of which points to Kasab’s guilt.

CWG 2010 was on Headley’s radar

Intelligence Bureau sleuths have unearthed yet another target of David Headley, the American national and Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative who has been arrested in Chicago for planning out terror activities on Indian soil.
IB sources told rediff.com that following the success of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had major plans to carry out a strike during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which is scheduled to be held in New Delhi in 2010.

The CWG in New Delhi stands at the top of the list of terror targets. IB officials say that there are at least ten terror alerts they pick up every week regarding the games.

When David Headley was in India, he had conducted a reccee of various targets, including those which were attacked on November 26, 2008. He was also present in the control room that helped coordinate the attack. It was after the Mumbai attacks that a plan was hatched by the Lashkar leadership to carry out a fidayeen-styled attack at the Commonwealth Games. The Lashkar wanted Headley himself to survey the targets and prepare a chart. However, before the plan was executed, Headley was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.

IB sources, however, add that the threat to the games has not vanished altogether after the arrest of Headley. The threat perception at the games is still very high, but Indian agencies are prepared to ward off any threat. There is constant monitoring and every alert being picked up is shared with the officials concerned. For India, the games are a matter of national reputation and it will take every step to secure the same, home ministry officials pointed out.

Headley, during his visit to New Delhi, had gone around the sites where the games are to be held. However, his prime focus was the Mumbai attacks then, and he did not go too much into the details of the games venues. He had planned a return to Delhi after the Mumbai attacks, and then carry out a thorough reccee of the area.

Security experts say that securing the games should top the priority of every agency in the country.

“We need to rely upon inputs not only from within the country, but also from other countries as well. This should not be treated as a subject of New Delhi alone, but a coordinated effort needs to be adopted. It is not necessary that only a Delhi module would be working on the games. The Lashkar keeps changing its strategy from time-to-time, and in many cases, modules from an alien land have worked on different targets,” IB officials also point out.

Build a house on Moon

First India’s lunar probe, Chandrayaan, spotted water on moon. Then US space agency NASA bombed the moon’s surface to lend credence to Chandrayaan’s findings. But why is the discovery of water on the moon so significant?

To begin with we now have an answer to the debate that has been on for decades over the existence of water on the lunar surface, T Alex, senior ISRO scientist who played a very big part in the Chandrayaan mission, told rediff.com.

Alex explained the process by which the NASA confirmed Chandrayaan’s findings. The surface of the moon was hit with a spacecraft. The resulting detonation kicked up debris and then through infrared emissions they were able to come to a conclusion.

ISRO scientists further explain that the dream of owning a house on the moon would no longer be a dream, but could become a possibility in just about two decades.

Having found water, ISRO scientists have also identified craters that can be colonised by earthlings. The crater, located near the moon’s north pole, has been christened as Erlanger. This is considered to be one of the top colonies conducive for human habitation and where structures can be set up.

These places are conducive for habitation as sun’s rays falls obliquely around the periphery of the crater, explains Alex. Life on the moon, however, may not be similar to that on earth. In face, homes on the lunar surface would resemble more like an igloo, say scientists.

Besides this, the discovery of water traces would also help in manufacture of rocket fuel.

NASA too has pointed out that researchers and engineers interested in setting up science outposts or industrial facilities on the moon would no longer have to worry about the astronomical cost of launching water or additional fuel from earth.

Photo courtesy: NASA

US will ensure Headley is not extradited

Was American national, terror suspect and Lashkar-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent? This is something that both Indian investigators and also the Intelligence Bureau are trying to ascertain. The IB says the United States knew of Headley much before his tryst with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

There are various instances to show that the US was aware of Headley and his plans for India, well in advance. Sources say that the first alert regarding the 26/11 Mumbai attack was issued by the US in the first week of September 2008 itself. The information was passed on to India on the basis of the information that they had gathered from David Headley.

Intelligence Bureau officials told rediff.com that Headley was on the US radar since 2003, and since then they had tracked his movements. The initial information that had been picked up by the US suggested that Mumbai would be attacked in the month of September 2008.

The association between the US agencies and Headley goes back to 1998 when he was picked up for smuggling narcotics. A US court sentenced him, but his sentence was reduced after he struck a deal to become an approver. He was then sent to the Af-Pak region to work undercover in 2001, where he decided to cozy up to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. He attended a training camp in Pakistan between 2001 and 2003 before embarking upon his mission.

Sources both in the Union home ministry and the Intelligence Bureau say that all through this, the US had information on Headley. They had known about Headley when the entire Mumbai attack was being planned. However, after September 2008, the US agencies lost track of Headley and were unaware of the Mumbai attack being postponed.

What is interesting is that the FBI made Headley’s arrest public much after it actually happened. IB sources say the FBI had Headley in their custody for at least six to seven months before they made it public. The FBI chose to not inform India of the same since they were worried that the Headley-FBI link would come out in the open.

Investigating officers who are probing the Headley case in India say they are also trying to verify whether the US Central Intelligence Agency was in the know of Headley’s movements in India. The information handed out by IB goes on to state that while the US knew about Headley’s links with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba almost a year before the Mumbai attack, they started to track him seriously only in October 2008, after he had gone off the radar in September that year. They were even aware that Headley had made several trips to India, but preferred to stay mum about the same.

Home ministry officials say his movements in the country were never picked up by the Indian intelligence agencies and neither were they told by the US about this man. The IB says the FBI was using Headley for information on terror groups in Pakistan and also regarding the drug mafia that was operating out of Pakistan.

Indian agencies say that after being sent to the AF-Pak region, he came in contact with several Lashkar operatives. In fact he had bonded very well with Lashkar’s Sajid Mir. After his initial meeting with the Lashkar bosses, he had attended several terror camps between February 2002 and 2003.

This is however denied by US intelligence agencies, who say they were not on the Lashkar trail at that point in time since the outfit had not been declared a foreign terrorist organisation by the US State Department.

Home ministry officials say this expose would make the extradition process a bit difficult. It appears that the US would not want this angle to the Headley story to come out in the open, and hence they may try and ensure that Headley is not brought to India.

During the meeting of the FBI officials with their Indian counterparts, the latter were told that Headley did not want to be interrogated in India. However, the latter insisted that they would go ahead and file a chargesheet and continue to seek his extradition so that he could be questioned by Indian agencies.