|| By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd.)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
If one were to look at developments in terrorist activities in India, it is obvious that one should look at J&K given the current situation. The killing of Burhan Wani was just a trigger but the phenomenon of mobs consistently attacking police stations and indulging in violence and stone throwing hardly transformed overnight. Omar Abdullah says that the present state government has compounded the mistakes done by his government without elaborating what mistakes his government made. But it is obvious that both governments continued to ignore the politico-socio-economic aspects of, soft-peddled terrorists and terrorist acts for politico-economic benefits, lacked requisite administration, leaving everything to security forces. This gave Pakistani military-ISI increase the radicalization of the Muslim population of J&K, rallying even those who only had genuine grievances only against the lack of administration.
The manner in which the Sufi culture of J&K has been quietly killed and replaced by radical Wahabism is clear by the Arab type headgear that is common sight now, distributed freely along with Pakistani and ISIS flags – same headgear worn by Hafiz Saeed. While Pakistan exploited the social media and even religious leaders to ignite anti-India sentiment, the State Government did nothing to curb this wave. On the contrary, even the rehabilitation of surrendered militants remains unaddressed. There has never been attempts to connect with the population particularly the youth by the state administration, leaving it to Hurriyat separatist who always preach sedition, adding fuel to fire. The State laughed of the periodic unfurling of Pakistani and ISIS flags, the vitriolic from mosques during Friday prayers. 634 jailed stone-pelters were granted amnesty just in time to join the protests.
All this is clearly facilitates LeT’s Islamic Jihad which is linked to Global jihad. Pakistani infiltration attempts, encounters with terrorists are periodic while police posts are being attacked. Despite the help rendered by the military during the disastrous floods of 2014, ISI and terrorist organizations have been able to fan anti-India sentiments in the Muslim population. There is no effort on our part to bring home to the youth they are being ‘used’ by forces inimical to their welfare, and that of their kith and kin. They are not even being made aware of the subsidies and state benefits they enjoy compared to rest of India, and comparative development and living conditions between J&K and POK, latter being far worse. To top this, the Mehbooba government appears intent on making some policemen scapegoats for ‘excesses’ despite the casualties the police forces have suffered. But then similarly weren’t personnel of Rashtriya Rifles made scapegoats just before the J&K elections for making political brownies? Sure democracies have constraints but Israel, also democracy, jails stone-pelters, terminating their state benefits. Pakistan is a sham democracy, but they blackout occurrences in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and NWFP fully. We don’t have to copy how China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka deal with insurgency but certainly we could draw lessons. Pakistan fully determined to keep raising the pressure in J&K. Unless we adopt a well coordinated approach (not just soft-pulp), including pro-active actions to get hold of Pakistani fault-lines, Pakistan will continue to radicalize J&K Muslims increasingly and fan the fires further.
The second major terrorism related development in India has been the success of the ISI to fan anti-India and seditious sentiments in our educational institutions, particularly the JNU supported by a section of our media that obviously is on payroll of forces inimical to India, including funds being funneled through so called NGOs. The separatist call was started by the JNU, Jadahvpur and Hyderabad universities picked up the same line – all supported by J&K separatists on Pakistan’s behest. Our soft response encouraged stone-pelters in J&K to become even more aggressive. So the situation in J&K has deteriorated and our paid media supports the separatist upsurge, exhorting even armed terrorist not be killed despite police stations being burned, weapons looted and attempt made to attack an airbase. Next is the call by Asim Umar, AQIS chief to undertake ‘lone wolf’ attacks to target senior IPS and IAS officers, saying Indian Muslims must follow the example of youths in Europe and strike against Indian police and senior officials.
According to him, senior government officials should be held responsible for communal violence, adding that the state and its departments were equally responsible for the incidents against Muslims in India and senior officials must be targeted to cause financial loss to the government and start riots in the country. Considering the developments in J&K, it would be stupid to not take this seriously especially given the fact that Asim Umar is ISI protégé and Pakistan’s aim is to destabilize India and retard our economic progress. Our youth getting under ISIS influence, in whatever numbers are of concern, even as the NIA has busted few modules in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, as per NIA the ISIS affiliated Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh took advantage of the overly secular approach while setting up its modules in West Bengal.
Today the outfit which allies with the ISIS has become a headache not just in Bangladesh, but in West Bengal. There is news of some youth from Kerala having joined the ISIS travelling via Iran. It was ironic that post the recent terrorist attack n Dhaka, Bangladesh had to ask us to probe Zakir Naik and it is only now that his preachings are being probed including the dubious funding of his Peace TV, which has been broadcasting for years without license to do so. But then there are so many other radicals like Zakir Naik that preach hatred and social unrest and look at certain politicians and section of media supporting Zaki Naik. Finally, we cannot ignore Chinese intelligence establishing the United Liberation Front of West, South, East Asia (ULFWSEA) bringing nine major northeast militant groups including NSCN (K) and ULFA under common umbrella. The terror threat from ULFWSEA should be viewed in its formation simultaneous to the announcement of India’s ‘Act East Policy’, in conjunction China’s claim to entire Arunachal Pradesh and the groups sitting astride the strategic India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway. Our media is hollering to lift AFSPA from Manipur little realizing how China will exploit the UNLFWSEA to wreak havoc in our northeast, China having made her animosity towards India amply clear. We are surely headed for more turbulence.