The picture’s been bleak, on the security and foreign-affairs front for India, for the past few weeks. On one hand, one could find Chinese soldiers requesting Indian soldiers for photo-shoots near Indian posts in what they called ‘Chinese India’, and on the other hand, Pakistani forces killed 5 Indian jawans at the Line of Control before the Pakistan Senate moved a resolution to term India as the aggressor in recent border skirmishes: a move that was seen as a mockery of the sacrifice made by our soldiers! This may have been met with counter-resolutions and aggressive sloganeering but the issues largely remained unresolved, and the episode only highlighted the meek posture of the Indian MEA and defence establishment. Terrorist attacks are being carried out with a high incidence rate, be it in Bodh Gaya or elsewhere. And in this murky mix, one has suddenly found events that stand out as a ray of light shining through the translucence.
Much like the way Obama got a breather by the killing of USA’s Public Enemy #1 Osama Bin Laden, the capture of Yasin Bhatkal on 28th August 2013 may provide a temporary reprieve for the Indian government. Yasin Bhatkal is allegedly the man who founded the Indian Mujahideen (IM) in 2008, notorious for its activities in the Indian sub-continent and second to none in terms of their terror activities. Bhatkal, born as Ahmed Sidibapa, is on the NIA most wanted list and hails from Bhatkal, Karnataka (hence, the moniker used to refer to him). After the capture of an IM operative in 2011 and two of Bhatkal’s associates subsequently, the intelligence and security establishments of India started Operation Bhatkal to nab the man. After a long chase, Bhatkal was caught in North Bihar. Bhatkal is accused of being responsible for terror strikes in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune, besides being responsible for setting up terror modules in at least eight cities. He is good at disguising himself and has escaped capture deftly a number of times. Incidentally, he tried convincing his captors that he was an engineer when he was nabbed. He even tried to deceive them by telling them that he was a doctor, when his initial ruse was seen through. Products of the machinations of a scheming mind!
Another prize catch was that of Abdul Karim Tunda on 16th August 2013. Tunda, ideologue and expert bomb-maker in the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was caught by the Indian defence establishment near the Indo-Nepal border. It is speculated that he was on his way to carry out more attacks, after Hafiz Saeed gave a call to all terror-outfits to increase their terror activities on and around Independence Day. By his own admission, Tunda was responsible for propping up the LeT in India and making it more than just a Jammu & Kashmir — centred outfit. He admitted that he came in contact with the terror-group in 1991 and has, since then, been working tirelessly to build the outfit outside Kashmir. A carpenter-turned terrorist, Tunda was responsible for a number of terror-attacks, besides being a part of the initiative to channel Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) into India. He has been in touch with outfits such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Indian Mujahideen and Babbar Khalsa, and with people like Dawood Ibrahim and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.
A point of interest in both cases, and that relates to nearly all terrorists, is that of the emergence of terror in the most unlikely places and contexts. One is driven to ask why carpenters in Delhi, students in Kerala and labourers in Karachi are driven to such measures. Most often ideology has a negligible role in the terror activities of the ground-level operatives. Kasab had very little to do with the fiery ‘ideology’-driven speeches of Hafiz Saeed. Historically, it has been seen that the marginalized, the weak, the deprived have taken up terror as a means to attain their goals. The ULFA, the LTTE and the IRA are some examples of outfits that sprang from genuine concern for the deprivation of communities in a certain political structure. This is in sharp contrast to the lives and settings of most operatives in India today. Socio-economic factors play a big role in the conversion of a common man into a terrorist. Besides the very evident economic, and for some – social, problems of some of these individuals, the lives led by these people before their phase as terrorists do not seem to have any factor that instigates them to take up terror, anarchism and violence for attaining goals laid down by fire-spewing ideologues half the sub-continent around. One may be driven to enquire if the changing socio-economic times have led students to take up identity-politics to secure a good future. Today, people may say that outfits like SIMI are thriving because of ideological leanings of students, but one cannot deny that most often the students most affected by these overtures by terror-outfits are fringe-players or those that have found some glaring inadequacy in the present system. If that is so, then we are all the poorer in presenting an inclusive society, a society that has opportunities for all. Increase in community-based economics and lack of economic-mobility is a dangerous trend as well. Today one can see certain communities of weavers who have not done anything other than weaving in generations, and live in a sorry state. Politics of religion and caste, or on any divisive lines, is a dangerous stimulant at times for such conversions. Even though new terror-recruits may be indoctrinated to the point where rationale fails to win over that which is fed to the accepting mind, one can always try to present a case, as a society, that makes a person think twice before picking up a gun.
Education is a key element in this whole subject. Education of young minds is the pivot on which the balance of society rests. Here I am not only talking of religious and independently run schools that indoctrinate students with elements that promote terrorism, be it in Pakistan, India or elsewhere, but I am also talking about the need to instil in students the idea that quick-fire solutions and promotion of one’s interests need not necessarily be through aggressive and often violent ways but one should have the conduit of dialogue, open.
A lot of thinking has to go into how to formulate these ideas into action in the foreseeable future. Or else, Indians will continue to rise and strike against India, just as Tunda and so many others before him did.