Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An inconvenient truth of the terror saga

While the average citizen and the intelligence agencies seem to know that the terror is coming in from our porous borders, this apparent truth is avoided by the political leadership for the sake of political expediency.

Vandana K Mittal

INDIA, RIGHT now, is in the grip of a ‘bomb fever’. Watching news reporters do the bomb count since Saturday (July 26) it seems the easiest thing to do in India is to leave green, packaged bombs all over a city with no one in the crowded city ever seeing anyone actually in the act of planting those bombs. From electricity transformers to shop-fronts to temples and now finally up onto peepal and aam trees, the trail of these green packets of terror is baffling and ever growing.

While the Muslim terrorists are high on the suspect list other wild theories are also doing the rounds on the gossip circuit. Some blame the state government and some the Congress. Whichever way you look at these theories one thing is clear; all this is, actually, shadow boxing between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the general elections next year. It is disturbing to see that at a time when terrorism is looming on the national horizon as a huge threat to the lives of the people and the security of the nation, our political parties are deliberately or otherwise busy blaming one another.

If nothing else, the blame game dexterously takes the attention away from the real issue of the terror tentacles that seem to have spread effortlessly and swiftly through the entire nation. It is no longer possible to conjure up images of Kashmiri separatists or the underworld supported terror groups in Mumbai. Terror is neither confined to any one state nor to any one ethnic profile. It is no longer possible to weave the story of disaffected and under privileged people falling to the lure of terror.

That stage is long gone. While we, as a nation, stuck our head in the sand and pretended that once we had a peace deal with Pakistan stitched up all terror would just fade away, the trainers have successfully trained their cadre within India and moved into the background. The professor (of terror) has done his job; the students are able and willing to carry the torch now.

The signs have been there all along, but, for some inexplicable reason we are unable to follow any lead back to its mastermind and therefore, smash the nerve centres of the terror network. Lashkar-e-Toiba, HUJI, SIMI and many other names have become household names in India but in spite of eerie similarities between the various blasts in the last few years our intelligence agencies seem unable or unwilling to piece the clues together and give a definitive answer to the nation.

I use the word ‘unwilling’ simply because in this country no matter what the disaster, the trail always goes back to the divisive and destructive politics of the country. Ask any citizen in and around Delhi and they will tell you about the large unauthorised shanty towns, full of Bangladeshis that have sprouted all over the city in the last 15 years. Most of them though economic migrants, do pose a serious threat to the nation.

No matter how similar the language and culture of West Bengal and Bangladesh, the fact remains that Bangladesh is a separate sovereign nation and the presence of their citizens in our country in millions is proof of our ineffectual border control and opportunistic vote bank politics. Yet, the reality today is that the question of these illegal immigrants cannot be raised by anyone, in India, without being branded a communalist and anti-Muslim.

This has been a boon for agencies like the Pakistani ISI to simply shift base to Bangladesh and infiltrate the masses moving across the border with some of their own cadre. They move into India and become a part of these extended Bangladeshi colonies. From here to setting up localised terror hubs is just an easy step. One cannot help but marvel at the naiveté with which the news channels report that a teacher, a barber or a local shopwallah has been found to have terror links to Pakistani or Bangladeshi agencies. What do they really expect the terrorist to look like; the poster boys of Al-Qaeda in their full bearded glory or the suave, sinister bad guy of a Bollywood film?

What better way to destroy a country from within but to merge with its people, to live like them, to be one of them and then at an opportune time betray the trust the locals put in them? This is also the best way to sow the ideology of terrorism (Islamic or otherwise) into young, impressionable minds. We all have an idea of what is happening from Kashmir to Assam to Gujarat and yet all this is destined to remain anecdotal conjecture because facing the truth is always politically inconvenient to one group or another.

The BJP cannot raise the issues of security because it is already branded a communal party and is seen as anti-minorities, the Congress cannot do it because it risks losing the Muslim vote bank and its (debatable) secular credentials and there is as yet no other political leader or party that has the will to take on this threat to our country from the terrorists trained by our ‘friendly’ neighbors. Till such a time as our leaders gather the will to work for what is right and not what is merely convenient this issue of Islamic terrorism will remain an ‘inconvenient truth’.

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