Who blocked efforts to smoke out the terrorists?

Intelligence didn’t fail actually. It was vote-bank politics that triumphed

Praveen Swami reports that as long as five months ago, Indian intelligence agencies had leads suggesting that Hyderabad was a target for major terrorist attacks. Even as the media lapses into an instinctive “it was an intelligence failure” mode, Swami’s report confirms what is now the worst kept secret in Indian politics: the Congress Party reckons that their perceived Muslim vote-bank matters more.
It must be Swami who contributed to this editorial:

Indian intelligence has known since March 2007 that eight kilogrammes of military-grade explosive were delivered to an HuJI operative in Hyderabad. However, for its own reasons, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh did not allow the kinds of aggressive — and unpopular — policing that the Central Bureau of Investigation and city police felt were necessary to secure the city. Neither during the recent communal incidents nor in response to the attack on Taslima Nasrin by fundamentalist thugs did the government demonstrate the kind of even-handed political and administrative resolve needed to address the deep communal strains in Hyderabad. It is true that successive governments have failed on this count since 1993, when the first Lashkar-e-Taiba terror module formed in the city. This makes the latest inaction all the more inexcusable. [The Hindu]

Update:The Indian Express editorialises along similar lines:

The underlying common explanation is however to be found at the Centre. The message to security agencies everywhere is that between erring on the side of investigative zeal and politically correct ineffectual policing the former is by far the worse offence. No one is suggesting that the police and other agencies be not held accountable or that some form of community profiling does not sometimes bias investigators. But the solution is surely not the home ministry signaling that it is far more important for security agencies to be nice than effective. [IE]

36 thoughts on “Who blocked efforts to smoke out the terrorists?”

  1. O’ ACORN,
    Don’t Scorn,
    Coz ‘Life is like this’ says rotten corn, Manmohan in his secular lawn,
    Says on and on,
    That the talks must go on, the talks must go on!

  2. Rotten Corn SP is “Laughing shock of the nation”
    “Our country is so big that even if we have the information that something is planned, we do not know where or when”

    Link

  3. Pingback: varnam
  4. The “aggressive policing” that you talk about is basically a free reign to the poilce officers to trample upon the democratic rights of the citizens of India. After the Mumbai train blasts there were continous reports of people being arrested. (50-100 at a time, just for being of a particular religion). This is not democracy. This is not what I want in a free India.

  5. @Rishi

    In your lexicon “free” seems to mean “freedom to kill kafirs in the name of islam”.
    This is the freedom you seek to protect?

    Freedom of terrorists, but bondage of the free! You MUST be a congress-wadi!

  6. I want a free India. I also do not want terrorists to kill anybody. What I take objection to is the method that the police use to obtain information. Large scale arrests are largely useless and do not add any value. They only serve to antagonise people. The need of the hour is better intelligence gathering.

  7. Rishi,

    I agree with you when you say that we need to improve our policing and investigation methods. Today, it involves “filtering”—rounding up a large number of suspects and filtering them off through investigation. It usually involves rounding up the ‘rogues gallery’; but yes, the innocent will find these methods loathsome.

    Does this mean that we should let the cancer spread? I think not. The threat to security is clear and present—and as along as the methods used are even-handed—and even if they are not—there’s a case for going after the baddies with everything we’ve got.

    The process of reforming policing techniques can run in parallel. But it’s absurd to suggest we hold off investigating current crimes because the techniques are not up to scratch. They’ll never be up to scratch, by the way. Talk to NYPD or the London Metropolitan police. Civil rights activists always hold them to higher standards (a good thing).

  8. Btw, the onus is on those who talk about civil liberties etc at such times to tell us at what point will they acknowledge it’s time to start fighting terrorism. Okay, so the UPA rolled back POTA as promised. The Congress Party government began negotiating with Naxalites, ULFA and Pakistan. The bloodshed has only increased. (See this post by nibs on INI Signal)

  9. @Nitin,
    The civil liberties issue is a very large one and one that we should all be concerned about. If others liberties can be trampled, so can one day yours.

    But leaving that aside for a moment, the methods used to check terrorism are age old and not effective. Arresting 50 people is not a way to catch a terrorist. There will be no time for proper interrogation and the innocents will raise a hue and cry. Even if 2 are actually terrorists, they will be let go in the commotion of the innocent 48.

    These are just smokescreens that the police indulges in to fool the public that they are actually doing something, while actually nothing effective is happening.

  10. Rishi,

    I always include myself in the prescriptions I offer others. So what I mentioned applies to me; and I’d understand if it happened to me. That does not mean I won’t be unhappy about it.

    Arresting 50 people is not a way to catch a terrorist. There will be no time for proper interrogation and the innocents will raise a hue and cry. Even if 2 are actually terrorists, they will be let go in the commotion of the innocent 48.

    And what would you propose? You mentioned intelligence gathering. It turns out that there was intelligence to the effect…but gathering specific intelligence would involve rounding 50 people up. But you don’t support this. Then how does one tackle terrorism?

    And I don’t mean this entirely as a rhetorical question. It’ll be good to see ideas and strategies being discussed rather then simply claiming that current methods don’t work.

  11. Notwithstanding the appalling insensitivity of this statement, I wish the people who have heaped abuse on Nitin and are defending Muslim Appeasement politics of the Congress and other governments, lose some of their relatives in the next inevitable terror strikes in the country!

    Its won’t be that easy for armchair defendants of “civil liberties” to talk about Police abuse when its their own friends and relatives who have been blown to pieces because of this criminal negligence by the government.

  12. Balaji,

    1. That was uncalled for, I can understand your frustation, I too have done that in the past, however this line of rhetoric doesn’t bring us to resolution.

    2. I do believe that there are Indians who will persist with rhetoric of “civil liberty” even after losing their relatives, loss of instinct of self-preservation is the surest sign of servile class.

  13. According to the International Herald Tribune:

    The toll has grown ominous. For the past two years, India was second only to Iraq in the number of terrorist fatalities worldwide, with 1,361 deaths in 2005 and 1,256 in 2006, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. government’s National Counterterrorism Center.

    According to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the National Press Club in Washington a year ago, and as quoted in this article by M.V.Kamath:

    We have 150 million citizens who practice the faith of Islam. And I say it with some pride, that not one of them has joined the ranks of these gangs like the al Qaida or other terrorist outfits… [emphasis mine]

    With this kind of endorsement, backed up by iron clad intelligence of course, emanating from the highest ranking official of the Indian Government speaking on foreign soil, why would any lowly RAW or CBI official even bother to be more effective?

  14. I do believe that there are Indians who will persist with rhetoric of “civil liberty” even after losing their relatives, loss of instinct of self-preservation is the surest sign of servile class.

    Gaurav, is it your case that tough action against terrorism is impossible without major civil liberties violations? Also, does it follow from your and Balaji’s contentions that you will give up liberties in the cause of fighting terrorism if someone you care about has suffered, when there is no assurance that your sacrifices will lead to any ‘greater good’? All the posturing is about who gets to keep the change in the next ‘five year plan’. One expects a cynic such as yourself to see through 🙂

    Let’s not talk about civil liberties as if it’s an ivory tower concept. People who are frequently ’rounded up’ or languish in jails as undertrials appreciate it I’m sure.

    Balaji, most of us are armchair critics anyway.

  15. Nanda,

    “Gaurav, is it your case that tough action against terrorism is impossible without major civil liberties violations?”

    Yes, (Though “major” modifier is debatable)

    “Also, does it follow from your and Balaji’s contentions that you will give up liberties in the cause of fighting terrorism if someone you care about has suffered, when there is no assurance that your sacrifices will lead to any ‘greater good’?”

    In light of first answer this question is irrelevant.

  16. First of all, I think it’s a sad testimony to the ‘spirit’ of our times that justification for public issues needs to be made in a personal context. “You’ll know only when it happens to you” is both the presumption and the justification of these arguments.

    On the civil liberties issue: regular readers of this blog will be aware that The Acorn is a champion of individual rights and freedoms. Civil liberties and secularism are meaningful only in the context of rights and freedoms. But this blog also advocates an robust, uncompromising approach towards those who stand against India’s national interests—against terrorists, in this case. Are these two positions contradictory? Of course not. For without the State, it is impossible to guarantee rights and freedoms of the individuals, and hence to protect civil liberties and secularism.

    It follows then, that terrorists who want to destroy the state have little regard for civil liberties and secularism. And conversely, fighting terrorists is in the interests of civil liberties and secularism. Isn’t this obvious?

    That’s why those who champion ‘protection of civil liberties’ as the only thing can’t taken seriously. Indeed, sometimes it is hard to shake-off the conclusion that oftentimes, their activism masks an altogether different agenda.

  17. @Nitin
    There are many ways to improve the system.

    1. Focus on forensic investigation – In the Bombay blasts (2006) there was no investigation done. We still do not know for sure what container the bombs were kept in. The bogies were not cordoned off initially or searched later. In contrast, with the Bali bombings, the investigators went through the blast wreckage with a fine toothed comb. They searhced for 3 weeks and finally found the engine number of the car that drove the bombers. This finally led to their capture and conviction later.

    2. Improve intelligence – intelligence should be actionable. Any intelligence that says that one of 50 or 100 men are guilty is basically useless. e.g. There was talk about chat room conversations. Good intelligence would be the IP address of the person chatting. Bad intelligence would be that someone from hyderabad is planning to bomb something.

  18. Rishi,

    Won’t disagree with that. But I posed a question for you (see comment #14).

    “And what would you propose? You mentioned intelligence gathering. It turns out that there was intelligence to the effect…but gathering specific intelligence would involve rounding 50 people up. But you don’t support this. Then how does one tackle terrorism?”

  19. Rishi,

    If you mean comment #26, that doesn’t take us anywhere towards answering my question.

    Forensics helps in solving a case, not preventing/deterring terrorists. In any case, it’s not as if Indian police don’t have forensic units. They do.

    Your second point is merely a re-statement. Improving intelligence is not something you can always do sitting behind a computer. Even when it comes to tracking, say IP addresses as you suggest, it’s not as if you can track it down to one person. (Think cyber cafe). The point is that improving intelligence necessarily involves treading on civil liberties, not least in India’s context. There’s no painless way…

  20. There is no arguing that intelligence gathering is of paramount importance in crime prevention. When it comes to terrorism of this kind, to prise out information from the community, one need recriuts from the community. The question is how many are recruited into IB, RAW. SPG, etc from the Muslim community?

  21. RS,

    The question is how many are recruited into IB, RAW. SPG, etc from the Muslim community?

    I’d say that it is more important to have intelligence assets within the Muslim community.

  22. “For without the State, it is impossible to guarantee rights and freedoms of the individuals, and hence to protect civil liberties and secularism.”
    @Nitin,

    But when people don’t have faith in the state, in the police – which is very reasonable considering the amount of corruption that a common man faces in his everyday dealings with the government and the police – it’s only natural to expect there will be opposition to any “legalization” of violation of civil liberties in the name of anti-terrorism.

    There has not been any significant successes of police in nabbing the culprits of the previous terrorist attacks, which would inspire confidence among the citizens to bear the temporary pain for the sake of greater good. Especially with any number of stories about police complicity in a variety of illegal activities, rioting etc etc.. and the regular bribe-seeking traffic guy.

    A push for reforms in law and order enforcement, separation of police-politician nexus, efficient justice system is in order – it’s not as if we are new customers of internal terrorism – be it naxalism, kashmir militancy, north-east terrorism, communal riots etc etc.. at no point I have seen any major debate in this direction.. even protests management is pathetic!

  23. Jujung,

    As a matter of fact, civil society has managed to compel the government to reform policing. Not through protests and shrill activism, but through patient, civil initiative.

    But guess who is dragging their feet on implementing the Supreme Court’s directive?

    I agree with you on one thing—most people don’t even make an effort to voice out in favour of things like police reform. But you’ll see them crying foul at corrupt cops or civil rights abuses. As if good governance grows on trees.

  24. Nitin,

    “… but gathering specific intelligence would involve rounding 50 people up….”
    You seem to say this in the context of deterrence and investigation.

    I disagree on the deterrence part. Is that how intel operations work, with such wide-sweeping raids. One would have to be a comatose terrorist NOT to notice that and work around it. I think deterrence should be pretty much on the quiet until it came time to swoop down and nab the culprits hopefully in time to prevent the attack.

    I agree more with these raids for post-facto investigation. Here, I think the suggestion from Rishi and others is that the ‘traditional’ investigative method involves rounding up 100s of people of the ‘likely’ community and abusing/ threatening/ roughing / bashing them up to see if something can be shaken loose. No direct experience of such methods thankfully but this is kind of the accepted norm if those picked up, as usual are from the lower economic strata.

    Such investigation could be counter productive. If you routinely bash up 50 ppl you could end up creating 2 terrorists- and these guys would be the ones that know most about how they can escape your sweep the next time around, they had plenty of experience, right.

    Rishi,
    I think Nitin clarifies that he is speaking of methods that would apply to PLUS, him included in these deterrence measures.

    regards,
    Jai

  25. Jai,

    I’m not sure what you disagree with about deterrence.

    But as for the raids, they are used for both collecting intelligence and for investigating a case after an incident.

    However, experts said these concerns were misplaced. “It is imperative that intelligence work and policing are kept out of the domain of party politics,” the former Intelligence Bureau Director, Ajit Doval, told The Hindu. “If the intelligence services find out that I am about to plant a bomb in New Delhi,” he argued, “the common-sense thing to do is to detain my friends and associates in order to discover where I might be.” [The Hindu]

    In addition to the article linked above, take a look at this.

    It is nobody’s claim that the techniques used are painless or perfect or without side-effects. But we are yet to see alternatives that show results. So TADA and POTA were draconian. Post-POTA, we have these series of terrorist attacks across the country. Let’s accept POTA was draconian. It turns out that the alternative isn’t working.

  26. A MUST READ…….

    Dear Editors of HT, TOI, IndianExpress and TheHindu, I got the mail below from a friend of mine and following the unwritten code of conduct, I am forwarding it to my friends but all efforts of people who have been forwarding this mail would go waste if this mail doesn’t reach YOU……

    Something to think about..!!

    Shame on Indian Media??? Really what a shame…

    By the time u guys read this news, the body of Major Manish Pitambare, who was shot dead at Anantnag, would have been cremated with full military honors.

    On Tuesday, this news swept across all the news channels ‘Sanjay Dutt relieved by court’. ‘Sirf Munna not a bhai’ ’13 saal ka vanvaas khatam’ ‘although found guilty for possession of armory, Sanjay can breath sigh of relief as all the TADA charges against him are withdrawn’ Then many personalities like Salman Khan said ‘He is a good person. We knew he will come out clean’. Mr Big B said “Dutt’s family and our family have relations for years he’s a good kid. He is like elder brother to Abhishek”. His sister Priya Dutt said “we can sleep well tonight. It’s a great relief”

    In other news, Parliament was mad at Indian team for performing bad; Greg Chappell said something; Shah Rukh Khan replaces Amitabh in KBC and other such stuff. But most of the emphasis was given on Sanjay Dutt’s “phoenix like” comeback from the ashes of terrorist charges. Surfing through the channels, one news on BBC startled me. It read “Hisbul Mujahidin’s most wanted terrorist ‘Sohel Faisal’ killed in Anantnag , India . Indian Major leading the operation lost his life in the process. Four others are injured.

    It was past midnight , I started visiting the stupid Indian channels, but Sanjay Dutt was still ruling. They were telling how Sanjay pleaded to the court saying ‘I’m the sole bread earner for my family’, ‘I have a daughter who is studying in US’ and so on. Then they showed how Sanjay was not wearing his lucky blue shirt while he was hearing the verdict and also how he went to every temple and prayed for the last few months. A suspect in Mumbai bomb blasts, convicted under armory act…was being transformed into a hero.

    Sure Sanjay Dutt has a daughter; Sure he did not do any terrorist activity. Possessing an AK47 is considered too elementary in terrorist community and also one who possesses an AK47 has a right to possess a pistol so that again is not such a big crime; Sure Sanjay Dutt went to all the temples;
    Sure he did a lot of Gandhigiri but then…….. …..

    Major Manish H Pitambare got the information from his sources about the terrorists’ whereabouts. Wasting no time he attacked the camp, killed Hisbul Mujahidin’s supremo and in the process lost his life to the bullets fired from an AK47.

    Just like Sunjay Dutt he is survived by a wife and daughter who’s only 18 months old.

    Major Manish never said ‘I have a daughter’ before he took the decision to attack the terrorists in the darkest of nights. He never thought about having a family and he being the bread earner. No news channel covered this since they were too busy hyping a former drug addict, a suspect who’s linked to bomb blasts which killed hundreds. Their aim was to show how he defied the TADA charges and they were so successful that his conviction in possession of armory had no meaning. They also concluded that his parents in heaven must be happy and proud of him.

    Parents of Major Manish are still living and they have to live rest of their lives without their beloved son. His daughter won’t ever see her daddy again.

    So guys, please forward this message around so that the media knows which news to give importance, as it is a shame for us since this Army Major’s death news was given by a foreign TV channel!!! Where they know worth of Patriotism.

    If you believe in it, don’t feel shy in forwarding it.

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