Don’t hype the iMuj

The Indian Mujahideen might be hiding their weakness

After a long polemic on the Kashmir issue a letter claiming to be from the Indian Mujahideen gets to the point on the fourth of the five pages. It dedicates today’s shooting of a tourist bus outside Delhi’s Jama Masjid to what it calls the “martyrs…who proudly laid down their lives valiantly fighting…the Delhi police on this day.” They refer to the two terrorist suspects killed by Delhi Police at Batla House two years ago. The letter also refers to current events like the developments over the German Bakery case in Maharashtra and communal disturbances in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh.

Into this long list of grand grievances is a relatively quotidian one—“teenaged Salman was brutally beaten up repeatedly by the Delhi Police and was hospitalized.” The letter says that today’s attack is their “unique reply to this and we are always on our toes for a Tit-for-Tat response”.

The inclusion of the beating up of a teenager by Delhi Police in a list which has complaints of an altogether different level suggests that the issue was close to the hearts of the perpetrators. Despite its grandiose claims, the Jama Masjid shooting might have been carried out by people with very local grievances who nevertheless are plugged into the overall narrative of victimhood.

So too the reference to the Batla House shootout. Moreover, the fact that the letter says that the suspects at Batla House died while “valiantly fighting” the Delhi Police undermines the claims of those who argue that the dead were innocent, because innocent victims seldom engage in valiant gunfights with policemen.

The nature of today’s attack—essentially a drive-by shooting with pistols—is not quite the same as the synchronous bombings that the Indian Mujahideen have carried out in the past. It also occurs after a longish lull. It might be that the operational tempo and capacity of the Indian Mujahideen has weakened. The inclusion of a minor local grievance might indicate an inability to find more professional, committed operatives. [Update: There are reports of a botched car bomb as well, strengthening the above argument]

In other words, the iMuj might be masking their weakness with bombast and the perceptions of vulnerability relating to the next month’s Commonwealth Games. Few would have taken such a shooting seriously if it were not for the Games. Which is why even as the law enforcement and intelligence agencies go about their work tracking the perpetrators down, it is important for the media to refrain from hyping up the Indian Mujahideen threat.

Heck, after all, these are people who threaten India with…seepage. The letter is titled “As we bleed, so will you seep”.