President & Group Managing Director: Dr.Shelly Ahmed | Editor in Chief & CEO: M H Ahssan
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query terrorism. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query terrorism. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, March 02, 2009

Book Review: Making Sense Of “Packaged” Terrorism

By M H Ahssan

Packaging Terrorism: Co-opting the News for Politics and Profit
If you are thinking why we are talking about a book on the media coverage of terrorism in a space like this one, let me tell you one thing upfront: One, because this is a rare and important book and two, because terrorism, no matter where you are and what your profession is, can claim you as a victim.

Also, we have witnessed routinely how Internet-savvy terrorism has become of late: terrorism sites host beheading videos and broadcast threats of attack, terrorists abuse social networks and chat rooms for recruitments, and they use applications such as Google Earth for planning attacks (as seen in last year’s Mumbai attacks). Terrorists have been successfully using the new media to imbed fear into our hearts through our eyeballs.

The larger truth is that terrorism is the politics of our times. And like politics, even if you are not interested in it, it is interested in you.
The Grand Narrative Of Our Times

Every era has its own grand narrative. Ours has been, at least for the last decade or so, terrorism. Before that, Kennedy’s and Reagan’s era was about the cold war, Clinton’s about globalisation and WTO and until recently, George W. Bush’s of global terrorism and the ‘war on terror’.

This grand narrative, however, is taking yet another new direction under president Barack Obama. The express reckoning is that the global financial crisis is a greater threat to the USA than terrorism. It is an even bigger threat to the United States’ national security than the al Qaeda terrorist network or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, said retired admiral Dennis Blair, the Obama administration’s director of national intelligence, in his first appearance before the US Congress.

While the shift from terror to finance is still happening, it is a good time to look at the ogre of terrorism that has been the bane of our life and times. And if you haven’t ever thought about how the media brings the ‘news’ of terrorism to us, Dr Moeller’s book can be an eye opener. She is the director of the International Centre for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland, College Park, US. If you are afraid the book will be a dry read, you are in for a surprise. The book is not jargon-heavy, is divided into short chapters and uses a lot of examples to establish claims and observations.

Packaging Terrorism For Our Consumption
The book is about a very simple idea. “The idea is this: that it’s not the acts of terrorism that most matter in the post-9/11 world,” writes Dr Moeller in her introduction, “it’s what we are told to think about the acts of terror. Politicians tell us what to think. The media tells us what to think. Even terrorists tell us what to think. They all want to attract our attention…They all have agendas. They all are packaging terrorism for our consumption. We are the audience for all those disparate actors.”

So, in a nutshell, this book is about how to make sense of the ‘packaged’ terrorism that is thrown at us from time to time—from New York, London, Madrid, Kabul, Bali and Bombay.

Chapter by chapter, Dr Moeller builds up the gory picture of terrorism and its manipulation—by terrorists, politicians and media barons. She begins with the basics such as what is terrorism, how 9/11 happened, how president Bush and his ‘vulcans’ (Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz) crafted the war on terror—a label for their unilateralist and interventionist foreign policy goals, and how the American (and the copycat global) media responded.

Media Response To The War On Terror
“The media responded as directed—and as they always have at the start of a national crisis,” writers Dr Moeller. “At the end of October 2001, the then CNN chairman Walter Isaacson wrote a memo to his staff members that ordered them to balance the broadcast images of civilian devastation in Afghanistan with reminders of the American lives lost at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.” And thus began, according to Moeller, the beginning of a misleading media spin on the war on terror. “Isaacson was wrong,” she argues. “The American public deserved to know more about the casualties and hardship in Afghanistan. The public needed to know more about the meaning and the effect of the president co-opting 9/11 and co-opting the patriotic, broad-based interest in responding through a ‘War on Terror’.”

After examining the genesis of the ‘War on Terror’, Dr Moeller brings under her microscope various media-related issues that underlie the reporting on terrorism. Some examples: use of the umbrella words and phrases such as ‘terrorist’, ‘madrassa’ and ‘weapons of mass destruction’, defining terrorism, why news standards matter, and the politics of media coverage.

“Over and over, time and again, my centre’s studies revealed that the victims of terrorism rarely appear in the stories about it,” she says. “Media cover international affairs through the lens of their own country’s foreign policy—especially as articulated by its leadership.” Think of last year’s Mumbai terror attacks and how quickly it became an India and Pakistan issue, and how the media in the two countries adopted nationalistic agendas in reporting and discussing the attacks.

Citizen Journalism And Terrorism
With a rich cache of examples, the book traces a variety of developments in the media sector that arose while covering terrorism. One of the most fascinating aspects of these developments is the rise of citizen journalism, especially photos and videos, that came from citizens as well as professional photographers that were much discussed, many achieving iconic status. Perhaps blogs were invented just for this—when the mainstream media became shy of covering something or could not reach some areas, bloggers stepped in (remember the Baghdad blogger?) to fill the void. Very recently, the pain and suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza would not have come out in the open had it not been for the bloggers in Gaza and Israel who wrote the accounts of loss online when Israel had embargoed the foreign media in Gaza in its three weeks’ assault early this year.

The Brave New World Of Murders And Restrictions
With terrorism rampant in the world, what is most disturbing is the governments’ control (and thus manipulation) on the media coverage of the theatre of operations—in terms of restricting access to the war zones (embed restrictions) or killing of journalists. Consider these facts:

Among the first killed by the Hutus during the genocide in Rwanda were 14 local journalists.

How many people know that for the past decade Algeria has been ravaged by war that has left an estimated 100,000 dead? Not many, because both sides in that conflict have taken turns murdering journalists: 60 at last count. Same in Chechnya.
Many don’t seem to be noticing that there is less and less coverage of the war in Iraq. By the summer of 2008, noted the New York Times, there were only half a dozen Western photographers covering the country, even though 150,000 American and 4,100 British troops remained engaged there. Why? Because of the “danger, the high cost to financially ailing media outlets and diminished interest among Americans in following the war.”

To ensure free and fair coverage of terrorism, the priority must be to build civil societies, including media, from inside out and the ground up, suggests the author. In conclusion, she says that we need to move beyond spin, ask questions because we don’t have all the answers, and evaluate what we are being told. “We need a vibrant, spirited, diverse, and pluralistic media at home and around the world,” she says.
To deal with the global curse of terrorism, the media needs to rise above all kinds of boundaries and re-evaluate their exceptionalism. Dr Moeller aptly recalls Dr Martin Luther King’s message: “A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” (‘Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence’, 1967).

“If we do not act,” added Dr King for action, “we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. Now let us begin.”

Even though it seems to be too late, can we still begin now?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Burning Issue: How Exactly Does The Indian Media Define A Terrorist?

By M H AHSSAN | INNLIVE

The English-language media's use of the term seems to be dictated by muscular nationalism and an anti-Kashmir bias rather than any objective parameters.

On July 10, India woke up to startling pictures of massive crowds at the funeral of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in Tral, Kashmir.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Investigation: Marks On The Water

By M H Ahssan & Deepti Waghmare

The Pak connection is almost confirmed. Is it another LeT-D Company cocktail?

As commandos of the Indian navy flushed the Taj Mahal hotel of terrorists, they came upon a bag containing ammunition, magazines, wallets with photo-IDs, fake credit cards and a huge stock of almonds. Twenty-four hours had passed and the terrorists were still active, so investigators were barely up to sifting through evidence. But pressed for an early assessment, they dismissed the e-mail sent by a certain ‘Deccan Mujahideen’ claiming responsibility as a red herring. The name doing the rounds is the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), purportedly working in close coordination with a section of the Mumbai underworld and rogue elements of Pakistan’s isi. But neither Maharashtra dgp A.N. Roy nor Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gaffoor would confirm the involvement of this deadly troika.

In fact, early intelligence assessments suggest that some of the terrorists who came in were young British Muslims of Pakistani origin. Sources say they had been in training for well over a year but the final decision to carry out the assault was given at the annual conference of the LeT held in Muridke, PoK, last week. The Mumbai operation, apparently, was funded by Saudi Arabia-based Abdul Bari. He’s part of a larger international terror network and has financed strikes in India earlier too.

In a major breakthrough, investigators had traced the ship in which the terrorists made their way from Pakistan to the Mumbai coast by Thursday evening. The fishing vessel, Kuber, was found off the coast of Mumbai and some satellite phones recovered from it. The boat is owned by a Porbander-based businessman, Vinoo Masani, who has been detained for questioning. Kuber left Gujarat 14 days ago with six crew members who are believed to have been killed by the terrorists who hijacked the boat. Investigators are looking into how this will bring out the Pakistan connection.

If the Kuber was indeed hijacked, then the modus operandi becomes clear. Proceed to Indian waters in a Gujarat-registered vessel (Regn No. 2302) so as not to attract attention and then move into the mainland on dinghies.

Meanwhile, analysis of the accents of the two (purported) terrorists in conversations they had with a private TV channel suggested they are either expat Pakistanis or from Punjab there. The use of "muthbhed" (encounter) instead of the term "muqabla" is a dead giveaway, says analysts. Like Pakistani Punjabis, they also signed off saying "Allah hafiz", instead of "khuda hafiz." Maj Gen R.K. Hooda, goc (Maharashtra and Goa area), says the intercepts during the operations revealed that they spoke to each other in Punjabi. Prior technical intercepts as well as other sources had suggested a major attack was to go down in Mumbai via the sea and that the Taj Mahal Hotel would be targeted. These inputs had been looked at but with few concrete leads, no preventive action was taken.

Intelligence sources told Outlook that Dawood’s men in Mumbai may have provided the logistics support. An official told us, "Dawood has this diesel smuggling network in Mumbai—diesel is downloaded from tankers in the high seas off the coast of Mumbai and then brought in using high-speed boats. Our inputs suggest that these guys provided safe passage to the terrorists. They provided the boats, the cars and reports on the patrolling schedules of the coastguard. The idea was to hit the international community as well as shake up the top businesses in the country."

Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh said that 20-25 terrorists were involved in the attack this time but "it was too early to say anything concrete. We have leads, but we won’t talk until there is confirmation". Two of the terrorists, chased after they hijacked a police jeep, were gunned down near Chowpatty.

Reports say five others were gunned down inside the hotels. A lucky break for the cops was the arrest of Abu from Faridkot in Pakistan. He was held after the Skoda shootout incident where one terrorist was killed. Abu’s interrogation had not begun till late Thursday night. As we go to press, agencies reported that another three arrests were made at the Taj hotel. One of the arrested was Ajmal Amir Kamal, also from Faridkot.

Analysts who have gone through the ‘Deccan Mujahideen’ e-mail say many of the issues raised in it were copied from the last missive by the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ after the Gujarat blasts.

The latter had raised issues like Muslims being "targeted and harassed" in Mumbai and had warned that they would hurt the city and the state ats.

The scale of the operation itself points towards organised logistic help. "From the weapons, the fake visa credit cards, the amount of ammunition each terrorist was carrying, it is quite clear they have been trained and equipped by a foreign state. It’s also clear that the training came from naval experts, familiar with special operations," say sources.

Indian intelligence is closely examining the involvement of Tauqeer Subhan, an ex-simi member and suspected component of the Indian Mujahideen. He hails from Mumbai and would have been able to provide key details such as the presence of the Chabad Lubavitch, an ultra-orthodox Israeli Jewish organisation that provides support and services to Israelis visiting India.

Incidentally, Indian intelligence has reports that Subhan was in regular touch with the LeT and information gleaned from various interrogation reports of his colleagues suggest he had also helped route finance from the LeT to the Indian Mujahideen. The IB is also looking at the involvement of Riyaz Bhatkal, suspected to be a key force behind earlier bombing attacks carried out in various states this year.

The marine commandos, who were the first to be inducted into the counter-terror operations, had reported this to their superiors: the terrorists were professional, highly motivated and had come with enough ammunition, explosives and food to last several days. Said Vice-Admiral J.S. Bedi, flag officer commanding-in-chief of the Western Naval Command: "Our commandos recovered plastic explosives, several AK-56 magazines, hand grenades and dry fruits. My men also said the terrorists had done their homework well...knew exactly how to cause maximum damage."

What Are India's Options? "Bomb Islamabad!" That's what a representative of the Samajwadi Party suggested at one of the UPA meetings. But are there serious options that one could look at as a credible response to these terror attacks? Writing in a post for his blog on The New Yorker, Steve Coll, an old and much respected hand on security affairs in South Asia had something interesting to say about the terrorist attack in Mumbai and the likely reaction from Pakistan. His argument is that the options for India are limited. Simply because the Pakistanis know that they are blessed when it comes to its relevance in geo-politics:

"The Pakistan Army understands this international equation thoroughly and exploits the gaps—it is careful not to expose its direct fingerprints, and yet it is brazenly persistent in pursuit of its objective of military pressure against India in Kashmir and political-military pressure on India more broadly."

So what are the options that India can exercise in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack?

If the politicians are to be believed, there was a lot of sabre rattling at two meetings held by the government on Sunday, November 30 night. While the all-party meet called by the government was a more sedate affair, an earlier meeting organised exclusively for the UPA and its allies, held in Parliament was more telling. A representative of the Samajwadi Party is said to have suggested that this was a good time to "bomb Islamabad!"

Fine. Let's bomb Islamabad, assuming we have the capability to do so and that the frontline aircraft of the Indian Air force are all serviceable, the MiG-21s ready to escort the bombers, and we can launch a full-scale military attack by penetrating the secure skies over Islamabad and then bomb it back to the stone age.

But are we really ready for a war?

Are we ready for the fallout when two nuclear nations go to war? Are we ready for destroying everything that we have built in the last decade and a half? Are we prepared for rolling back our consistent 9 percent growth story and undertake hardships that several generations of Indians have never seen?

All this must be weighed before we take on the job of rattling our sabres. We did that once, post December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament. What did we really achieve from that 11-month old stand off with the Pakistanis? We stood on the border and they stood on the border, eyeball to eyeball, and we finally sent the forces back to the bunkers after that. But not before we had spent something to the tune of Rs 6000 crores (the official figures put it at a much lower figure pegging it a few hundred crores) and lost many precious lives of our soldiers, who stepped on mines not mapped, or tried to clear mines with bare hands while our bureaucrats held back critical mine clearing equipment.

Our air force, sanctioned 39.5 combat squadrons, is down to 30 off squadrons, our armoured corps doesn't have the tanks to roll in, our infantry is horribly tied up in counter-insurgency operations, our soldiers and officers are poorly paid and cheated in pay commission after pay commission, while we talk about "bombing Islamabad."

But there are options that one could look at as a credible response to these terror attacks.

More than us, more than the Americans or the British, it is the average Pakistani who knows that they are living in a failed state. They know that their economy is in shambles, their young men are becoming ready fodder for the terror factory and governance is being remote controlled by a military-industrial complex that is also making billions as we speak.

The international outrage that has emerged after the terrorist attack is an opportunity that rarely presents itself in a nation's history. This is the time to forge partnerships with all those willing to work with us.

Intelligence cooperation has already been ramped up (the first warning for the current attack came from the Americans) and there are other diplomatic measures that are already underway. But, this is also the time to build partnerships with those elements in Pakistan who recognise the fact that the idea of Pakistan is in greater danger than from these terrorists than its declared enemies.

This is the time to look for partnerships in intelligence gathering -- not just the non-functional anti terror mechanism that was set up earlier, but a mechanism that produces hard, actionable intelligence that can be put to good use. This is the time to look at joint covert operations against terrorists and their infrastructure simply because this is a job that the Pakistanis cannot do on their own. The Americans, the British and the NATO forces are already in the region and this is as good a time as any to build partnerships with them.

Perhaps a partnerships sounds too utopian and unrealistic, a diplomatic impossibility in times of rhetoric. But look at the facts. There is no terror attack that can bend a nation as resilient as India. It has an innate strength that will ensure that the good news story, that India was, will continue to hold true.

A lot will have to be done to weed out the systemic failures in our security apparatus. It is not about "intelligence failure" and as this case has shown, our intelligence actually produced good stuff. By calling it "intelligence failure" we are trivialising the discussion to a level that is insulting to our counter-terror mechanism as well as security apparatus. Instead, we have to realise that systemic faults have to be addressed systematically. The overhaul, if the political leadership is willing, will have to happen over months, and perhaps years. But if politics goes back to the usual set of empty promises, the usual rhetoric and the usual coteries, that will be an attack on the very idea of India itself. And the time to act, is now.

An Action Plan: Post the terror attacks in Mumbai, leaving aside what to do vis-à-vis Pakistan, there is a whole lot more that needs to be addressed in the way we approach our security and intelligence set-up.

1: Set up a National Commission of professionals with no political agenda, in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, to enquire into all the major terrorist strikes that have taken place in the Indian territory outside Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) since November,2007, and task it to submit its report within four months, with no extensions given. Its charter will be not the investigation of the criminal cases arising from these terrorist strikes, but the investigation of the deficiencies and sins of commission and omission in our counter-terrorism agencies at the Centre and in the States, which made these strikes possible.

2: Induct proved experts in terrorism and counter-terrorism from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the State Police and the Army into the R&AW at senior levels. Presently, the R&AW does not have any such expertise at senior levels. Of the four officers at the top of the pyramid, two are generalists, one is an expert in Pakistan (Political) and the other in China (Political).

3: A similar induction from the State Police and the Army would be necessary in the case of the IB too. Since I have no personal knowledge of the officers at the top of its pyramid, I am not in a position to be specific.

4: Make the IB the nodal point for all liaison with foreign intelligence and security agencies in respect of terrorism, instead of the R&AW.Give the IB direct access to all foreign internal intelligence and security agencies, instead of having to go through the R&AW.

5: Have a common data base on terrorism shared by the IB and the R&AW directly accessible by authorized officers of the two organizations through a secure password.

6: Make the Multi-Disciplinary Centre of the IB function as it was meant to function when it was created-- as a centre for the continuous identification of gaps and deficiencies in the available intelligence and for removing them and for effective follow-up action.

7: Revive the covert action capability of the R&AW and strengthen it. Its charter should make it clear that it will operate only in foreign territory and not in Indian territory. Give it specific, time-bound tasks. All covert actions should be cleared and co-ordinated by the R&AW. Other agencies should not be allowed to indulge in covert actions.

8: The National Security Guards (NSG) was created as a special intervention force to deal with terrorist situations such as hijacking and hostage-taking. Stop using it for VIP security purposes. Station one battalion each of the NSG in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. Ensure that its regional deployment does not affect its in-service training. Review the rapid response capability of the NSG in the light of the Mumbai experience and remove loopholes. In handling the Kandahar hijacking of 1999 and the Mumbai terrorist strikes, the delay in the response of the NSG would appear to have been due to a delay in getting an aircraft for moving the NSG personnel to Mumbai from Delhi.

9: Give the police in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore a special intervention capability to supplement that of the NSG.

10: After the series of hijackings by the Khalistani terrorists in the early 1980s, Indira Gandhi had approved a proposal for the training of Indian experts in dealing with hostage situations and hostage negotiation techniques by foreign intelligence agencies, which have acknowledged expertise in these fields.

The training slots offered by the foreign agencies have been largely monopolized by the IB and the R&AW. The utilization of these training slots and the selection of officers for the training should be decided by the NSA-- with one-third of the slots going to Central agencies, one-third to the NSG and one-third to the State Police. It is important to build up a core of terrorism and counter-terrorism expertise in all metro towns.

11: The IB’s Multi-Disciplinary Centre should have a constantly updated database of all serving and retired officers at the Centre and in the States, who had undergone overseas training, and also of all serving and retired officers and non-governmental figures who have expertise in terrorism and counter-terrorism so that their expertise could be tapped, when needed.

12: Strengthen the role of the police stations in counter-terrorism in all major cities. Make it clear to all Station House Officers that their record in preventing acts of terrorism, in contributing to the investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases and in consequence management after a terrorist strike will be an important factor in assessing their suitability for further promotion. Revive and strengthen the beat system, revive and intensify the local enquiries for suspicious activities in all railway stations, bus termini, airports, hotels, inns and other places and improve police-community relations. An important observation of the UK’s Security and Intelligence Committee of the Prime Minister, which enquired into the London blasts of July,2005, was that no counter-terrorism strategy will succeed unless it is based on the co-operation of the community from which the terrorists have arisen. The UK now has what they call a community-based counter-terrorism strategy. The willingness of different communities to co-operate will largely depend on the relations of the police officers at different levels with the leaders and prominent members of the communities.

13: Adopt the British practice of having Counter-terrorism Security Advisers in Police Stations. Post them in all urban police stations. Their job will be to constantly train the PS staff in the performance of their counter-terrorism duties, to improve relations with the communities and to closely interact with owners of public places such as hotels, restaurants, shopping malls etc and voluntarily advise them on the security precautions to be taken to prevent terrorist strikes on soft targets and to mitigate the consequences if strikes do take place despite the best efforts of the police to prevent them.

14: Stop using the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) as a dumping ground for retired officers, who are favoured by the Government. The NSCS cannot be effective in its role of national security management if it is not looked upon with respect by the serving officers. The serving officers look upon the retired officers of the NSCS as living in the past and in a make-believe world of their own totally cut off from the ground realities of today in national security management. The NSCS should be manned only by serving officers of acknowledged capability for thinking and action.

15: Strengthen the role of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) as a Government-sponsored think tank of non-governmental experts in security matters to assist the NSCA and the NSA. Give it specific terms of reference instead of letting it free lance as it often does. It should be discouraged from undertaking esoteric studies.

16: Set up a separate Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) to deal with internal security. Assessment of intelligence having a bearing on internal security requires different expertise and different analytical tools than assessment of intelligence having a bearing on external security.

In 1983, Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister, bifurcated the JIC and created a separate JIC for internal security. Rajiv Gandhi reversed her decision. Her decision was wise and needs to be revived.

17: Set up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) under the National Security Adviser (NSA) to ensure joint operational action in all terrorism-related matters. It can be patterned after a similar institution set up in the US under Director, National Intelligence after 9/11. The National Commission set up by the US Congress to enquire into the 9/11 terrorist strikes had expressed the view that better co-ordination among the various agencies will not be enough and that what was required was a joint action command similar to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Armed Forces. Its tasks should be to monitor intelligence collection by various agencies, avoid duplication of efforts and resources, integrate the intelligence flowing from different agencies and foreign agencies, analyse and assess the integrated intelligence and monitor follow-up action by the Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other concerned agencies. Every agency is equally and jointly involved and responsible for the entire counter-terrorism process starting from collection to action on the intelligence collected. If such a system had existed, post-Mumbai complaints such as those of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) that the advisories issued by them on the possibility of a sea-borne attack by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) on Mumbai were not acted upon by the Mumbai Police would not have arisen because the IB and the R&AW would have been as responsible for follow-up action as the Mumbai Police.

18: The practice of the privileged direct access to the Prime Minister by the chiefs of the IB and the R&AW, which came into force under Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, should be vigorously enforced. This privileged direct access is utilised by the intelligence chiefs to bring their concerns over national security and over inaction by the agencies responsible for follow-up on their reports to the personal notice of the Prime Minister and seek his intervention. If the intelligence chiefs had brought to the notice of the Prime Minister the alleged inaction of the Mumbai Police on their reports, he might have intervened and issued the required political directive to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

19: Either create a separate Ministry of Internal Security or strengthen the role of the existing Department of Internal Security in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and make it responsible for dealing with internal security operationally under the over-all supervision of the Minister for Home Affairs.

20: Either create a separate federal terrorism investigation agency or empower the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate all cases involving terrorism of a pan-Indian dimension. It need not take up cases where terrorism is confined to a single state or a small region such as terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir or the Al Umma in Tamil Nadu. It should be able to take up the cases for investigation without the need for prior permission from the Governments of the States affected. It should not have any responsibility for investigating crimes other than terrorism. If its charter is expanded to cover other crimes too, there will be political opposition. There is a lot of confusion about this concept of a federal terrorism investigation agency. Many critics ask when the IB is there, what is the need for another central agency. The IB is an intelligence collection agency and not an investigation agency. The IB has no locus standi in the Indian criminal laws.

It collects intelligence and not evidence usable in a court of law. It cannot arrest and interrogate a suspect or search premises or perform other tasks of a similar nature, which can be performed only by police officers of the rank of Station House Officers. The IB officers are not recognized as equivalent to SHOs.

21: Set up a task force consisting of three senior and distinguished Directors-General of Police (DGPs) and ask it to come up with a list of recommendations for strengthening the powers of the police in respect of prevention, investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related offences and the capabilities of the Police in counter-terrorism and implement its recommendations. This is the only way of getting round the present political deadlock over the revival of the Prevention of Terrorism ACT (POTA).

22: Expedite the erection of the border fence on the border with Bangladesh without worrying about opposition from Bangladesh.

23: Start a crash programme for the identification of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and for deporting them. Ban the employment of immigrants from Bangladesh anywhere in Indian territory.

24: Strict immigration control is an important part of counter-terrorism The post-9/11 safety of the US is partly due to the tightening up of immigration procedures and their strict enforcement. Among the best practices adopted by the US and emulated by others are: Photographing and finger-printing of all foreigners on arrival, closer questioning of Pakistanis and persons of Pakistani origin etc. We have not yet adopted any of these practices. Hotels and other places of residence should be banned from giving rooms to persons without a departure card and without a valid immigration stamp in their passports. They should be required to take Xerox copies of the first page and the page containing the immigration stamp of the passports of all foreigners and also the departure card stapled to the passport and send them to their local Police Station every morning. All immigration relaxations introduced in the case of Pakistani and Bangladesdhi nationals and persons of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin should be cancelled with immediate effect. The requirement of police reporting by them should be rigorously enforced. It should be made obligatory for all persons hosting Pakistanis and Bangladeshis to report to the local police about their guests. A vigorous drive should be undertaken for tracing all Pakistanis and Bangladeshis overstaying in India after the expiry of their visas and for expelling them.

25: The MEA’s capability for terrorism-related diplomacy should be strengthened by creating a separate Division for this purpose. It should continuously brief all foreign governments about the role of Pakistan and Bangladesh in supporting terrorism in Indian territory and press for action against them.

26: The Mumbai strikes have revealed serious gaps in our maritime security on our Western coast. This is partly the result of our over-focus on the Look East policy and the neglect of the Look West dimension. This was corrected earlier this year. Despite this, there are apparently major gaps and an alleged failure by the Naval and Coast Guard authorities to act on the reports of the IB and the R&AW about likely sea-borne threats from the LET. The identification and removal of the gaps need immediate attention. The Mumbai off-shore oil installations and the nuclear and space establishments on the Western coast are also vulnerable to sea-borne terrorist strikes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

China not Holding India's Hand on Terror

By M H Ahssan

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday designated the Jamaatut Dawa (JuD) as a terrorist organization and imposed sanctions on the Pakistan-based group that has called itself a charity. The JuD is believed to have masterminded the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month that left nearly 200 dead and another 300 injured.

JuD projects itself as a charity organization, a claim that India has repeatedly dismissed. India has maintained that it is simply a front for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) which was outlawed by the United Nations in 2002. When the LET was banned, JuD emerged as a charity organization.

Besides, designating JuD as a terrorist organization, the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council has also declared its chief, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, operations chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi (who is regarded by India as the brains behind the Mumbai attacks), its chief of finance Haji Muhammad Ashraf and a Saudi-based financier of the group, Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq, as terrorists, subject to sanctions. These names have been added to a list of people and firms who are under sanctions for their ties to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, the world body said.

Despite the association of the JuD and these individuals with terrorism, their designation as terrorist by the UN Security Council has not been easy. At least three attempts at labeling them terrorists were blocked by China. According to a note distributed by the Sanctions Committee among representatives of its 15 member states, over the past two years, China stalled the world body's move for a Saeed-specific ban on two occasions.

Indian officials were anxious that China would block the move again this year. It did not.

Indian officials say that it was at the behest of Pakistan that Beijing had been blocking the UN move all these years. But this year it would have been difficult for it to do so, given the unanimity of opinion in the international community that action was needed against JuD and its leaders.

An official in India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), who spoke to HNN on condition of anonymity, said that in the wake of the international outrage triggered by the Mumbai attacks, the Pakistan government realized that whether or not the UN body designated JuD as terrorist, it would be compelled by the US to act against the group. "In the circumstances, it felt it would be better to be seen to be acting under UN orders rather than pressure from India or the US. Hence the Pakistan-China decision to go along with the other Security Council members this time."

Like Pakistan, China has maintained for several years that the JuD is a charity organization. It has justified its stalling of a ban on the outfit and sanctions on its leaders on the grounds that there is not enough evidence to prove that the JuD is indeed terrorist.

Adding to India's irritation over China's pro-Pakistan position on anti-India terrorist groups operating on Pakistani soil was a report in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the central committee of the Communist Party of China, which alleged that the Mumbai attack was the work of radical Hindus from India rather than terrorists who came from Pakistan.

It is ironic that even as China has been hardly supportive of India’s terrorism concerns, the armies of the two countries have been holding joint counter-terrorism exercises over the past week in Belgaum in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Named "Hand-in-Hand", the nine-day military exercises have been touted as "historic" as it is the first time since the 1962 Sino-Indian war that the two armies have met for military training on Indian soil. A year ago, the two armies participated in joint exercises in Kunming, in China's Yunan province.

At Belgaum, soldiers from the two sides are participating in joint tactical maneuvers and drills, inter-operability training and joint command post procedures. The program will culminate in a joint counter-terrorist operational exercise with simulated enemies.

China-watchers in India are doubtful whether there are gains to be made from such Sino-Indian joint counter-terrorism exercises. For one thing, the two countries don't agree on who they regard as terrorists. Chinese officials rail at the Dalai Lama and his supporters as terrorists, but the Dalai Lama is highly revered in India. And China had until this week gone along with Pakistan in describing the JuD as a charity organization.

Many believe the main terrorist threat to India comes from organizations based on Pakistan soil, many of whom allegedly have the backing of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). But China has refused to endorse India's concerns with cross-border terrorism.

In a discussion with HNN last year, a retired Indian diplomat pointed out that "mindful of Islamabad's sensitivities on the matter [of terrorism emanating from its soil]" China was "reluctant to speak out against Pakistan's role in fostering anti-India terrorist groups".

Joint terrorism exercises he said would "remain meaningless so long as the Chinese are reluctant to endorse India's concerns with regard to cross-border terrorism".

That Pakistan's concerns are always on China's mind, even with regard to the location of joint military exercises with India, is evident from the fact that a couple of years ago Beijing refused to participate in an India-Russia-China joint exercise in Rajasthan, which borders Pakistan.

"If China is so mindful of Pakistan's sensitivities in a mock situation, what cooperation can India expect in a situation of a real terrorist threat?" the retired diplomat asked.

In real terms, the joint terrorism exercises have little value for India, say strategic experts. No anti-India terrorist outfit is believed to be based in China.

But both India and China face threats from terrorist groups based in Pakistan. Chinese nationals working in Pakistan have been killed in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Some were taken hostage in Islamabad last year. Beijing has been concerned that some of armed Uyghur groups have been getting sustenance from organizations in Pakistan.

Chinese officials have been quick to clarify that the ongoing counter-terrorism exercise has "no specified background and is not aimed at any third parties".

"The primary objective [of joint counter-terrorism exercises] is to enhance mutual understanding and trust between the two countries and their armies," Major General V K Narula of the Indian army has said.

Even this limited objective is unlikely to be achieved if China remains cool to India's terrorism concerns. China's shift in position on the JuD will be welcomed in India, but it is unlikely to be seen as anything more than a one-time step. This is a shift that has come under international pressure rather than from a change in Beijing’s perception of the issue. Delhi is unlikely to miss that point.

Articles by China's India-watchers in the Chinese media have expressed concern over the possibility of another India-Pakistan war. While some have suggested that China should seek to prevent this, in the event of a war, they have said that Beijing must back Pakistan as it did in the past by putting pressure on Indian troops along the Sino-Indian border as well.

Whatever trust the "Hand-in-Hand" exercises can help build between the two armies is being undermined by these ideas coming out of China.

Terrorism in India: An Uncertain Relief

By M H Ahssan

While India's relations with most of her neighbours remain fraught with tensions, her most urgent security crises remain overwhelmingly internal. Indeed, even international friction increasingly articulates itself through sub-conventional and terrorist wars that are predominantly internal, in that they manifest themselves principally on Indian soil. Islamist extremist terrorism sourced from Pakistan and, over the past few years, increasingly from Bangladesh, falls into this category.

A relief, in numbers
The recent trajectory of internal conflicts in India has been mixed. Overall, fatalities connected with terrorism and insurgency declined marginally from 2,765 in 2006 to 2,598 in 2007, and dramatically, from their peak at 5,839 in 2001.

In Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), for over a decade and a half the bloodiest theatre of terrorism in the country, there was strong relief, with terrorism-related fatalities – at 777 – falling below the 'high intensity conflict' mark of a thousand deaths for the first time since 1990. At peak in 2001, fatalities in J&K had risen to 4,507. Clearly, 2007 brought tremendous relief to the people of the state, but a great deal remains to be achieved before normalcy is restored.

In India's troubled Northeast, wracked by multiple insurgencies, the situation worsened considerably, with fatalities more than doubling, from 427 in 2006 to 1,019 in 2007, principally because of a dramatic escalation in terrorist activities in Assam and Manipur.

Effects of the war on terror
The numbers alone, however, do not give a clear picture of the magnitude of the challenges confronting New Delhi. Indeed, the sheer spread of Islamist terrorist incidents across India – linked to groups that originally operated exclusively within J&K – is now astonishing, with incidents having been engineered in widely dispersed theatres virtually across the country.

The trend in J&K has little correlation with specific changes in operational strategies or tactics, or with the range of 'peace initiatives' the Government has undertaken domestically and with Pakistan. This is demonstrated by the fact that the downward trend in violence has been consistently sustained since 2001, irrespective of the transient character of relationships between India and Pakistan, or any escalation or decline of operations within J&K, and has been maintained even through periods of escalating tension and provocative political rhetoric. This trend commenced immediately after the 9/11 attacks in the US and the subsequent threat by the US for Pakistan to "be prepared to be bombed back into the Stone Age."

It was this threat, a steady build-up of international pressure, and intense international media focus on Pakistan's role in the sponsorship of terrorism, which combined to force Pakistan to execute a U-turn in its policy on Afghanistan, and dilute visible support to terrorism in J&K. Thereafter, the unrelenting succession of crises in Pakistan have undermined the country's capacities to sustain past levels of terrorism in J&K – particularly since a large proportion of troops had to be pulled back from the Line of Control and International Border for deployment in increasingly violent theatres in Balochistan, NWFP and the FATA areas. Pakistan's creeping implosion has undermined the establishment's capacities to sustain the 'proxy war' against India at earlier levels.

Regrettably, if Western attention is diverted from the region, or if the Islamists in Pakistan are able to carve out autonomous capacities and regions, free of their dependence on the state's covert agencies, or if there is a radical escalation in the 'global jihad' in the wake of the proposed US withdrawal from Iraq in the foreseeable future, the 'jihad' in Kashmir and across India could, once again, intensify dramatically.

Bad governance and marginalization
Similarly, there is overwhelming evidence that the limited 'gains' in terms of declining Maoist violence outside Andhra Pradesh, are the result, not of any significant initiatives on the part of the state's agencies, but rather, of a Maoist decision to focus on political and mass mobilisation in order to "intensify the people's war throughout the country, intending to cumulatively cover virtually the length and breadth of India.

Far from confronting this subversive onslaught, the incompetence of Governments – most dramatically the West Bengal Government and its actions in Nandigram, but less visibly in several other States – has presented the Maoists with proliferating opportunities to deepen subversive mobilization and recruitment.

Despite the dramatic macroeconomic growth experienced over the past decade and a half, vast populations have remained outside the scope of minimal standards on a wide range of developmental indices. Indeed, the processes of 'development' have themselves been severely disruptive; what we are witnessing today is at once a process of globalisation and marginalisation; the rise of oppressed castes through political processes, and parallel increases in the intensity of oppression; unimagined wealth and distressing poverty.

Need stronger political mandate
Nevertheless, in at least two major theatres of insurgency, Tripura in the Northeast and Andhra Pradesh in the South, local administrations have backed the police to execute extraordinarily successful counterinsurgency campaigns. Clearly, where the will and the vision exist, the Indian state has the capacity to combat violence and terrorism.

Unfortunately, a widening crisis of governance afflicts much of India today, with a continuous erosion of administrative capacities across wide areas. There is, moreover, an insufficient understanding within the security establishment of the details of insurgent strategy and tactics, and the imperatives of the character of response. The deficiencies of perspective and design are visible in the fact that no comprehensive strategy has yet been articulated to deal with insurgency and terrorism. The security forces have, at great cost in lives, made dramatic gains from time to time, but there have been continuous reverses, usually as a result of repeated political miscalculations and the refusal to provide the necessary mandate to the forces operating against the extremists.

Terrorism in India: An Uncertain Relief

By M H Ahssan

While India's relations with most of her neighbours remain fraught with tensions, her most urgent security crises remain overwhelmingly internal. Indeed, even international friction increasingly articulates itself through sub-conventional and terrorist wars that are predominantly internal, in that they manifest themselves principally on Indian soil. Islamist extremist terrorism sourced from Pakistan and, over the past few years, increasingly from Bangladesh, falls into this category.

A relief, in numbers
The recent trajectory of internal conflicts in India has been mixed. Overall, fatalities connected with terrorism and insurgency declined marginally from 2,765 in 2006 to 2,598 in 2007, and dramatically, from their peak at 5,839 in 2001.

In Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), for over a decade and a half the bloodiest theatre of terrorism in the country, there was strong relief, with terrorism-related fatalities – at 777 – falling below the 'high intensity conflict' mark of a thousand deaths for the first time since 1990. At peak in 2001, fatalities in J&K had risen to 4,507. Clearly, 2007 brought tremendous relief to the people of the state, but a great deal remains to be achieved before normalcy is restored.

In India's troubled Northeast, wracked by multiple insurgencies, the situation worsened considerably, with fatalities more than doubling, from 427 in 2006 to 1,019 in 2007, principally because of a dramatic escalation in terrorist activities in Assam and Manipur.

Effects of the war on terror
The numbers alone, however, do not give a clear picture of the magnitude of the challenges confronting New Delhi. Indeed, the sheer spread of Islamist terrorist incidents across India – linked to groups that originally operated exclusively within J&K – is now astonishing, with incidents having been engineered in widely dispersed theatres virtually across the country.

The trend in J&K has little correlation with specific changes in operational strategies or tactics, or with the range of 'peace initiatives' the Government has undertaken domestically and with Pakistan. This is demonstrated by the fact that the downward trend in violence has been consistently sustained since 2001, irrespective of the transient character of relationships between India and Pakistan, or any escalation or decline of operations within J&K, and has been maintained even through periods of escalating tension and provocative political rhetoric. This trend commenced immediately after the 9/11 attacks in the US and the subsequent threat by the US for Pakistan to "be prepared to be bombed back into the Stone Age."

It was this threat, a steady build-up of international pressure, and intense international media focus on Pakistan's role in the sponsorship of terrorism, which combined to force Pakistan to execute a U-turn in its policy on Afghanistan, and dilute visible support to terrorism in J&K. Thereafter, the unrelenting succession of crises in Pakistan have undermined the country's capacities to sustain past levels of terrorism in J&K – particularly since a large proportion of troops had to be pulled back from the Line of Control and International Border for deployment in increasingly violent theatres in Balochistan, NWFP and the FATA areas. Pakistan's creeping implosion has undermined the establishment's capacities to sustain the 'proxy war' against India at earlier levels.

Regrettably, if Western attention is diverted from the region, or if the Islamists in Pakistan are able to carve out autonomous capacities and regions, free of their dependence on the state's covert agencies, or if there is a radical escalation in the 'global jihad' in the wake of the proposed US withdrawal from Iraq in the foreseeable future, the 'jihad' in Kashmir and across India could, once again, intensify dramatically.

Bad governance and marginalization
Similarly, there is overwhelming evidence that the limited 'gains' in terms of declining Maoist violence outside Andhra Pradesh, are the result, not of any significant initiatives on the part of the state's agencies, but rather, of a Maoist decision to focus on political and mass mobilisation in order to "intensify the people's war throughout the country, intending to cumulatively cover virtually the length and breadth of India.

Far from confronting this subversive onslaught, the incompetence of Governments – most dramatically the West Bengal Government and its actions in Nandigram, but less visibly in several other States – has presented the Maoists with proliferating opportunities to deepen subversive mobilization and recruitment.

Despite the dramatic macroeconomic growth experienced over the past decade and a half, vast populations have remained outside the scope of minimal standards on a wide range of developmental indices. Indeed, the processes of 'development' have themselves been severely disruptive; what we are witnessing today is at once a process of globalisation and marginalisation; the rise of oppressed castes through political processes, and parallel increases in the intensity of oppression; unimagined wealth and distressing poverty.

Need stronger political mandate
Nevertheless, in at least two major theatres of insurgency, Tripura in the Northeast and Andhra Pradesh in the South, local administrations have backed the police to execute extraordinarily successful counterinsurgency campaigns. Clearly, where the will and the vision exist, the Indian state has the capacity to combat violence and terrorism.

Unfortunately, a widening crisis of governance afflicts much of India today, with a continuous erosion of administrative capacities across wide areas. There is, moreover, an insufficient understanding within the security establishment of the details of insurgent strategy and tactics, and the imperatives of the character of response. The deficiencies of perspective and design are visible in the fact that no comprehensive strategy has yet been articulated to deal with insurgency and terrorism. The security forces have, at great cost in lives, made dramatic gains from time to time, but there have been continuous reverses, usually as a result of repeated political miscalculations and the refusal to provide the necessary mandate to the forces operating against the extremists.

Terrorism in India: An Uncertain Relief

By M H Ahssan

While India's relations with most of her neighbours remain fraught with tensions, her most urgent security crises remain overwhelmingly internal. Indeed, even international friction increasingly articulates itself through sub-conventional and terrorist wars that are predominantly internal, in that they manifest themselves principally on Indian soil. Islamist extremist terrorism sourced from Pakistan and, over the past few years, increasingly from Bangladesh, falls into this category.

A relief, in numbers
The recent trajectory of internal conflicts in India has been mixed. Overall, fatalities connected with terrorism and insurgency declined marginally from 2,765 in 2006 to 2,598 in 2007, and dramatically, from their peak at 5,839 in 2001.

In Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), for over a decade and a half the bloodiest theatre of terrorism in the country, there was strong relief, with terrorism-related fatalities – at 777 – falling below the 'high intensity conflict' mark of a thousand deaths for the first time since 1990. At peak in 2001, fatalities in J&K had risen to 4,507. Clearly, 2007 brought tremendous relief to the people of the state, but a great deal remains to be achieved before normalcy is restored.

In India's troubled Northeast, wracked by multiple insurgencies, the situation worsened considerably, with fatalities more than doubling, from 427 in 2006 to 1,019 in 2007, principally because of a dramatic escalation in terrorist activities in Assam and Manipur.

Effects of the war on terror
The numbers alone, however, do not give a clear picture of the magnitude of the challenges confronting New Delhi. Indeed, the sheer spread of Islamist terrorist incidents across India – linked to groups that originally operated exclusively within J&K – is now astonishing, with incidents having been engineered in widely dispersed theatres virtually across the country.

The trend in J&K has little correlation with specific changes in operational strategies or tactics, or with the range of 'peace initiatives' the Government has undertaken domestically and with Pakistan. This is demonstrated by the fact that the downward trend in violence has been consistently sustained since 2001, irrespective of the transient character of relationships between India and Pakistan, or any escalation or decline of operations within J&K, and has been maintained even through periods of escalating tension and provocative political rhetoric. This trend commenced immediately after the 9/11 attacks in the US and the subsequent threat by the US for Pakistan to "be prepared to be bombed back into the Stone Age."

It was this threat, a steady build-up of international pressure, and intense international media focus on Pakistan's role in the sponsorship of terrorism, which combined to force Pakistan to execute a U-turn in its policy on Afghanistan, and dilute visible support to terrorism in J&K. Thereafter, the unrelenting succession of crises in Pakistan have undermined the country's capacities to sustain past levels of terrorism in J&K – particularly since a large proportion of troops had to be pulled back from the Line of Control and International Border for deployment in increasingly violent theatres in Balochistan, NWFP and the FATA areas. Pakistan's creeping implosion has undermined the establishment's capacities to sustain the 'proxy war' against India at earlier levels.

Regrettably, if Western attention is diverted from the region, or if the Islamists in Pakistan are able to carve out autonomous capacities and regions, free of their dependence on the state's covert agencies, or if there is a radical escalation in the 'global jihad' in the wake of the proposed US withdrawal from Iraq in the foreseeable future, the 'jihad' in Kashmir and across India could, once again, intensify dramatically.

Bad governance and marginalization
Similarly, there is overwhelming evidence that the limited 'gains' in terms of declining Maoist violence outside Andhra Pradesh, are the result, not of any significant initiatives on the part of the state's agencies, but rather, of a Maoist decision to focus on political and mass mobilisation in order to "intensify the people's war throughout the country, intending to cumulatively cover virtually the length and breadth of India.

Far from confronting this subversive onslaught, the incompetence of Governments – most dramatically the West Bengal Government and its actions in Nandigram, but less visibly in several other States – has presented the Maoists with proliferating opportunities to deepen subversive mobilization and recruitment.

Despite the dramatic macroeconomic growth experienced over the past decade and a half, vast populations have remained outside the scope of minimal standards on a wide range of developmental indices. Indeed, the processes of 'development' have themselves been severely disruptive; what we are witnessing today is at once a process of globalisation and marginalisation; the rise of oppressed castes through political processes, and parallel increases in the intensity of oppression; unimagined wealth and distressing poverty.

Need stronger political mandate
Nevertheless, in at least two major theatres of insurgency, Tripura in the Northeast and Andhra Pradesh in the South, local administrations have backed the police to execute extraordinarily successful counterinsurgency campaigns. Clearly, where the will and the vision exist, the Indian state has the capacity to combat violence and terrorism.

Unfortunately, a widening crisis of governance afflicts much of India today, with a continuous erosion of administrative capacities across wide areas. There is, moreover, an insufficient understanding within the security establishment of the details of insurgent strategy and tactics, and the imperatives of the character of response. The deficiencies of perspective and design are visible in the fact that no comprehensive strategy has yet been articulated to deal with insurgency and terrorism. The security forces have, at great cost in lives, made dramatic gains from time to time, but there have been continuous reverses, usually as a result of repeated political miscalculations and the refusal to provide the necessary mandate to the forces operating against the extremists.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wanted: An integrated approach for Terrorism

By M H Ahssan

The latest attacks in Mumbai — still unresolved at the time of writing — are aimed at undermining international confidence in India and to instil a sense of pervasive insecurity and terror within the country, in an attempt to weaken the economy at large.

International perceptions of India over the past years have been increasingly positive and there is clearly an effort to alter such perceptions to affect foreign investments as well as tourism.

What remains both tragic and astonishing is that after the attacks on the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan, greater precautionary measures had not been implemented in the country’s top hotels. Security at the Taj and Oberoi (Trident) was virtually non-existent in terms of preventing or containing a terrorist attack of significant magnitude.

There has, for some time now, been a great deal of talk about giving more powers to private security agencies to effectively carry out protective functions in private establishments and particularly for collecting surface intelligence. It is obvious, however, that little has been done in this direction, and private security remains largely cosmetic, particularly in proportion to the challenges of counter-terrorist protection.

As regards the responses, it is premature to speak of particular details of the ongoing operations. However, one thing is clear — specialised counter-terrorism responses remain highly concentrated in particular locations and with elite ‘special force’ units, such as the National Security Guard and small units in the Armed Forces, Paramilitaries and the special Anti Terrorism units in the Police.

At a structural level, there is clearly an excessive measure of over-centralisation and an inability to delegate authority and capacities of response where these are most needed — at the level of the ‘first responders’, the forces available at each thana and police post. Response capacities must be distributed across the country, at the level of the police station and, in urban areas, effective response times must be reduced to between one and three minutes to any terrorist incident. With the absence of such capacities of response, there is little hope that we will be able to reduce the effectiveness of terrorist attacks and the concomitant costs in lives, material and perceptions — both domestic and international.

A comprehensive reorientation and retraining of police forces across the country is now an urgent imperative — one that can brook no further delay. Protocols of counter-terrorism response must not only be clearly defined and disseminated among all security agencies, all personnel must undergo processes of immediate and continuous retraining, including simulated operations and crisis management drills.

It must, by now, be abundantly clear that the prevailing ‘emergency response paradigm’, the principal, if not exclusive, paradigm of response in India, has failed. The challenges of terrorism, proxy and sub-conventional warfare and insurgency are no longer transient ‘emergencies’, but chronic afflictions across vast areas of the country. Permanent and institutionalised mechanisms of response must now be designed to cope with these persistent challenges. Existing institutions are neither sufficient for, nor geared to, the imperatives of response to terrorism.

Crucially, any response that may be evolved or designed must be composite. This implies, first, that responses must be embedded into the permanent institutional mechanisms of security, law and justice administration. Further, weakness in any one aspect of the mechanism, from the first or ‘lowest’ elements of intelligence and policing, and up to the highest levels of administrative, judicial and legislative functions, jeopardise any gains that may be secured by any other part of the system. Similarly gains in one region are often frittered away as conflict and terrorism quickly emerge in another, robbing the nation of any cumulative advantage arising out of counter-terrorism successes or the ‘peace dividend’. Critically, responses must not cancel out one another. The tactical and short-term must be fully reconciled with the strategic and long-term. The endless and ill-informed debates on legal versus developmental versus political versus negotiated versus policing versus military responses are fruitless. This spectrum — from use of extreme force to negotiations and conciliation — is comprehended within the notion of ‘counter-terrorism’.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Journey Inside The Mind Of An Terrorist

How can you know what a terrorist thinks? The media are so busy analyzing who, what, where, when and how that they never answer the question of why. HNN tries to scan the mind to know why they are behind Islamic terrorism.

Terrorists have written many books and pamphlets explaining their position, but most people are unable to understand them. HNN makes a major breakthrough by identifying the five pillars of radical philosophy- the bedrock beliefs that cut through all radical writings. HNN uses the writings of many terrorists and others to show how terrorists justify their actions through the Quran, the life of Muhammad and Islamic history. HNN tries to describes how earlier terrorist groups were stopped and shows how the world can work together to stop the terrorists of today. Ignorance is no ally in the struggle against Islamic terrorism.

Dissecting Terror
Whereas earlier researchers focused on the political roots of terrorism, many of today’s investigators are probing the psychological factors that drive adherents to commit their deadly deeds. Most terrorists are not mentally ill; rather they rationally weigh the costs and benefits of their actions and conclude that terrorism is profitable. Group dynamics and charismatic leadership play powerful roles in convincing people to embrace the expansive goals of terrorism. Terrorist groups often provide their members with a sense of belonging and empowerment.

In early May, intelligence officials foiled a plot to conceal a nonmetallic bomb under the clothing of an Al Qaeda operative. At the center of the drama of this second thwarted underwear operation is the bomb’s maker, a technical virtuoso who has created a range of explosive devices for Al Qaeda. This bomb maker is a shadowy, enigmatic, compelling figure, who is both fascinating and repellent.


The Bomb Makers
What kind of man is this bomb maker? What motivates and sustains him? How can he be so recognizably human in some ways and yet in others stand outside of humanity? As an intelligence-community psychologist who has studied terrorism for many years, here are some provisional thoughts about this bomb maker's psyche.

Let us start with his highly developed technical skills. Irrespective of how his ideology may skew his worldview, in relation to his craft he is firmly grounded in material reality. His mind remains disciplined, meticulous and logical, which is why he is so dangerous. The FBI tells us this second underwear bomb of his design is an improvement from a previous design, so he adapts to failure and persists. He is not mentally rigid, at least with working on technical matters. In fact, his imagination is not anchored by normal conventions, squeamishness or taboos. This unrestricted quality of thought is evident in the very concept of a device that conceals lethal explosives beneath the groins of operatives where they are most likely to slip undetected through security pat downs at airports. The bomb maker knows the hard limits that respect for the privacy and dignity of other people impose on security personnel, and he twists these limits to his goals. He understands the boundaries of common decency yet is eerily free from them himself.

Psychological Imbalances
Terrorism cannot be dismissed as the work of psychotic individuals, says Professor Raj Khanna. Here, in a personal point of view which forms the basis of a free public lecture, the clinical psychiatrist says we need to understand the mind-control tactics which can lead people to commit vile acts.

These horrors seem inconceivable to us - what kind of people commit such acts of barbarity The aim of terrorists is to cause widespread fear in order to oppose an enemy which is usually stronger militarily.

Most severely mentally ill people become isolated precisely because their beliefs are so strange, caused as they probably are by disturbed brain biochemistry, that no-one else can comprehend them or talk to them.

Yet the influence of violent militants can garner sympathy and support among those in ordinary, hardworking communities. So terrorism cannot simply be legitimately ascribed as arising out of individual, abnormal experience or psychology. To explain terrorism you have to explain why millions of people endorse this extraordinary use of violence against unarmed combatants.

According to the theory, equilibrium is then restored and the individual and society as a whole can continue to function.

To take this concept of psychological freedom a step further: the groin region of a suicide operative equipped with an underwear bomb would be first thing destroyed when the operative explodes the device. This is why the very notion of suicide bombs concealed in underpants so readily becomes the basis for edgy jokes ("Have you heard? Fruit of the Loom is now Fruit of the Boom!" "Even if the bomb works, there's going to be seventy-two very disappointed virgins"). Such humor aims to defuse our unease at the unhinged quality of the psychology behind such devices. We ask ourselves: What kind of educated, informed mind does this? A design for an explosive device positioned to start killing from the groin out strikes us as unnatural, perverse and the imagination behind it both completely uninhibited and very twisted. His mind seems to lack some critical element endemic to the human spirit and to moral psychology.

He does not relate to human physicality in a normal way. For him, the bodies of terrorist operatives and anonymous bombing victims are tools, a means to an end, not the foundation of their personhood. The operatives' bodies—including purportedly his own brother's—become a component of the weapon systems he designs, and the destroyed or mangled bodies of the victims become props in a propaganda message he wants to send. The cold calculation behind the bomb maker's exploitation of these bodies contrasts sharply with what he expects—in fact counts on—will be the reaction of audiences witnessing the spectacles of carnage he helps to stage.

Terrorism is about hijacking the attention of the public with scenes of random carnage, and what locks the attention of viewers is fear and sympathetic horror. He understands the way others react to the use to which he puts human bodies but stands apart from such reactions while ruthlessly manipulating them. He exploits the compassion of audiences as much as he exploits the bodies of his comrades and victims.

Terrorist Modules & Strategy
This man is brave in a primitive sort of way. After all, in becoming an Al Qaeda terrorist he has become a hunted man and therefore courts death as much as he deals it. He is brave but not courageous. Courage requires persevering in the face of danger that is fully understood in all its facets—physical, psychological, moral, spiritual. Redefining danger contrary to fact to lessen its psychological impact is not courage but a distortion of reality. If you believe what you get by dying for the cause is an afterlife far better than what you get by living your ordinary life, being dead loses much of its menace. This is standard Al Qaeda doctrine, which incidentally also applies to devout Muslims randomly killed in the terrorist strikes. These anonymous innocents are considered fortunate to have donated their live for the cause, for which they garner guaranteed, glorious heavenly rewards far better than their everyday lives. They become "collateral martyrs" alongside the suicide operatives who killed them.

We can infer that the bomb maker subscribes to this strange inversion of the value of death over life. How else would he justify creating devices that kill so many? By way of contrast, let us consider how the deaths in combat of civilians and soldiers in professional militaries are viewed by most publics. These dead are certainly not seen as luckier than those who survive. We mourn and honor soldiers who fall in combat—even enemy soldiers—precisely because they knew beforehand that death would irretrievably destroy the treasured pleasures of their present lives and future hopes, and yet they went forward anyway. To consider them lucky to have died is to show contempt for the precise nature of their witting sacrifices when going into battle. Furthermore, to brand innocent civilians who die in war's path as somehow fortunate is a profound distortion of moral psychology.

We may conclude, therefore, that the bomb maker is brave though not courageous, that on technical matters his mind is precise, logical, firmly anchored in material reality, while at the same time free of ordinary constraints and taboos and therefore singularly daring and creative. His logic and technical imagination are cold and powerfully intact, but his judgment—that ephemeral mental quality that captures maturity, wisdom, sympathetic understanding of the totality of reality, including tolerance for the complexities and ambiguities of shared morality—is quite broken.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The tip of India's terror iceberg

By M H Ahssan

A wave of bomb blasts in four Indian cities over the past few months has drawn attention to a new, shadowy terror outfit which calls itself the Indian Mujahideen (IM).

In less than a year of existence, the group has a high rate of terror strikes - 43 bomb blasts over a four-month period in four cities leaving over 140 dead. The frequency and potency of the attacks have left India significantly rattled.

But it is not just the IM's capacity for terror that is troubling India. Just as worrying is the fact that the IM is, as its name suggests, Indian. Unlike terror outfits the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammed or the Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (HUJI), which are based across the border in Pakistan or Bangladesh, the IM - like the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) - is a homegrown outfit.

Although some of its funding might come from abroad - on Sunday, a Saudi national was detained at Delhi airport on suspicion of funding the IM - its members are Indian Muslims.

The IM first surfaced in November last year, when it sent an e-mail to a television channel minutes before serial blasts rocked civil courts in Varanasi, Faisabad and Lucknow in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. In May this year, it sent another claiming responsibility for seven blasts which killed 63 people and injured over 200 in the tourist hub of Jaipur.

In July, the IM struck in quick succession in Bangalore and then Ahmedabad. Four minutes before 17 bombs ripped through Ahmedabad, an e-mail sent in the name of the IM warned India would soon, "feel the terror of death". And then on September 13, the IM struck in Delhi, with five bombs exploding in busy commercial areas killing 8 and injuring 130. Once again the group claimed responsibility via e-mail for the blasts, saying they were intended to "stop the heart of India from beating".

Indian intelligence sources say a pattern is emerging which exposes the IM's modus operandi.

The IM plants bombs, made of easily available substances like ammonium nitrate (fertilizer) and nails, in crowded places and triggers them with timers during peak times to cause the maximum casualties.

Above all, "Its attacks carry the group's macabre signature - real-time e-mails to media outlets claiming responsibility for the blasts," an official of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) told Asia Times Online, adding that the e-mails are being sent through unsecured Wi-Fi internet connections.

The IM has used e-mails not only to claim responsibility for blasts but also to lay out its manifesto. The e-mails reveal that while it is inspired by the rhetoric of pan-Islamic groups, its motives clearly stem from anger directed against the Indian state.

The group's outlook was most explicitly detailed in the e-mail that preceded the Ahmedabad blasts, which it said were revenge for the Gujarat riots of 2002 in which over 2,500 people, mainly Muslims, were killed. It also drew attention to alleged injustices suffered by the Muslim community at the hands of the state, the police, the courts and enquiry commissions.

This anger with the country's justice system was expressed in its first e-mail, when it justified the attacks in Uttar Pradesh as revenge for lawyers beating up and refusing to defend three "innocent group members" detained for allegedly plotting the abduction of Congress party member of parliament Rahul Gandhi.

In its e-mail preceding the Delhi blasts, the IM railed against the approach taken by the Indian police, the media and the judiciary to terrorism, claiming it is hypocritical. "Why is it that Sangh parivar [a family of Hindu right wing organizations] violence is never dealt with the same intensity as Islamic terror?" it asked.

"The word terrorism is never used when a story on Sangh violence is told, no matter how large-scale the violence is. The violence unleashed by the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat was defined only as expression of communalism and the same is case with what happens in Orissa at the moment."

While the IM surfaced less than a year ago, its members are hardly new to the terror game, say intelligence officials. "The IM is simply a front for the hard-line faction of SIMI. It is just old wine in a newly labeled bottle," the IB official said.

The IM has emerged from a rift in SIMI between hardliners, keen to wage war against the Indian state, and moderates. While its increasing radicalism can be traced back to the destruction of a 16th century mosque by Hindu extremists in the early 1990s, the IM faction emerged only in 2005. But since then its members have been trained in bomb-making and explosives techniques in various camps around the country.

According to the IB official, while IM's ties with SIMI "have been evident for a while - the close links were underscored further during interrogations of detained SIMI and IM members". The IM had demanded the release of SIMI activists held on terrorism charges in the e-mail preceding the Ahmedabad blasts.

The IM's masterminds include many SIMI hard-line stalwarts, like SIMI general secretary Safdar Nagori. Now in jail, Nagori is said to be "the architect of SIMI's transformation to IM, its shift to all-out terrorism and war against the Indian state".

Abdus Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer, an expert hacker, worked for a major software firm in Mumbai before he joined SIMI and jihad activity. He is now on the run, wanted for masterminding the Delhi blasts and his role in several other attacks over recent years. "IM's emerging leaders are all 'graduates' from its terror training camps," the IB official said.

Police claim to have arrested several IM "masterminds" in recent weeks, with two suspected IM terrorists gunned down in a firefight with police in Delhi, and police telling the media of, "major successes in busting IM's terror modules".

However, in private they are not so confident. A senior police official admitted to Asia Times Online that what investigating agencies know about the IM could well be just "the tip of the iceberg", meaning the battle against the IM has only just begun.

It is not the size of the IM or its possible number of supporters that makes the outfit difficult to tackle, but rather the flawed approach of police and investigating agencies, which is only fueling further anger among Muslims towards the Indian state.

Civil society activists have been drawing attention to the harassment and random arrests of Muslim youth following the Delhi blasts, and claim the police version of the encounter in Delhi where two IM "terrorists" were killed is "riddled with holes".

The competition among various police agencies to claim credit for arresting terrorists and masterminds is resulting in the targeting of innocent Muslim youth, said a recent report written by a fact-finding team of lawyers, academicians and civil rights campaigners.

"This must stop immediately. It appears that after making SIMI the scapegoat, the police has now shifted focus to Azamgarh [a town in Uttar Pradesh from where most of those arrested in connection with the Delhi blasts hail] which is being dubbed the nursery of terrorism."

This groups adds that targeting young Muslim boys from Azamgarh or those who may have been members of SIMI in the past has led to an enormous sense of insecurity, fear and resentment in the Muslim community.

Terrorism is bound to be an important issue in upcoming parliamentary and state assembly elections, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is already criticizing the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for being "soft on terrorism". Having to defend its rather shabby performance in preventing terrorist attacks in the country, the Congress party is attempting to adopt a tougher position.

The UPA, which scrapped the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) passed by the BJP-led NDA government in 2002 on the grounds that the anti-terrorism legislation claiming it was anti-minority and had not worked, is in a bind.

It does not want to be seen to be as "soft on terrorism", hence its growing demands for new anti-terrorism legislation, and claims that inaction will undermine the party's support among urban Indians. But then there is also the Muslim vote, which is important not only for the Congress but for some of its allies in the UPA.

Anxious to be seen to be tough in tacking terrorism, police and politicians have been providing detailed press conferences on blast investigations, interrogations of those in custody and encounters with "terrorists" - but intelligence officials complain this is undermining investigations.

As the government looks for new ways to appear tough on terror, it is rapidly alienating the Muslim community as its targets hundreds of Muslim youths who migrated to the cities for study and work. These youths are now said to be streaming back their villages angry and disillusioned, with only the IM set to gain.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Editorial: Terror Laws: Some Questions Remain

By M H Ahssan

The UPA government, which would like to appear to be on the ball in fighting terrorism after the Mumbai outrage, has introduced two bills in Parliament. One aims to establish a National Investigating Agency (NIA) to deal with terrorism and related offences, the other to tighten procedures to aid prosecution and trial by amending the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. In seeking to create the NIA, the government is in uncharted waters. News reports suggest that the NIA cannot begin investigating a case on its own. It appears that the first step is to be taken by the state government where a terrorist crime may have occurred. The state in question will have to ask the Centre for the NIA to be pressed into service. It is far from clear if states will approach the Centre for the NIA’s help in the first place. State governments are known to guard their turf jealously.

Since law and order is a state subject, they have thwarted efforts in the past, irrespective of their political colour, to create an all-India agency to deal with terrorism. The federalism argument is used to stymie moves in this direction. The Left parties reiterated this view in Parliament on Monday when the bill was introduced. The BJP supported the bill since it has long been asking for so-called "tough laws" against terrorism, but we can only know later if its chief ministers will ask for the Centre’s help in investigating terrorist crimes, especially if the BJP is not running the Union government. In bringing an amendment to the UAPA — in order to tighten procedures to deal with terrorist cases in court and to facilitate investigation — the government has done well to allow for the admission of communications intercepts as evidence.

This is a much-needed reform, although there is a downside to it, theoretically speaking. It has also shown wisdom in not throwing the onus of proving innocence on the accused, for that amounts to an inversion of civilised jurisprudence. It is also good that confession before the police will not count as evidence, as was the case with Pota and Tada, which were widely misused and could not help the police in getting convictions from the courts in more than five per cent of cases. These were, in retrospect, over-hyped laws of little utility. Effective and tighter laws are needed to fight the menace of terrorism, but laws are not everything. A lot depends on the state of repair of the intelligence services and the investigating machinery.

Remember, the Mumbai carnage could take place although Maharashtra has the MCOCA, which is a replica of Pota. So it is not laws alone which deter terrorism. Part of the trouble in India is that even existing laws have not been put to effective use on account of a creaking administrative machinery. Introducing the two bills in Parliament, the home minister said these laws were being proposed because the country was a victim of terrorism sponsored from across the border. Does this mean a state government will ask for use of the NIA only if it determines that a given terrorism incident is inspired from outside the country? We shall know better with time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

War on terror needs a paradigm shift

By Javid Hassan

The ongoing National Campaign for Combating Terrorism (NCCT), which got under way in New Delhi on Feb. 3, will culminate in a seminar, ‘Aashirwad-the journey begins’, on March 6. The event has been marked by speeches, human chain, cultural programmes and calls to draw inspiration from the heroes of Indian history.

A dispassionate analysis of all the rhetorics and theatricals thrown into the anti-terrorism campaign makes it clear that those spearheading the campaign have missed what should have been the main point of the debate on the root cause of terrorism. Before we delve deeper into those aspects, it would be instructive to recap what has been said or done so far in order to realize the need for a paradigm shift.

The campaign got under way on February 3 in New Delhi with a `peace and harmony run'. More than 4,000 students from 78 colleges in Delhi and elsewhere have already registered for the run, which was flagged off by Vice Chancellor Deepak Pental of Delhi University. He observed that under the banner of NCCT, Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) will mobilize the youth by holding a series of functions during the month-long campaign.

Besides the peace run, DUSU has lined up various other events as part of the campaign against terrorism: a two-day bilingual theatre festival held on February 9; debating competition scheduled in Delhi on February 19; `Udgosh - Spice of India', a music festival on February 27 and `Aashirwad - the journey begins', a seminar on March 6 at the New Conference Hall.

The next phase of NCCT would involve Loyola College, Chennai, where similar competitions will be held to identify budding talents, who would then be grouped into an NGO dedicated to helping the victims of terror.

The organizers of the anti-terrorism campaign have exhorted the members of NCCT to imbibe human values that underpin responsible citizens. And the only way forward, we are told, is to educate ourselves about our country and its cultural roots underlying the greatness of the Indian nation.

In Karnataka, over 15,000 students from colleges in Dharwad constituted a human chain as part of the campaign against terrorism on Feb.3. The initiative for this came from the department of higher education in Bangalore for launching a State-wide drive aimed at mobilising the youth in the fight against terrorism. The campaign, according to government officials, is deemed necessary in view of the surge in terrorist activities involving students and youths in India in general and Karnataka in particular.

Leaving aside these platitudes, it is instructive to examine the root cause of terrorism on the basis of realities on the ground. In the case of the Nanded bomb blast, for example, the motive, according to accused, Bhanurao Vithalrao Choudhary, was to target a mosque in Aurangabad. He also identified Himanshu who told them they needed to fight Muslim terror by carrying out terror strikes in the country. However, the plan could not materialize, as the bomb that exploded by accident in Nanded was actually meant to destroy the Aurangabad mosque.

Choudhary pointed out that Himanshu was in a revengeful mood due to the fact that underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who was responsible for the Gateway of India blast in 2003 which killed many, went away scot-free despite the massacre that he was involved in. Thus, Himanshu believed, it was necessary to target the Muslim population in the country to safeguard the interests of the Hindutva.

Elaborating on the theme, Aleem Faizee, social activist working for the Malegaon blast victims, observed during investigations that the police found a map with details of the Aurangabad mosque. They also came across fake beards and Muslim outfits as part of the grand design to plant bombs and shift the blame on Muslims.

Muslim extremists, too, have been crazed by the same spirit of revenge. This became clear during the statements made by some of the accused arrested in connection with the recent Delhi blasts. The gang leader, Riyaz Bhatkal, said during interrogation that the blasts were meant to avenge the Mecca Masjid blasts which, he believed, involved some Hindu outfits to pin the blame on Muslims.

Here it would not be out of place to cite the example of Andaman Islands, which has a mix of Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Yet, it has never experienced communal violence. The reason is that there are no political parties to fan the flames of ethnic, cultural or religious divide. This proves convincingly that political parties have their own agenda in creating by communal or religious tension by exploiting the youth or some unemployed people.

Other factors responsible for the wave of terrorist attacks in the country stem from the use of high technology, to which techno-savvy youth have access. For instance, US Internet search company Google Inc released recently a software programme that allows users of mobile phones and other wireless devices to automatically share their whereabouts with family and friends. Users in 27 countries can broadcast their location to others constantly, using Google Latitude. The controls also enable users to decide who receives the information or to go offline at any time.

In a blog announcing the launch of the new service, Google believes that with this new technology, it is not only possible to control exactly who gets to see your location, but also decide the location that they see. What is more, friends' whereabouts can be tracked on a Google map, either from a handset or from a personal computer.

However, Google has rendered this state-of-the-art technology inaccessible to terrorists through built-in checks and controls. On the other hand, there is mounting evidence that high-tech terrorists are relying increasingly on SIM cards to cover up their tracks during mobile calls from various destinations.

In one bizarre case involving an airport employee, the police discovered that he had procured 10 SIM cards by placing orders on his company’s letterhead and forging signatures of its executives. The other application of science and technology put the spotlight on Abdul Sattar, a technician who had earlier worked in Saudi Arabia as an air-conditioning timer expert. He used his expertise to set off blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad in July last year

These bomb blasts involving both Hindus and Muslims underline a common message. When people lack a focus in life, are not aware of the do’s and don’ts of successful living, have a weak moral foundation, lack the spirit of research and enquiry in the pursuit of their goal as a student, do not know how to overcome the challenges of life, they dissipate their energy in a wild goose chase. They behave like a stray bullet killing innocent people, destroying houses, causing avoidable damage, and playing havoc with society like a loose cannon.

The youth cannot be insulated from terrorism by issuing high-decibel calls in the name of patriotism or cultural heritage. Illustrious personalities, however great they might be, do not change the mindset of a people anywhere in the field unless the desire for change lingers within oneself. And the only way to bring about that change is to impress on a person the importance of taking care of the present.

This is the message that Socrates delivers to Dan Millman, the university student and gymnast, in the 2006 American movie, “Peaceful Warrior.” Dan, who dreams of becoming a national champion, is diverted from his main goal by his sexual exploits. Socrates, with whom Dan has a chance encounter, advises the latter to concentrate on his goal to the exclusion of other diversions. He also teaches him to focus on his journey in order to reach his destination. These valuable lesson change the course of his life leading him eventually to win the coveted championship award.

Media education can play that role in transforming students from non-entities into entities with a mission to succeed in their goal. Once they have a mission statement in life, they will not have time for eve-teasing or other non-academic pursuits like sending pink chaddies to Ram Sena leader Pramod Mutalik on Valentine Day as they did on Feb.14.

Nor will they fall into the hands of terrorists or indulge in violence, political or criminal activities due to their heightened awareness of crime and punishment. I was absolutely shocked to learn, in a letter to the editor, that some of our youths take the politicians to be their role models! What else can we expect from such a generation other than terrorism, hooliganism, ragging, assaults on teachers, cheating in exams, etc.

To sum up, the only way to wean the Indian youths away from the scourge of terrorism is to inspire them with a mission in life as student. Through media awareness programmes, they can be made to realize that they have no future unless they have a goal and become a shining star to win the attention of those who matter. Once their goal is defined, they will not fall by the wayside and become an unexploded landmine taking innocent lives.