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What the Ayodhya attack signifies

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Last updated on: July 06, 2005 00:04 IST
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What does the attack on Ayodhya signify?

Before anything else, every concerned Indian should bow to the personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force and the Uttar Pradesh  police for killing the five terrorists (one is supposed to have blown himself up) who were out  to wreck India's communal harmony by targeting the sensitive Ram Janambhoomi and eventually affect its march towards faster economic development.

As Congress president Sonia Gandhi put it, 'it was an attack on the prestige of India'.

The attack is a wake-up call for the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government.

The critics will have strong justification when they claim the much-celebrated India-Pakistan peace process has not helped in curbing threats of jihadi terrorism in India. But nevertheless, it also proves that there are more reasons to keep up the peace process with better tact and strategy.

The inbuilt expectation from the India-Pakistan peace process was that it would stop jihadi or any kind of terrorism from across the Western border into India. The incident in Ayodhya proves that India needs to urgently do a reality check.

This event also signifies that India's battle against terrorism is far from over. It's now obvious that the UPA government's efforts to counter terrorism lack strategy.

A tragedy has been averted and it's time to learn the lessons. For the moment, the state of internal security seems as fickle as it was when the terrorists attacked Parliament.

Talking to, jihadi terrorism expert B Raman said, "One of the reasons for escalation of jihadi activities in India could be the fast developing India-US relations. All over the world, Osama bin Laden-led terrorists are aiming at countries which are close allies of America like Morocco, Spain, Turkey, Kenya and Indonesia."

He said Islamist terrorists were closely watching the fast growing diplomatic and defence relations between the US and India. They perceive India as a surrogate nation and they think that now India is aligning with the US in their designs in Asia.

Raman said, "India should expect many more attacks in the coming months by LeT type of organisations."

Who tried to vandalise the Ramjanmabhoomi on Tuesday and why?

A top level source in the government told that the first report the CRPF sent from Ayodhya suggested that this was an act of the Lashkar–e-Tayyiba.

LeT is the military wing of Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad , the fundamentalist organisation based in Muridke near Lahore in Pakistan.

Most LeT members are believers of a sect called the Ahle-Hadith. The LeT was also behind the attack on Indian Parliament. It has been banned by India and  the United States.

Dr Ajay Sahni of South Asia Terrorism Portal told that the Lashkar's agenda, as outlined in a pamphlet titled 'Why we are waging jihad' includes the restoration of Islamic rule over all parts of India, not just Jammu and Kashmir.

Is the LeT still strong even after US pressure on Pakistan to curb jihadi terrorism on its soil?

Indian experts on jihadi terrorism consider such assumptions (that America is able to influence Pakistan authorities in curbing the anti-India activities of Pakistan-based fundamentalists) naïve.

They think the LeT is not only surviving but is growing strong. Raman said, "After the Iraq war in 2003, there was a decrease in terrorist activity on Indian soil. After the Mumbai bomb blasts in 2003, there have been no major terrorist attacks... at least outside Jammu and Kashmir. But now, a large number of Saudi recruits have joined the war against the US in Iraq. As a result, Pakistani elements of LeT have returned on the Indian borders."

Raman added that the more important thing to note was that the LeT was now desperate to recruit Indian Muslims in its cadre.

Raman said the attack proves that "the so-called India-Pakistan peace process has no impact whatsoever on the motivation of jihadi terrorists." One must not forget that LeT is an associate of the Osama bin Laden-led international Jihadi movement.

Dr Sahni said, "Pakistan is bent on influencing any section of the Indian society possible to wage war against India, whether they are insurgents in the northeast or the Khalistani group or the Islamic group."

Why do most Indian terrorism experts tend to blame Pakistan when such attacks take place?

When the Indian state is so vulnerable to violent attacks, one can't help but listen to what its senior ministers and government say on record in Parliament.

Pranab Mukherjee, who was on a visit to the US, said in an interview to India Abroad diplomatic editor Aziz Haniffa that 'the United States of America considers Pakistan as a very effective ally to fight against terrorism and the Taliban. We consider that cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is taking place as it is inspired by Pakistan. But these two different appreciations of situations does not mean we are not friends.'

Raman pointed out that Mukherjee's statement says it all.

Notwithstanding the peace process, Pakistan President General Musharraf has not taken any credible legal action against the Harakat ul-Mujahideen  aka Harakat ul-Ansar's chief Fazlur Rehman Khalil, or against  LeT chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. They are engaged openly in anti-India activities in Pakistan.

When a reliable source in the Indian government claims that LeT is behind the Ayodhya attack on Tuesday, obviously the buck stops in Islamabad.

Dr Sahni said last year 1800 people were killed in J&K because of terrorism.

He said, "Unless the Pakistan government stops providing a safe haven to terrorists, the violence in J & K will not stop."

Can the government of India declare that Mukherjee's statement on American soil is a lie or accept that in spite of the ongoing peace process Musharraf's support to terrorist activities in India has not ended, asks Dr Sahni.

Many experts believe the Manmohan Singh government is in denial mode. In its anxiety to keep the peace process on track, it is wary of coming clean on terrorist attacks in J&K.

Sahni said, "We have written many times that because the Kashmir issue has attracted international attention it is no more possible for Pakistan to carry on terrorism openly in J&K. We have expected that once the sponsorship of terrorism in Kashmir ends they will have to move to the rest of India. Musharraf has a simple strategy. Try for the so-called settlement of Kashmir and also keep up pressure on India. If peace negotiations fail, increase pressure on India by other means.''

Raman said, "I would not say that Pakistan is directly involved in the Ayodhya attack but it is entirely possible that such movement and activities are continuing with their knowledge. This is certainly a case of sponsorship of terrorism."

What would the fallout from the Ayodhya attack be?

It is easy to predict. The blame game will start... sorry, it has already started. The state government claims credit for killing the terrorists without loss of civilian life. The central government has also made statements taking credit saying it had alerted states about the possibility of such attacks. Everyone knows the Ram temple is one of the most well guarded sites in India because it was on the terrorist hitlist.

The Bharatiya Janata Party will heave a sigh of relief because the Jinnah controversy will nw be buried. It will try to whip up passion in favour of its core agenda -- Ram temple.

The BJP will also try to cash in as much as they can to revive the Ayodhya issue. Modi has already announced a Rs 10 lakh award for the security personnel.

The Congress will be on the defensive because it lacks credibility to deal with the subtle messages emanating from Ayodhya.

People will watch politicians play games over the Ayodhya attack for some time. Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Jaswant Singh, has asked for the resignation of home minister Shivraj Patil. Of course, he conveniently forgets that when Kargil happened, when Parliament was attacked, when in Godhra kar sevaks were not provided timely security, none of his party leaders in responsible positions resigned.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi