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Terrorism: The Enemy Within

By T V R Shenoy
January 02, 2006 13:13 IST
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Bangalore is learning what Delhi and Mumbai have long known, that being a major metropolis attracts not just venture capitalists but also the third rate scum known as terrorists. Just as Delhi is the political capital and Mumbai our financial HQ so is Bangalore the heart of the Indian software industry. It was thus only a matter of time before terrorists struck -- as they did when they murdered Professor M C Puri, and seriously injured four others including one of the inventors of the Simputer, Professor Vijay Chandru from the Indian Institute of Science.

Truth be told, this attack is something that several senior people had been fretting about for quite a while. I understand General Balraj Singh Takhar, head of the Southern Command, mused aloud on the terrorist threat barely a few weeks ago. Now that the long dreaded event has finally happened it is time to understand something else: Bangalore will not be the last place in South India to be attacked by terrorists.

Intelligence agencies know that the recent threat to blow up Parliament House originated in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. Ten years ago we saw the bomb blasts that shook Coimbatore, and subsequently led to riots. Money laundering operations have been traced to Coimbatore and to Guruvayur in Kerala. And public memory is not so short that we have all forgotten the manner in which Hindus were carefully targeted in the Marad massacres in Kerala.

I cannot help recalling something a very senior intelligence man told me shortly after the brutal killings in Marad. "A bacterium lives outside the cell -- like the terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir. But a virus infects the cell and lives inside it -- and that is the danger we face in Kerala."

Let us not forge that the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center on September 11 had lived unmolested in the very heart of the United States. I fear that we too are in danger from these 'viruses.' Most of the intelligence officers to whom I have spoken tell me, off the record, that the home-grown terrorist is the minor threat.

Over 70% of the terrorists operating in India are believed to be foreigners, not just Pakistanis but from at least ten other nationalities. In fact, some in Delhi believe that the primary threat could be coming from Bangladesh rather than Pakistan.

I know perfectly well that the dyed-in-the-wool 'secularists' will jump all over me for this, but have you considered the dangers of Bangladeshi infiltration in India? There are at least one crore illegal migrants from Bangladesh in India. 99% of them may be economic migrants (though that is no excuse for tolerating the pests). But what if the remaining one per cent bear terrorist leanings? One crore is a gigantic figure; even 1% of that comes to 100,000. That is far too big a risk to take. But no government in Delhi has tackled this menace as seriously as it ought.

Bangladesh: Next terror frontier?

In fact, every attempt to tackle illegal migration has been met with howls of protest. Politicians fear loss of votes if the police is set to seriously ferret the Bangladeshis. It is very late in the day but some intelligent politicians have finally got the message. And even the chief minister of West Bengal has complained about the menace caused by the unchecked flow of migrants from Bangladesh.

That does not mean, of course, that the events in Bangalore were the work of Bangladesh-based terrorists. India, sadly, has no dearth of enemies, whether we look east, north, or south.

Let us also be very clear about another thing: India is on the target map of global terrorism. Mullah Omar, the one-eyed chief of the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden have both been quoted as saying that India is one of the four major enemies, the others being the United States, Russia, and Israel. No prizes for guessing which of the four is the 'softest' State!

Osama bin Laden has indicated his desire to do more than just 'liberate' Jammu & Kashmir. He has entertained mad notions of tearing Hyderabad, Junagadh, and the Muslim-majority areas of Kerala out of the Indian Republic. (As also parts of Thailand and Sri Lanka.) The fact that Osama bin Laden may be driven by delusions of grandeur should not blind us to the fact that even a madman's threats may be real enough.

That is a mistake that many of us made in South India. To us, despite the evidence of Coimbatore and Marad, terrorism was something to be associated with places like Kashmir and Assam. It was a problem that was a headache only for people north of the Vindhyas. The murder of Professor Puri should serve as a wake-up call for everyone.

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T V R Shenoy