Published : Jan 27, 2006 00:00 IST

At the make-shift temple in Ayodhya, after six gunmen tried to enter the controversial structure. - AFP

At the make-shift temple in Ayodhya, after six gunmen tried to enter the controversial structure. - AFP


THE Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh Police made several arrests between 2002 and August 2005, preventing any major acts of terror from taking place, barring, perhaps, the attack in Ayodhya. According to data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal, 12 people were arrested between January and September in 2002, including suspected agents of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). They were arrested from Hapur, Faizabad, Bulandshahr, Aligarh and Kanpur. One ISI agent was killed near an ordnance factory at Muradnagar in Ghaziabad.

In 2003, three activists of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), six of the Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) and three ISI agents were arrested. One JeM activist was killed by the Special Task Force at Noida and arms and ammunition were recovered from him.

There were only two arrests relating to militancy in the State in 2004. But in 2005, there were 19 arrests between March and August. In May, two LeT suspects were arrested in Lucknow and ammunition was seized. Following the July 5 attack on the Babri Masjid site, six people, including four of a family in Faizabad, were arrested. The banned SIMI was allegedly involved in the incident. A Delhi-based doctor from Sahranpur was also arrested. The biggest catch came with the arrest in New Delhi of Abu Razak Masood, the LeT coordinator in Dubai, after he returned from a visit to Muzaffarnagar.

But the real question is whether random attacks reflect a genuine danger rooted in resentment. "It does not take much to target misguided youth and set up modules in any place," says a senior intelligence officer. However, intelligence circles concede that there is no general tendency in the local population to succumb to external machinations. The average Muslim youth condemns acts of terror.

Nadeem Hasnain, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Lucknow, believes that if at all there is a problem about understanding the Islamic psyche, it should be analysed and discussed by social scientists in a non-jargonised manner, and not only by technocrats and bureaucrats. Several erroneous ideas about Islam and Muslims are allowed to flourish. As an example, he narrates how soon after 9/11 people rushed to buy copies of the Koran as if the answers on terrorism and hijacking lay in it.

Nadeem Hasnain says that an important distinction between the Indian Muslim and Muslims elsewhere is the presence of democratic outlets to express dissent in India. "Why is it that an organisation like Al Qaeda had to emerge from within a totalitarian regime? Also, why have Muslim youth from India not joined their ranks if the ideological attraction was so great?" asks the professor.

Poverty and politics have no religion. At Barabanki in eastern Uttar Pradesh, it is said that if a youth is given a pair of black sunglasses, Reebok shoes and a pair of jeans, he would be ready to do anything in return.

Hasnain finds it heartening that Muslims in Uttar Pradesh have not voted for any communal outfits. They voted for mainstream parties even in districts where they constitute the majority, such as Moradabad and Rampur. "This shows that the average Muslim has faith in democratic structures and institutions," he says.

But it is important that economic issues must be resolved, for all sections. The process of recruiting young men for acts of terrorism begins with the offer of a job, either abroad or close to home. Most of them do not know the real reasons for the offer. One of the methods is to give a young man some money, ask him to start a business with and tell that his services would be called for at a future date.

But despite the poverty and the problems it brings, intelligence agencies have been able to identify only four or five cases of local involvement in militancy in the past three years.

There is also a growing feeling among intelligence agencies that an integrated, inter-departmental approach is needed. This approach is needed not only from the point of view of internal security but also for identifying long-term solutions. Many within and outside the establishment feel that it is time to get out of the rigid "war on terror" framework. "They [Muslims] are as much a part of our country as anyone else. We cannot wish them away. If mishandled, the situation can get only worse," said a senior officer in Uttar Pradesh.

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