State machinery succeeded in deflecting public anger from political class to TV media

BY N K SINGH

In Mumbai operation (or in other similar situations), the State might is at its obtrusively fiercest form and the terrorists in their aggressive best.

No matured democracy can afford to keep media away from the scene for more than one reason.

It is general nature of state to restrict media on such occasions seeking justification on the grounds of national interest.

Our Naval chief too seeks to do it although his men were guilty of mistaken identity.

Two reasons why Media has a role:

  • When Gandhi was assassinated, the first announcement from none other than Prime Minister Nehru through AIR was:  the killer was a Hindu named Nathu Ram Godse. Had this announcement not been made, the ensuing riots would have taken unimaginable toll.
  • During Sikh militancy days, in Nanakmata, Pilibhit, 22 sikh piligrims were killed by the police under an over-enthusiastic district SP due to mistaken identity. The then DG tried to hush up the matter saying although some children (they were also part of pilgrims) were killed in ‘cross-fire’, the other killed were hardened terrorists. One newspaper exposed the case by giving minutest details of the pilgrims, many of whom were 80-year-old. Even the Supreme Court sentenced the guilty policemen.

I would not say the same in war situations where two entities – our forces and that of enemy are clearly identified and their roles well carved out. Media can stay away from war front. And present to the public what is dished out by our forces. But not when state power is in its fiercest form and there are three entities – state agencies, suspected terrorists and common men. Our concern is for the last entity.

Why media should be present on the spot ‘recording’ every happening

Situation 1 in Mumbai: Remember Indian Navy attack on Thai fishing trawler recently. It was a clear case of mistaken identity. Suppose the same happens in Taj hotel on 27/11. Over-enthusiasm, casual approach to identify the enemy, ineptitude, pre-conceived notion about terrorist and his religion – any or all of them together carry the potential to create the greatest havoc in human history.  And to top it all, the State apparatus can make criminal attempt to camouflage the misdeed by branding hapless bearded man as terrorist by placing an AK-47 by the side of his body.

So we should have been there at the scene of occurrence.

Situation 2: Terrorists having seen the news on TV sets (that is what the allegation against the electronic media is) that they have been hemmed in and are being attacked both vertically and horizontally with weapons which have more killing range then their assault rifles may surrender finding their escape difficult. Many wars in the world history were won just on propaganda.

So we should have been there to support state machinery.

Situation 3: Now take another example: A bearded man passing for terrorist in Taj kills dozens of tourists including some children. Electronic media shoots the incident. Again it shoots the mother crying on the body of her only slain yelling passionately Manoj Tum Ko Kaun Mara, Main uska Kya Bigada Tha.

In the last two scenarios in situation 3 the media has no control over the developments – neither we can remove the beard nor can we ask grieving mother not to mention the name of his bereaved son.

If we air both pictures live in conjunction – which is very obvious – communal passion is bound to flare-up leading sometimes to riot.

Still we should be there to caution State might against any perceptional infirmity that may create havoc on one hand and erode public confidence in state as consequence.

The problem lies not with media airing situations live but with weak social fabrics –antagonistic social identities and lack of rational thinking. We do add and abet it by showing irrational fortune telling programmes.

The only solution is:

  • Training of reporters including so-called seniors (some of them conducted themselves in Mumbai in a very inapt, nay, boorish manner) on social issues, logic and elementary laws.
  • In such situations (we can categorize them) live feed can be deferred for one hour. Editors can discuss jointly to take a decision.

Govt seeks to gag media

The I&B Advisory dated December 3 had sought to project electronic media as working against ‘national interest’ four times, directly or indirectly, in its five-point note. And 48 hours later, we have newspaper stories ‘quoting sources’ that say NSG too has claimed media got in its way causing operational hazard leading to death of a Havildar.

The Government advisory does not carry ‘desired’ credibility but NSG rue does – even if it may be a bureaucratic ‘plant’. Very subtly the power-that-be has sought to divert post-Mumbai public anger against political class, mainly the ruling coalition, to media-bashing through its advisories. If not nipped in the bud, the trumped-up impression against the Mumbai coverage may damage the media irreparably. In the process, the Government will try to obtain legitimacy to gag the media.

The apprehension is that riding the crust of engineered anti-media wave the Government may issue “discipline channels order” in “national interest”. Media has to fight in the larger interest of “operational” democracy. Engineered though it is, the Government has succeeded in creating a palpable murmuring in the public with respect to our coverage.

We will have to effectively say that what we had done was in the best national interest. We will also have to demolish the basic premise that coverage led to death of Havildar.

Let the Government not forget that in Mumbai-like situation where the terrorists are in their aggressive best and the Government might in its fiercest form, the media presence cannot be blocked in any healthy democracy. And there were no operational details that we were privy to. We had disseminated only that which was in public gaze and was most obvious.

(N K Singh is the Political Editor of ETV News Network and is a guest writer with Canary Trap)

Terror: Need to strengthen the police

BY PRAKASH SINGH

The terrorists made their deadliest strike in India on November 26. In a series of incidents, they caused mayhem at prestigious hotels, railway station and public places. In retrospect, they seem to have achieved their objective of inflicting maximum damage on the Indian State. About 195 persons were killed and about 350 injured. The casualties include two IPS officers, one NSG Major and 18 foreigners. Mumbai City was held to ransom for three days. The terrorists got more than their share of publicity with all the channels covering the macabre proceedings live. The targeting of Israeli, American and British citizens conveyed that the incidents were part of the global jehad which the Islamists are waging.

The incidents have again brought into focus the need to strengthen the police and the intelligence agencies. Police reforms must be introduced without any further delay. Much has been said on the subject. With the government dragging their feet in the matter, the Supreme Court had to intervene and issue comprehensive guidelines to the Centre and the states on September 22, 2006.

The Apex Court gave six directions to the states and one to the Union Government. The directions to the states were aimed at insulating the police from extraneous pressures, giving it functional autonomy, making it more accountable, separating investigation from law and order duties in the metropolitan towns, introducing transparency in the selection of police chiefs, and giving a statutory minimum tenure to officers posted in the field. The central government was directed to constitute a National Security Commission, co-opting the heads of the central police organizations and involving them in decisions to upgrade the effectiveness of the forces and improving the service conditions of its personnel.

There has been some compliance – but mostly in the smaller states. The bigger the state, more entrenched the vested interests, greater the resistance. The Supreme Court has constituted a Monitoring Committee to oversee the implementation of its directions in the various states. It is obvious that unless the judiciary cracks the whip and makes an example of one or two non-compliant states, things would not move and the much needed reforms would remain an aspiration only. That would be a tragedy for the country. You cannot face formidable challenges of the present times with a police force which was raised to meet the challenges of a medieval past.

The issue is not of empowering the police. It is of having a police which looks up to the laws of the land and the Constitution of the country in the discharge of its functions. The harsh truth is that the police today is more concerned with carrying out the diktat of the executive, right or wrong, legal or illegal rather than protecting the life and property of the common man.

There are a number of other administrative measures which would need to be taken to give greater muscle to the police. We are heavily under-policed. The police-population ratio in India is 1:694. It is 1:334 in USA, 1:290 in UK and 1:416 in New Zealand. What is worse, even with less manpower on the ground, there are huge vacancies in several states. According to National Crime Records Bureau’s statistics for the year 2006, as against a total sanctioned strength of 12,09,904 civil police including district armed police as on 31.12.2006, there were only 10,91,899 policemen on the rolls. The vacancies were particularly acute in UP (1,19,893 against sanction of 1,33,595) and Bihar (43,273 against sanction of 56,341). The state governments have themselves to blame for these shortfalls.

The recruitment procedures also leave much to be desired. Unfortunately, it is tainted in most of the states. In UP, a scandal was unearthed in recruitments and 12 IPS officers were suspended. But unfortunately, follow up action was not taken to its logical conclusion. The UP Government does not have the courage to nail the political bigwigs who were at the root of the scam and the Central Government, for political reasons, is not prepared to hand over the investigation to the CBI. A constable who pays to be recruited cannot be expected to be honest. It is like poisoning the roots. The procedures need to be cleansed. The examples of Karnataka and Rajasthan could be emulated.

Modernisation of police forces should get high priority. The Centre has been liberal in releasing funds. Here also, the state governments have been tardy in properly utilising them.

Training remains a neglected area. As recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily, the deputation to training institutions must be made more attractive in terms of facilities and allowances so that the best talent is drawn as instructors. Besides, training should focus on bringing attitudinal change in police so that they are more responsive and sensitive to citizens’ needs.

Intelligence will have to be professionalized. It is presently geared more to collecting intelligence about political adversaries rather than elements trying to disrupt peace and communal harmony. The intelligence Bureau needs substantial augmentation in its strength, which has been ordered now. The Multi-Agency Centre also needs to be beefed up. The Research & Analysis Wing was defanged by one of the former Prime Ministers. The organization must be given teeth and it should be able to convey to the State sponsors that terrorism is not cost effective.

The law enforcement agencies would also need legislative backup. A stringent anti-terror law should be placed on the statute book. An extraordinary situation, as the Law Commission, said, calls for an extraordinary law. Besides, as recommended by Malimath Committee, Padmanabiah Committee and recently by the Moily Committee, the country must have a federal investigating agency. Anyone can see that the state police spokesmen are making contradictory claims and there is inadequate coordination among them.  A centralised agency would obviate turf wars and ensure better coordination among the states. There are hopeful signs that the government is planning to have a new anti-terror law and also constitute a federal agency.

The stakes are very high. The threat is getting magnified every passing day. Our first line of defence – police and intelligence – have to be strengthened. There is no room for any further delay.

(Prakash Singh, former Director General of Border Security Force, is a guest writer with Canary Trap)

India’s most wanted: 40 who operate from Pakistan

India’s External affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated in the Parliament on December 11, 2008 that Pakistan has been asked to return 40 fugitives indicted in different terrorist and criminal activities in India.

It is believed that the previous 20 most wanted people India had asked Pakistan to extradite are also a part of the new list of 40. The Government of India has never made the list public. Hence, there is no clear information as to who actually figures in that list.

The below mentioned list of 40 most wanted fugitives was handed down to Pakistan recently.

1. Maulana Masood Azhar

Masood Azhar is considered to be Pakistan’s one of the most important  international jihadists, say a noted Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid.

According to Rashid, Azhar had fought in Afghanistan and set up Harkat-ul-Mujahideen affiliates in Chechnya, Somalia, and Central Asia.

Rashid claims that Masood Azhar taught Somalian warlords the technique of trimming the fins of their rocket-propelled grenades so that they would explode in midair and bring down US helicopters. The warlords shot down several US  Black Hawk helicopters in 1993 with the technique.

He was arrested in India in 1994 and as mentioned by Ahmed Rashid in his book, Descent into Chaos: How the war against Islamic extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Bin Laden wanted him freed and so he ordered al Qaida to plan the Indian Airlines hijacking  with Harkat.

Azhar, born on July 10, 1968 in Bahawalpur in Pakistan, was freed by the Indian authorities in exchange of the crew and passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814.

Masood Azhar, Rashid says, was a charismatic leader and organizer and his stint in an Indian jail enhanced his reputation. On return, Azhar, with active support from Pakistan’s ISI, set up Jaish-e-Mohammed (Army of Prophet Mohammed).

“Marry for jihad, give birth for jihad and earn money only for jihad till the cruelty of American and India ends,” Azhar told crowds at a rally in Karachi, reported by Reuters on January 6, 2000.

Jaish, under Azhar’s leadership, introduced the first suicide bombings in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian agencies have accused Masood Azhar of playing a role in  the attacks on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly (October 1, 2001) and the Indian Parliament (December 13, 2001).

Azhar has been arrested by the Pakistani government after the Indian Parliament attack in 2001 but was released subsequently.

Current location: Bahawalpur, Pakistan.

Click here to read the detailed profile of Masood Azhar…

2. Syed Salahuddin

Syed Salahuddin, also known as Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah, is the head of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM).

Salahuddin obtained a master’s degree in political science from Srinagar University in 1971. Hailing from Ameer Kadal vilage near Srinagar, he contested the 1987 state elections in Jammu and Kashmir representing the Muslim United Front (MUF). He lost in polls believed to be rigged by the National Conference with the tacit support of the Indian government.

Salahuddin left the state and fought against the Soviets in the Afghan war till 1994. He headed the HM after that and is presently its Supreme Commander.  Salahuddin also heads the United Jehadi Council, which is an umbrella group of about 19 Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups.

The Hizbul Mujahideen, headed by him, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on the Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

Current location: Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Click here to read the detailed profile of Syed Salahuddin…

3. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar

Born on December 31, 1955 in Ratnagiri area of Maharashtra, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar is India’s Osama bin Laden. The underworld don is the man behind the 13 explosions that took place in Mumbai on March 12, 1993, also known as Mumbai serial blasts.

Security and intelligence agencies have also hinted at Dawood’s involvement in the recent Mumbai terror attacks on November 26, 2008.

The head of the organized criminal syndicate D-Company, Dawood’s is involved in drug trafficking, counterfeiting, weapons smuggling and murder. The United States has even declared him a ‘Global Terrorist’ because of his links with al Qaida and for funding attacks by Islamic extremists in India.

According to the Indian intelligence agencies, Dawood operates from Pakistan’s Karachi city. Dawood shifted to Karachi after the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts but the Pakistani authorities have till date denied his presence.

Various accounts of his lavish lifestyle in Karachi, under the protection of Pakistan’s ISI, have appeared in the media. A US Office of Foreign Assets Control statement from June 1, 2006 has listed at least five addresses for Dawood Ibrahim in Karachi and Dubai.

  • 617 CP Berar Society, Block 7-8, Karachi
  • House No. 37, Street 30, Phase V, Defense Housing Authority, Karachi
  • House No. 10, Hill Top Arcade, Defense Housing Authority, Karachi
  • Moin Palace, 2nd Floor, Opp Abdullah Shah Gazi Dargah, Clifton, Karachi
  • White House, Al-Wassal Road, Jumeira, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dawood’s D-Company is still very much active in India, specially Mumbai. The route used by the Mumbai terror attackers is the same used by the D-gang for smuggling.

Despite mounting evidence of his links with ISI in spreading terror in India, Pakistan still insists that Dawood is not in their country. Various media reports also suggested that Dawood has undergone plastic surgery to alter his physical appearance.

Current location: Karachi, Pakistan.

Click here to read the detailed profile of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar…

4. Chhota Shakeel

Chhota Shakeel is a key associate of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.

According to the Indian intelligence agencies, he is an ISI agent.

Shakeel, who grew up in Mumbai’s Nagpada area, is wanted in India for murder, extortion, kidnapping, blackmail of businessmen and Indian film stars.

He specializes in extorting money from the Indian film industry.

Current location: Karachi, Pakistan.

5. ‘Tiger’ Mushtaq Abdul Razzaq Memon

Tiger Memon, born in Mumbai on November 24, 1960, is the prime accused in the Mumbai serial blasts of 1993.

According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Tiger was the key conspirator in the blasts case. His role as a prime accused in the blasts has been confirmed by the Special TADA court in Mumbai.

Cases of murder, extortion, kidnapping, terrorism, smuggling of arms and explosives in India are pending against him. Tiger Memon fled India a morning before the serial blasts in Mumbai on March 12, 1993.

Tiger is also considered to be one of the most trusted henchmen of Dawood Ibrahim.

Current location: Karachi, Pakistan.

6. Ayub Memon

Ayub is the younger brother of the main accused of 1993 Mumbai blasts, Tiger Memon. He is also an accused in the same case.

Ayub is wanted in India in connection with cases of terrorism and smuggling.

After the 1993 Mumbai blasts, most members of the Memon family fled to Pakistan. All of them, except Ayub and Tiger, have returned to India.

Ayub and his wife Reshma stayed back in Pakistan.

Current location: Karachi, Pakistan.

7. Sagir Sabir Ali Shaikh

Sagir Shaikh is wanted for his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts and also in connection with a conspiracy to kill L K Advani.

Sagir, a drug smuggler, is also involved in money laundering and is an associate of Dawood.

Current Location: Karachi, Pakistan.

8. Ibrahim Athar

Ibrahim Athar, born in Bahawalpur (Pakistan) in 1965, is the younger brother of Maulana Masood Azhar.

Athar was the head of the group that hijacked Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 (Kathmandu to Delhi) on December 24, 1999. He is wanted in India for hijacking, kidnapping and murder charges.

Current location: Bahawalpur, Pakistan.

9. Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi

10. Aamir Raza Khan

11. Mohammed Abdul Sahid

12. Azam Cheema

13. Rahil Sheikh

14. Amanullah Khan

15. Feroz Abdul

16. Anees Ibrahim

17. Anwar Ahmed Haji

18. Mohammed Ahmed Dosa

19. Ishaq Hussain alias Ali Musa

20. Aftab Batki

21. Javed Patel

22. Karimullah Habib Sheikh

23. Salim Abdul Gani Qazi

24. Riyaz Abu Bakr

25. Munaf Abdul Majid

26. Mohammed Tahir

27. Khan Bashir Ahmed

28. Yakub Khan

29. Mohammed Safi

30. Irfan Ahmed

31. Zahoor Ibrahim Mistri

32. Shahid Akhtar Sayed

33. Azhar Yusuf

34. Sakir Mohammed Sarkar

35. Abdul Rauf

36. Wadhawan Singh Babbar

37. Ranjit Singh Neeta

38. Paramjit Singh Panjwar

39. Lakhbir Singh Rode

40. Gajinder Singh

Action against terror: Revive RAW’s covert action unit

“Man is immortal, his salvation is thereafter, the State has no immortality; its salvation is now or never. States do not receive credit for doing what is right; they are only rewarded for being strong enough to do what is necessary” – Cardinal De Richelieu

India, hit by yet another terror attack in Mumbai, should take Richelieu’s words seriously and act now. I am not suggesting that we should go and bomb Pakistan. We have concrete evidence of the involvement of Pakistan-based terror organisations and the rogue Inter-Services Intelligence. This gives us to right to take actions necessary to safeguard our nation and our way of life.

We know the terror organisations (LeT, JeM) waging a war against our country, the people who are supporting them (Dawood and his gang) and their locations. The first thing our government has to do is to immediately revive the covert action unit of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), which was closed down by then Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral in 1997.

The government has to ensure that Pakistan pays a heavy price for supporting terrorism in India. The terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan has to be destroyed and targeted assassinations of figures like LeT chief, JeM chief and Dawood has to be carried out.

RAW has the capability to carry out covert operations inside Pakistan and it has proved that beyond doubt in the past. What is needed before that is to revamp the premier intelligence agency, which is in news for all the wrong reasons. Now, as the current RAW chief retires in January 2009, the Prime Minister has to ensure that a competent person is appointed to head the agency. As former senior RAW official B Raman puts it in his blog, “At this critical time in the nation’s history, RAW has no covert action specialists at the top of its pyramid. Get a suitable officer from the IB or the Army. If necessary, make him the head of the organization.”

The Indian establishment (Political and bureaucratic) now has to ensure that stern actions are taken against the perpetrators of the terror acts and their masters.

Another thing that the government should avoid is presenting their case before the United States of America every-time an attack takes place in India. If Pakistan is supporting terrorism in India, and we have the proof of its involvement, then why should we ask the US to intervene. We have to be strong enough to take action on our own. Diplomacy aside, there has to be a firm conviction that attacks on India will not go unpunished. That is what the US does. Did they give any proof before attacking al Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001? The entire world knows the story of the “faulty intelligence” which they relied on to attack Saddam Hussein in 2003. Did they wait to present any proof to anybody? NO. They just went in and bombed everything.

We have to keep in mind that the only one thing important to the US is their own national interests. They don’t care about India’s concern on terrorism. So, pleading before the US to pressurize Pakistan to take action will not yield any results.

The Mumbai terror attack has given us an opportunity to completely rethink the way we perceive national security. We have suffered enough at the hands of Pakistan and now is the time for action.

Let Pakistan know that if they continue to promote terrorism in India, they will be made to bleed even more. According to B Raman, “A divided Pakistan, a bleeding Pakistan, a Pakistan ever on the verge of collapse without actually collapsing – that should be our objective till it stops using terrorism against India.”

Along with the covert actions, the government also needs to ensure strengthening of our security apparatus.  This will include strengthening the police force throughout the country, ensuring coastal security, setting up specialized investigating agencies, and have a crisis infrastructure.