Al-Qaeda Goes Local in India
Image Credit: Satish Krishnamurthy

Al-Qaeda Goes Local in India


For decades, India’s security agencies boasted that there was ‘zero’ local recruitment to al-Qaeda and its affiliates. This claim seemed to be corroborated by the fact that none of the terrorists involved in plots across the world were Indian nationals, not even from the one state in the country where resort to Islamist violence has been endemic: Kashmir. Even there, for more than a decade, the ongoing insurgency has been manned by recruits from outside—mostly from Pakistan, but also from the Middle East, Sudan, Chechnya, and even Xinjiang.

Such immunity from the siren song of terrorism was attributed to India’s democracy, and to its secular Constitution. The first was seen as giving ample—and peaceful—outlets for dissent, while the other was held to ensure that the country’s 155-million Muslim minority didn’t feel persecuted or disempowered, the way they do in Gaza, for example.

Certainly, India‘s huge Muslim community has been as peaceable as the other religious groups in the country. In particular, the 12 percent of Indian Muslims who are Shiites are similar to the Jains and the Buddhists in almost never entering into violence against people of other faiths. Almost all outbreaks have involved the small Wahhabi segment of the Sunni community. One reason is the fact that in Sunni mega states such as neighbouring Pakistan, Muslims are given a higher status relative to people of other faiths, exactly as they are in parts of the Middle East and in Malaysia. As a consequence of the positive discrimination shown to Muslims in these locations, a small segment of the community in India is dissatisfied at the fact that a similar superior status for Sunnis is absent in secular India.

The other reason behind the increase in recruitment to India’s extremist groups is Gujarat. The indefensible 2002 pogrom against the Muslim community in that state, which was launched in retaliation for a previous terror attack on Hindu pilgrims travelling by train in that state, has been the single most effective recruitment factor in al-Qaeda’s drive to bring into its fold not just Arabs, North Africans, Bangladeshis, and Pakistanis, but Indian nationals as well.

Gruesome accounts of Muslims being battered and burnt to death in Gujarat proliferate on social networking sites. The fact that there has thus far been almost no punishment meted out to the principal actors behind the 2002 violence hasn’t helped douse Muslim rage at this attack on their co-religionists in Gujarat, which many believe to have been sponsored by the Bharatiya Janata Party government of the state.

The BJP has consistently refused to censure those within it who were—at the least—negligent in preventing more than 2,000 Muslims from being killed in the spasms of violence in Gujarat that followed the Godhra train attack. Such a refusal to accept responsibility and ensure accountability converted the 2002 Gujarat massacres into a catalyst that has—for the first time—led to growing Indian recruitment into al-Qaeda and its regional affiliates, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Since it came to office in 2004, the Manmohan Singh government has worsened the situation by going slow on enforcing legal accountability for the Gujarat riots, while simultaneously being in denial about the proliferation of local networks active in facilitating terror attacks.

Take as an example the November 2008 carnage in Mumbai. The investigation into that outrage deliberately bypassed leads that pointed to local involvement in the reconnaissance that preceded the Mumbai attacks. Almost certainly, such a turning away from facts was motivated by an official desire to protect the police and others who had been negligent in fending off the attack, and in properly tackling it once the Pakistani attackers began their three-day orgy of bloodshed. Because of the continued refusal to acknowledge that there’s now significant local involvement in al-Qaeda, certain localities in cities such as Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Lucknow that are known to host pools of radicals had—in effect—been declared as ‘no go’ areas, with the police having been directed to look the other way because of the involvement of key politicians and officials in tolerating such extremist nests.

Niranjan Kumar
August 23, 2011 at 14:27

Yet again an attempt to forcibly bring in unrelated events like Gujarat in connection with issues of national importance. What happened in Gujarat was a result of instigation, and may be inexperience of the Chief Minister too. But, why one is not mentioning about the root cause of riots at all?

Whether one agrees with it or not, the fact is majority of the Muslims in India live in their own world governed by their own sheriyat, with scant respect to the Indian constitution. Foreign money, least interest in modern education, heightened interest in madarasa education, etc are making them get into cocoons of their own, without mingling with the mainstream society. Have a look at the highly educated state of Kerala, and you will see whats happening all over the country. Just pick up any newspaper in any vernacular language, you will see Muslim criminals. Though they are supposed to be minorities, majority in crime news will be the ones involving them. And now I know you will say it is because the Hindu society is not allowing them to open up!! As long as they are allowed to live in a separate world, and as long as there is dishonest support to them as part of vote bank politics, Mujahideens, SIMI etc will have a festive time in India recruiting terrorists.

August 19, 2011 at 02:26

Ravi – even if what you say is true (and I’m not sure there’s a way to vet this) what you’re saying is that of all the precious lives lost in police action, 180 were Hindus.
Perhaps we lost many more Muslims?

August 5, 2011 at 06:34

Ravi – U R absolutely wrong in manufacturing this news. The state police did shot 180 people 167 of which were again innocent muslim youths who were promised protection before being killed. Talk to people who have witnessed this shameful carnage.

khurshid Alam
August 5, 2011 at 06:31

Very rightly said – all violence in India is in response to communal riots and attrocities on the minorities by the majority state governments.

August 5, 2011 at 06:29

Very rightly and well said. You should replace the author to re-write this article.

August 3, 2011 at 00:52

Bob Gates after Mumbai called it a syndicate for a reason, each organization plays a role and each organization is compartmentalized as is each cell inside that organization. Every time they fart we learn more and more. I would say that since 2008 substantially more is known about the syndicate. It is getting to the point that the CIA and Mossad can in real time say who is doing the attacks, who how and why etc, etc, as they can rule out Norway in real time. That means one thing they know their enemy. Big mistake killing those Jews and trying to steal a nuclear warhead, you made it their business those two.

July 26, 2011 at 17:23

Nalapat, I am realy surprised at the heading you have given to the article and equating Indian Mujahadeen with Alqueada.The attacks in India are carried out by Pakistan’s ISI is well known and it uses Dawood Ibrahim and his connections in Indian film world and business world is also well known.But Alqueada is different kettle of fish and as long Osama Bin Laden led it, it never attacked India directly even in statements which was carried before his shift to Pakistan after 9/11.Even when Ayodhya issue cropped up, Osama sent a Jordanian prince to verify facts and whatever report he gave to Osama, Babri masjid issue had no support from Alqueada may be because it found truth in the argument that babri masjid was not a Mosque.But then the riots associated with Ayodhya and carried out by Dawood Ibrahim and tiger Memon are handi work of ISI of Pakistan. Now the current Mumbai blasts and also others are carried out with an economic purpose of stifling Indian diamond trade or Stock trading etc basically an exercise to stifle Indian finacial market HQTRS. Let us not confuse a Global terror organisation directed against the west with State sponsorred terrorism to gain its national interests.

Gautam Kao
July 25, 2011 at 00:07

Ravi: Do you seriously believe that the govt did not turn a blind eye to the riots and prevented the police from getting to areas where people were begging for help in keeping the mobs away? Have you really not read any news stories about these incidents? Or do you just not believe such news reports?

July 23, 2011 at 12:06

The state police had shot over 180 Hindus to stem the riot ! what does this indicate ? that the govt assisted the rioters?

Gautam Kao
July 22, 2011 at 18:21

Reply to Salil Roy: That is lot of words about “left liberals, pinkos and reds”. But you are avoiding the main point that Muslims were targeted with help of the Modi government throughout the state of Gujarat for the sad events in Godhra. Even assuming that the Godhra atrocity was the work of local muslims (there is compelling forensic evidence to the contrary), how does that justify killing muslims and burning their homes and businesses all over Gujarat? Does Mr. Roy really think that there was a state-wide conspiracy to attack the train? If that is the contention here, then why restrict the attacks just to Gujarat? Maybe this strange way of thinking would have justified revenge attacks in 2002 all over the country? Perhaps it was a nation wide conspiracy from Tamil Nadu to Bihar? Secondly does Mr. Roy think that the events of 2002 were in the best interest of India? Does he think vidoes and newspaper reports of the the state-sponsored retaliatory atrocities would have no polarizing effect on the minds of the Muslims? Does he think that these kind of horrors will not aid in recruitment of people to terrorist causes?
I cannot think of a more anti-India action that what was perpetrated by the Modi Goverment who pride themselves in being “Nationalistic”. The only nation they appear to be helping is Pakistan. It looks like we Indians have really not learned too many lessons from the infighting that has led to other powers asserting themselves in India. Narendra Modi must be a dream boy for the ISI!

July 22, 2011 at 11:07

If writer leave in Gujarat more than 20 years then he definitely understand riots very well

July 21, 2011 at 10:36

Indians have to fear only their politicians.

July 21, 2011 at 06:39

Who said it needs to go that fast? More random India hating I see.

July 21, 2011 at 00:33

With the train like that, there is no way it can travel 350 km/hour.

salil roy
July 20, 2011 at 21:05

Nothing but the usual Left-Liberal rant always referring to the Gujarat riots as a litany of secular credential.The Left-Liberals have been ranting and giving us hackneyed advises for decades but they have always been proved wrong and none of their so-called solutions have worked. In fact their forward path whenever adopted have exacerbated matters on the ground owing to supporting the aggressor and punishing or accusing the victim without any exception.The Reds have gone out of fashion and it is now the turn of their diluted brotherhood called Pinkos. These misguided and armchair busy bodies who still occupy a formidable intellectual space are forever angling for an international approval over Indian needs.The more they fail the more the Nationalist forces will come to the fore in public discourse.

July 20, 2011 at 19:31

Remarkable report; of which evry Indian needs an insight.

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