No country, including the U.S., appears entirely immune from the threat of terror, which has its epicentre in Afghanistan-Pakistan, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on Thursday.
“Four out of five major terrorist groups are based in Pakistan, and three of them — the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Hizbul Mujahideen — continue to target India. There is no let-up in attempts at infiltration from across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, there are attempts at infiltrating terrorists through Nepal and Bangladesh into India and finding a safe transit route from Sri Lanka to Tamil Nadu,” he said.
He was inaugurating the two-day annual conference of the State police chiefs and Inspectors-General of Police organised here by the Intelligence Bureau.
Mr. Chidambaram admitted to the presence of Indian modules too. “They [the Indian modules] seem to have the capacity to attract radicalised youth to their fold. Some modules are loosely knit under an organisation called Indian Mujahideen. Many old cadres of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) have morphed into IM cadres.”
He also said that “there are other Indian modules that espouse the cause of right-wing religious fundamentalism or separatism. Many of these modules have acquired the capacity to make bombs.”
Pointing out that the challenge of terrorism was a formidable one, requiring a comprehensive strategy to be defeated, he said that following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. identified the al-Qaeda as its pre-eminent security threat and declared a war on the outfit and its affiliates. But, India did not have just one pre-eminent threat, but several. “We must build the capacity to deal with these multiple threats. Capacity-building is work in progress. It requires time, money, human resources, technology and harnessing of the capacity of every agency and organisation in the country.”
Blots on government
Admitting that two terror attacks in two months were blots on the United Progressive Alliance government's record, and there had been slips from time to time, Mr. Chidambaram said the government had taken corrective steps. Citing an example, he said the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems would be put in place by March 2013, and the other ambitious project, NATGRID, would be completed in 18 months.
“The most important unfinished agenda is the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). It was an idea that I had unveiled in my IB Centenary Endowment Lecture in December 2009.”
The goal must be “to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat” the terrorist groups. “Today, we do not have an organisation devoting its whole time and energy to that task. I hope to secure a government decision on setting up the NCTC. Once there is a decision, I am confident that the core team of the NCTC can be installed within 60 days, and the full structure can be put together within 12-18 months.”
Since the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, the security forces and the intelligence agencies had neutralised 51 modules, Mr. Chidambaram said. Of a list of 48 terrorist cases since 2000, charge sheets had been filed in 37 cases, and of these conviction had been obtained in eight cases from courts in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chandigarh. “That leaves 11 yet unsolved cases. This is not a record to be scoffed at.”
Emphasising that the security of India was a “shared responsibility” of the Centre and the States, he asked the State governments to look upon the Central government as a friend and collaborator to make the country safe and secure.
Pointing out that communal violence was the biggest blot on the record of governments for many years, Mr. Chidambaram said the eight years since 2003 witnessed, on an average, 750 incidents a year, but the number of casualties was low and on the decline. In the first half of 2011, there had been a sharp decline in the number of incidents (271) and casualties.
Another recurring challenge, he said, was how to deal with civil disturbances. While recognising that to dissent and to protest were basic rights in an open society, he said more often such protests turned violent. He urged the police forces to review their standard operating procedures to deal with civil disturbances. The use of non-lethal methods to control unarmed civilian protesters must become the new standard operating procedure.
“Most violent movement”
Describing Left wing extremism as the “most violent movement” in the country, Mr. Chidambaram maintained that dealing with it was a “shared responsibility” of the Centre and the States. The number of incidents and casualties seemed to indicate a decrease in violence, but not in the case of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Orissa. “Even in West Bengal, there are reports that the State unit has been instructed by the CPI (Maoist) to develop guerrilla bases in Jangalmahal and intensify the conflict. The CPI (Maoist) has added at least four companies to the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army, and its goal remains seizure of power through an armed liberation struggle.”