The arrest last month of Yasin Bhatkal, the alleged mastermind of several terror attacks in India over the past decade, is an opportunity for the government to set the record straight on the Indian Mujahideen. Bhatkal, who is currently in the custody of the National Investigation Agency, will likely provide investigators with crucial information on the terror operations he purportedly conceived and carried out with the help of others. This will prove useful not only in thwarting future attacks but also in ensuring that the perpetrators of some of the worst bombings of recent years are brought to book. Just as importantly, his testimony could be invaluable in evaluating whether or not some of the many Muslim men currently arraigned for these crimes have been falsely implicated. Simply put, Yasin Bhatkal’s arrest paves the way for the establishment to shine a light on the role and operations of the IM — an outfit he allegedly co-founded — while clearing the names of those who have nothing to do with it. Difficult as it will be to strictly delineate the Indian Mujahideen’s membership and affiliates, the government has a golden chance to prevent the IM from becoming a convenient reason for hauling up innocent persons.
For now, however, intelligence agencies have fallen back on their habit of leaking selective, juicy and unverifiable tidbits from Bhatkal’s interrogation to a waiting media. Within days of his arrest, for example, several newspapers reported how Bhatkal has confessed to his involvement in the bomb blasts at Mecca Masjid (2007), the German Bakery (2010) and Dilsukhnagar (2013). What’s more, he has apparently revealed how many of these attacks were coordinated by Pakistani handlers. The Indian Mujahideen, we are also to believe, now operates from Pokhara in Nepal, after it shut shop in northern Karnataka. The reason behind such leaks is fairly clear: intelligence agencies are under pressure from their political masters to “deliver results.” But unless Bhatkal’s interrogation is corroborated by the testimony of his other alleged accomplices in custody, and supported by material evidence, the government’s case for indicting him — and consequently, the Indian Mujahideen — will fall flat before the courts. Rather than trying to convince the public about how evil the IM is, the NIA and other agencies should focus their attention on gathering the evidence needed to ensure his conviction. The painstaking investigation that helped apprehend Yasin Bhatkal in the first place is an example of what our agencies are capable of. The country is anxious to see justice done for the terrorist attacks that killed and maimed hundreds. What we need is not leaks but more of that sort of meticulous police work.
This article has been corrected for a factual error