Monday, September 11, 2006

The Tragic Events in Malegaon

Barely a week after the Prime Minister issued a warning about imminent terrorist strikes, Malegaon was the target of a serial bombing attack. As it has become quite predictable in the environment of religious identity politics in India, most media know-it-alls rushed to blame Hindu groups for conducting a retaliatory strike against the predominantly Muslim community in Malegaon, and rather than focus gently on the extent of human suffering, the media played host to a blame game. The focus in the media seems to be on making this seem part of emerging trends in Hindu-Muslim strife. If you all recall, the media had played a very big role in projecting blame for the Mumbai blasts on local Muslims. We are now seeing the other end of that, blame is now being apportioned to local Hindus.

While some of you who are strong supporters of the NDA may argue that this claim is not credible. I remind you, that no one in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan is going to buy the claim that Hindus were *not* responsible for the Malegaon blasts. A side effect of the Hindutva politics has been a systematic alienation of Islamic groups outside the country. Islamic groups outside the country no longer believe that India is a land of tolerance. In the present environment with America beating down on Islamic society with its media machine, Islamic populations abroad are very receptive to the notion that Indian Muslims are under seige. This is in stark contrast to the 80s and 90s when most Islamic countries were receptive to the idea that India was the Dar-al-Aman. You must have seen the news items about two US based organizations claiming to represent Indian Muslims condemning the blasts? this is a reflection of the trend that I have said. Note also the strongly worded statement from the US, such force is absent from their statements on the July 11 bombings. While Tom Lantos boldly tells the world how the US will nuke Mecca if there is a terrorist attack on the US, the State Department rushes to shed tears at the death of 35 Muslims in Malegaon. Words are cheap, ofcourse.

Which brings me to certain events that may have crossed your eyes but somehow missed your attention. In early June 2006 our Narcotics Control Board (NCB) office in Bombay intercepted 200 Kg of anhydrous Cocaine. The street value of this bust was estimated at 40 Million USD. Rumors circulated that the value of the material impounded was beind deliberately lowered. One rumor put the amount intercepted at at eight times the publicly acknowledged size. This would put the bust at a whopping 320 Million USD. You may have also read that a few weeks ago, NCB Delhi, intercepted a Mandrax hoard that weighed in at 4.4. Tons, the street value of this was estimated to be in the $200 Million dollar range. This bust was followed by an enormous Ephedrine bust weighing in at 500 Kg. The street value of this was estimated to be $20 Million. While the bulk price of these drugs would be about half their street value, there can be no doubt that in the past two months that our NCB has racked up record seizures worth hundreds of millions of dollars. This year's seizures are completely out of scale with anything we have seen before. This is an extremely significant development.

The drug trade though criminalized, is extremely well organized. Any attempt to restructure it always brings its share of labour problems and usually attracts the ire of drug lords. You all may recall the role played by Dawood Ibrahim's banker 'Tiger' Memon in the Bombay Blasts of 1993. You may also recall that the Memon's had lost vast sums of money after the curbs on Gold and Currency trade in India were lifted. While the shooters in the Bombay Blasts had been local muslims who were enraged after the Bombay riots of 1993, the money required to make an attack of scale had come from Memon. It is said that Memon had been loaned a sum of money by the Pakistanis and that one of the repayment clauses was to support the terrorist attacks in the bulk of India. This deal is said to have formalized the marriage of the D-Company and the ISI, and Memon went on to help the ISI float the Jammu Kashmir Islamic Front, an organization dedicated to consolidating Islamist terrorist groups all over India. By contrast other criminal dons who didn't lose as much as Memon kept the ISI at an arms length and eventually betrayed Memon to the investigators, allowing them to wind up a substantial portion of the JKIF.

So while you all sit around and discuss the factors that are antagonizing Indian Hindus and Muslims to dislike each other and while you sit around watch your media put ridiculous ideas about Hindu-Muslim animus in your head, please give a moment to think about a possible criminal angle to this whole thing. I hope you have not all simultaneously forgotten that criminal organizations routinely incite communal riots in India? What you are seeing in Malegaon today, is most likely an attempt by similar such criminal elements to start rioting.

18 Comments:

At 10:43 AM, Blogger zeus said...

Your post is interesting. Corrupt and criminal elements aid terrorism knowingly and unknowingly.

 
At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maverick: while in no way denying that there may be a criminal angle to this deal, trying to paper over the divide between Hindus and Muslims in India will not make it go away. We're best off acknowledging that there might be a divide and working towards a solution. Getting a certificate of tolerance from Saudi and Pak is like being certified as a virgin by the village whore.

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger maverick said...

anonymous,

Calling it Hindu-Muslim strife gives criminal enterprise a free pass. There is always Hindu Muslim tension, it takes a criminal organization to exploit the situation with a terror attack. If you do not identify the criminal network responsible for the act, then the potential for an attack remains.

Spontaneous communal action seldom happens. Most such acts are the work of career criminals not random citizens driven by passion.

Saudi oil barons and Pakistani drug lords are among the biggest financiers of Islamist terrorism. While the foot soldiers in the Jihads may believe that they are dying to do Allah's work, the reality is that they are working to secure Pakistani narcotics and Saudi oil money access to profitable investments.

If these Saudi and Pakistani fellows sense that there is sufficient Hindu-Muslim strife to gain a toe hold in India also, then they will act without thought to the consequences. Irrespective of whether they actually succeed we will be dealing with the bloodshed in our lands.

Unfortunately whenever I have made this argument with elements of the Hindu far-right, I find they respond with very defensive sounding "dekh lengey saalon ko"-type utterances. I think the Hindu far-right given its preoccupation with making Hindus into a "Muslim-style" votebank, generally does not pay close attention to the consequences of their propaganda campaigns.

In the words of a former police officer who spent years dealing with these things, "Yeh Sangh Parivari log, thode dhiley hain."

zeus,

In this case the assistance is a very knowing assistance.

 
At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maverick: Calling it Hindu-Muslim strife gives criminal enterprise a free pass. Agree. I now understand your "criminal angle" idea.

If these Saudi and Pakistani fellows sense that there is sufficient Hindu-Muslim strife to gain a toe hold in India also, then they will act without thought to the consequences. I suspect that's part of the story. The largest factor is the impotence/inaction of the Indian state. We must raise the price of their actions. Currently, the only (perceivable) consequences of killing Indian citizens is that Mush has to meet Manmohan in Havana and not in Delhi/Islamabad. When Hafeez Saeed and Masood Azhar get beaten senseless by "unknown miscreants", I'll believe the Indian state has is finally getting over it's Gandhian hangover.

 
At 6:25 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Anonymous,

There is no such thing as inaction. The Indian state can act when the exact perpetrators of the act become known. Tilting at windmills is a fashion best left to the Israelis and the Americans.

The point of my post is that people are being told by the media that Muslims or Pakistan or Hindus are responsible for the terrorist attacks. The people then turn and expect their government to act. But act against whom?

The criminal element hasn't even crossed the public's mind.

 
At 11:27 PM, Blogger Nitin said...

Maverick,

Thanks for pointing out the criminal economics angle to this.

On your Saudi-Pakistani perception argument:

a) How the Saudi-Pakistani element perceives Indian Muslims is only partially influenced by events in India. The bulk of the radicalisation of the population in these countries arises due to the complex political, social and religious dynamics in these countries. They don't really need anyone to believe Muslims of the world are under seige (ref Christopher Hitchens' triangle). Yes, it was nice to have them think well of Indian Muslims, but that they have changed their mind is not entirely, or even largely, due to happenings in India. I can agree ith your friend the policeman about Sangh Parivaris, but blaming them for the change in Saudi-Pakistani attitudes is giving them way too much credit.

b) Now that Saudi-Pakistani perceptions are a reality, the correct way to deal with it is through national power projection. That's why crushing the jihadi groups and dealing firmly with Pakistan is important. There is no respect to be had anywhere in general, and on the Saudi-Pakistani street in particular, for a wimpish posture. Lofty softiness may appeal to segments of the Indian public...it is foolish to think this applies across the Arabian sea.

 
At 1:24 AM, Blogger libertarian said...

Maverick: agree with Nitin on the projection of power. Your own insight into how the Pak army's deep ideological bias is very relevant here. Being steeped in that militaristic atmosphere, they perceive an openness to dialogue as weakness. They only understand the language of the gun. And so we must oblige. Say what you will about the Israelis and the Americans, but everyone who messes with them has a good sense of the cost of those provocations. In India's case every 2-bit thug has come to rely on the absence of consequences.

 
At 8:14 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Nitin,

A decade or so ago, an Iranian security officer in Delhi said to me, "Aap ke mulk ke chote sey vibhag mey jo ho raha hain, uska hame absos hain." (what is happening in a small portion of your country causes us grief).
This was reference to the situation in Kashmir.

Today the same fellow is quite a bit more upset and keeps bringing up our closeness to the US in every conversation. Perceptions are changing and we are getting associated with Bush's war on Islam.

The Hindu Right in its rush to build its Hindu votebank is neglecting the wider impact of its actions. They pretend that the rest of the world doesn't matter and that universe revolves around Nagpur. It is an absurd notion.

We have limited power projection in Pakistan. All this India assisting Balochistan is completely a figment of DOO imagination. We have nothing to do with that. The entire Baloch insurgency is funded by the Americans via Afghan and Omani proxies. The aim is to frustrate Chinese ambitions in the region, and to bring things in Sistan va Balochistan to a boil. We have no role to play there, we do not grudge the Chinese a presence in the region.

The biggest imposition vis-a-vis Pakistan now is dealing with the American fatwa against deposing Musharraf. This completely excludes *all* sub-conventional options. In general after 9-11 the Americans woke up to the possibility that Pakistani nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists who could smuggle them into the US. We have been dealing with this reality since 1983.

Our power projection options are even less when it comes to Saudi Arabia. Saudi is ruled by close friends of the Bush family and is a land of profitable commerce for most American corporations. In the past the CIA has used Saudi Arabia's ties to Islamist radicals to generate cannon fodder for its dirty wars. America will be even less tolerant of any attempt to interfere in Saudi Arabia's peculiar relationship with Islamic radicals especially if the radicals then attack oil installations.

This severely crimps the ability to project anything. The only thing we have is well... the same thing the Israelis have, which is meaningless posturing. If one gets carried away with that, then one quickly ends up with the mess that Mister Omlette in Tel Aviv finds himself in.

Again it comes down to what I think was discussed earlier, does putting on some elaborate security drama really help project national power or is it a waste of money? The current national consensus in India does not favor tilting at windmills. We currently do not support a culture of mass entertainment that involves public executions of suspected terrorists.

Please read that sentence carefully, it may be possible that we eliminate threats to national security, but we do not make a public song and dance about it. Feeding the audience's passion for Roman amphitheatre style gladiatorial combat is not something that finds favor in India. It does not reflect our civilizational history. That sort of thing went out with the Ramayan. We live in the Kaliyug, and the closest avatar for us is Krishna, the pervasive manipulator.

Libertarian,

Please understand the politicians have money earmarked for their constitutencies and innumerable rackets to run embezzling that cash. They will not be in favor of a hugely expensive military operation against Pakistan, that will leave us holding the bill for years of Americas desire for cheap heroin.

After all American troops aren't going to go into Pakistan to restore law and order if we invade it. So we will have exchanged the problem of keeping Kashmir settled for the problem of keeping Pakistan sorted out. No politician is going to agree to give his/her share of loot to do that.

Sure we can talk the language of the gun, but how long can that be sustained? Do we really have the resources to sustain an occupation of Pakistan in the face of American resistance - assuming ofcourse that we are somehow able to bribe them to look the other way while we get in there.

Given how much anglo-saxon strategists have invested in making the Hindu-Muslim divide in the subcontinent and in crafting Pakistan, what price will they demand for letting go of their pet project? Given that the Americans are now the new empire for anglo-saxon geopolitical ambitions, what price will the Americans ask for handing over Pakistan? and will that really end terrorism in India?

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> All this India assisting Balochistan is completely a figment of DOO imagination. We have nothing to do with that. The entire Baloch insurgency is funded by the Americans via Afghan and Omani proxies.

I can not reconcile this statement of yours with the public support given to Musharraf by Rice in the Bugti assasination case, + the classification of BLA as a terror organization by UK, + the absolute silence in US news media about the whole Bugti affair. Its entirely possible that we have nothing to do with whats happening in Balochstan, but the US sponsoring BLA doesnt sound right.

About the bulk price of the drugs picked up in India being ~ half of the street price in US, this statement is just plain wrong. E.g. street price of Heroin in India ranges from 1-2 lakhs/kg, same will cost $100G in US, an order of magnitude difference. Please refer to:-

http://www.unodc.org/pdf/WDR_2005/volume_2_chap7_opiates.pdf#search=%22street%20price%20heroin%20USA%22

I dont think cocaine or meth or any other durg will have a price differential of just 50%, it will probably be in line with the heroin price differential.

Lastly, why bring in shadowy Saudi and Pak criminal conglomerates, When by all means both actions appear to be something sponsored by extremely skilled, ruthless, local/external operatives with a very specific agenda in mind: ignite riots in our industrial belt. The timing of the attacks also implicates the Paki govt., they were frustated with the pace of the "Peace process" and they attacked us to teach us a lesson about their covert capabilities in our backyard.

This is the simplest explanation that fits all observables:

1) Timing of the attack. (Peace process bogged down)

2) Sophestication of the IEDs. (Two stage, ANFO + RDX as detonator)

3) Elements of deniability worked in so carefully. (Use of chemicals widely available locally)

4) Choice of targets.

Sudeep

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger maverick said...

anonymous,

Bugti had become inconvenient for everyone after he refused to let the oil companies prospect in his land.
Marri will be brought under control soon.

That leaves the field open only to the Omanis and the Sherkho group. These groups are based in US friendly countries. The Omanis are allegedly responsible for targetting the Chinese engineers. The Sherkho group is friendly the Afghans.

The cocaine was anhydrous, and the quantity was too large to be destined for the market in India. This was a transhipment bound for Europe or US. Heroin is cheaper in India, mostly because the source is nearby, unlike Cocaine. Also unlike US, we don't consume much no. 4 grade heroin (safed maal), so there are differences in the way it is priced. The scaling I have mentioned is for cocaine bound to the US or Europe.

How do you conclude all the operatives are local? Only the supporting staff have been arrested so far. We have yet to capture a single shooter in this hit. All we are seeing are low level sleepers. It could be that the hit men were from Pakistan, but then who exactly in Pakistan ordered this hit and why?

Sure its possible ki Pakistani kuch shararat kar hare hain, but kiskey kehne par?

 
At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> How do you conclude all the operatives are local?

They are either locals or long term sleepers.. otherwise they would not be able to "blend in" so easily. Outsiders would have been caught soon enough. Here, the module has not only not been caught, but has committed yet another atrocity, as if to show their stamina and skills.

IMO you are overstressing the criminal angle, last time criminals did something of the sort, the case was cracked open in 24 hrs. Criminals are easier to track because of past records, are less motivated than jihadis, have mistresses who will speak, enemies who will have axes to grind and so on. I agree that the street price of drugs seized was tremendous, but what would a criminal syndicate gain by hitting out in this fashion ? If any of their people are seen to be involved in something like this, their position in India will become untenable - from rubbing shoulders with the rich and the famous, they will transition overnight to "international terrorists" on red corner notices.

Lastly, have you considered that this could also be a "show the flag" operation by Shitte groups ? Perhaps a warning by Iran to stay away from the Great Satan ?

** NONE ** of the jehadi activity in India seen hitherto has ever targetted Deobandi establishments the way this attack did. If they need to whip up the street, its usually by drumming up a makebelief situation, like the vanishing of a hair from Hzbal shrine, or imaginary abduction of a muslim girl in Godhra or ... never by actually killing 30-40 of their kin and maiming for life several hundreds.


Sudeep

 
At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Pankaj said...

Maverick,

These are some points I would like to make.

[1] Unlike in most mature democracies in the west, the Indian media, cannot be *Managed*. The best word that can describe it is *Rabid* Most journalists, both in print and the visual medium, have absolutely no idea about the Islamic challenge that India is faced with today. Most of them strike poses or play the tired old *secular* games. For eg, read todays IE edit {sept 13}.

[2] The muslim press, even after
7/11 had gone on the overdrive to state that this is the work of *hindu groups* So we have a situation where there are loony murderers on the loose, and on the other hand, we have a press which aims to spread more and more confusion. A perfect *Confuse and
Confound* strategy.

[3] In the death cult of islam, killing their own is par for the course. Iraq is a perfect example. Killing their own and then implicating the Hindus, in order to kill them; that can be one aspect of Malegaon. Another aspect can be the one which Sudeep has pointed out.

[4] The criminal element is impotent to make devastating strikes. At the most, it
can ask your name, and if it is hindu, stab you to death. {Bombay, hours after December 6, 1992}. They are just the footsoldiers, while the central command is located in Pakistan.

[5] There would be more strikes and more sleeper cells created due to two main factors. One factor is universal. The British are suffering from it. This is the refusal of the Govt. to toe the islamic line. In this structure, you {a} Must not get close to Israel or have any relations
with it.
{b} Must not get close with the US or develop any defense partnership.
{c} Must not send
troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, where the *Resistance* is going on.
{d} Must not make any foreign
policy objective or laws inimical to Islam.

Another factor is demographics and the Mullah network. This network survived partition due to the protection given to it by Mr. Nehru's queer *Secularism*. It has continued with its glorious tradition of radicalizing muslim youth.

With a vast change in Indian demography in the past 60 years there is a surge of confidence in the Mullah network and now they are looking at new possibilities. They play a very major role in creating recruits for *Jehad* against the infidels.

Regards.

 
At 7:27 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Sudeep,

Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Mauritians etc... can blend in with our population easily. Modules are very easy to construct in a population like India. The module is largely disposable, the shooters are what counts. We don't have the shooters yet.

The last time the shooters were locals. They could be traced. The last time we had the help of Indian muslims who still believed in the idea of an Indian Nation. They saw Babri as an aberration not a sign of things to come. The last time Iran was still our friend.

The nature of the shooter has also changed. The last time the shooters were Indian. Today with the large number of foreigners coming for tourism in India, the shooters could be martians for all we know.

Things have changed. This won't be cracked in 24 hours.

A criminal enterprise can hardly be expected to simply hand over a substantial portion of its goods without a fight? Cocaine is a substitute for currency in most parts of the world. You can't not expect them to do something if you pull so much out of their hands. The gain would be the possibility of deterring future seizures.

The Iranians will not conduct offensive terrorist operations on Indian soil unless India does the same to them. We have not sheltered any anti-Iran groups in India. A few that have turned up even accidentally inside our borders have been very politely shown the door.
This is not a show the flag operation.

I personally suspect it may be a false flag operation. I speculate a situation where a criminal mafia indulging in the trafficing of Cocaine and Mandrax via India suddenly found itself taking huge losses on account of the NCB's drug busts. The Mafia then contacted someone in the Pakistani ISI and seduced him with a large sum of money to carry out an operation that causes harm to India.

The Pakistani who was paid by this mafia arranged the hit using Pakistani networks inside India. I suspect that the Tunda network was a major player in the attacks. Could the Bajrang Dal have been involved, it is not impossible. There is every possibility that the organization could have been infiltrated by criminals. These are social organizations, not known for their extended sense of security consciousness. The same applies to a number of other muslim organizations.

It is an open question on the Pakistani side whether Musharraf knew what was going on but from India's perspective, if Musharraf says that he didn't know this was going to happen, he is still being slack about his duties and that is unacceptable in this environment where we are talking peace with Pakistan.

Malegaon is a center of commerce not religion. Deoband has seen its share of troubles.

 
At 7:45 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Pankaj,

We have seen an explosion of media activity in the past decade and this is creating the atmosphere of unrulyness that is becoming a problem. Please be patient, new control structures are being put into place and we will bring the media to heel. That much I can assure you.

Muslim media are only doing what Hindu media groups did after the blasts in Bombay. This is all par for the course in India. The key thing is that national opinion cannot be shaped such partisan commmentary. Hindus and Muslims have to be kept ideologically invested in the concept of India. The media's tiresome games inspired by their western investors are a distraction.

The doctrine of Nafees, clearly enunciated by the Channabasveshvera Deendar Anjuman, a strange cult that rose in South India in the early 90s states that in order to bring India under an Islamic ideological banner, the community of the believers must first create Nafees, distrust between the communities. Without this distrust being created, the minds of both sides cannot be openned to a greated sense of unification. Incidentally the CBA organization made common cause with the JKIF in the 90s. The founder of CBA had a dream where he saw Channabasveshvara, a local Saivite(?) deity, urging him to propagate the message of Islam. The cult subsequently marketted itself as a fusion of Hindu and Muslim ideologies. This group enthusiastically participated in the JKIF's programs until it was shut down.

The criminal element operates at two levels. The actual participants in the act of terrorism are ofcourse criminals themselves. They are breaking the laws of the society they live in but as you point out this segment is impotent by themselves. The other level where the criminal element operates is in lending economic muscle and motivation to terrorist acts. As I mentioned before the ISI has structured its Jihads around the narcotics trade. At this level, the criminal element is far from impotent, infact it is the dominating impulse. Criminal enterprise is not a factor to be ignored. Today narcotics is a trillion dollar industry, you can't just pretend that it is not there.

There is nothing to guarentee that there will not be more strikes even if India toes the Islamic line. Being friends with these guys is not a guarentee to security. That is a lie that the Pakistanis keep spouting, one that we have learnt not to take seriously.

If the West wants to go to war with Islam, that is their business. If Osama wants to go to war with the US that is his business, all we are asking is to be left alone.

 
At 2:17 PM, Blogger libertarian said...

Maverick: all we are asking is to be left alone. That's what I heard from a (India-friendly Kashmiri) guy from Anantnag. It's a nice fantasy given our messed-up neighbors. That crap's going to spill over whether we like it or not (China's got a lot to gain from keeping India off-balance - but that's a whole other topic). It's a wonder that India is a (relative) oasis of peace and prosperity in an otherwise explosive neighborhood.

 
At 6:39 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Liberatarian,

It is precisely because of our desire not to get mixed up in other peoples' wars, that we have a relative peace in the country.

If we were to get excited about every new political fashion that hits the international stage and run around the country shouting "Inquilab!". There would be chaos in our lands.

Yes, we have our problems, but we can deal with them ourselves. The Americans came to us after 9/11 requesting support for their war on terror. We reminded them that they have a very permissive stance when it comes to terrorism in Kashmir. Our cooperation with them was contingent on them getting the Pakistanis to back off in Kashmir.

I think this initiative on our part has largely been a success. The Pakistanis may claim that they can "turn the tap on" in Kashmir whenever they want to, but we all know that isn't exactly true. There is has been a breach of trust between the Pakistanis and the Kashmiris. The honeymoon is now over. Lets see how long the marriage of convenience lasts.

This kind of negotiation would not be necessary with another country, but the US has for decades now invested in all sorts of unsavory characters in India. If there was a psycho willing to pull the trigger on his fellow humans in India, the US wanted him on their payroll. The entire USG policy with regards to India is driven by the mercantile desires of their large industrial and financial groups. So we have to bargain hard like this.

 
At 5:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, keep saying that and convince yourself its true. Then the next attack will happen in Hyderabad, and you will be busy telling everyone how the GOI did everything and how we just have to hold together, while they sniff for clues. Keep looking at the US. Forget the utter chaos in India. Talk to anyone in IB and you will know the piss poor state we are in with regards to dealing with pakistan.

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger maverick said...

anonymous,

There is no chaos.

There is no looking at the US.

Yes there are people who think that there are some deficiencies, but that we know that and the government is not a monolith.

Are there likely to be more attacks? yes I think it is possible that until the exact people responsible for this are picked up. Once that is done, this particular wave will cease.

There may be more waves afterwards, but in this day and age, high-intensity crime is a persistent problem so I suggest you get used to it.

I am now slowly coming away from calling these attacks terrorism as I sense there is no political agenda underwriting them, there is only a criminal motive and that makes these high intensity crimes.

 

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