NEW DELHI: India’s strategy of containment of terror by strengthening security institutions and mechanisms along with removing development deficit through bringing the marginalized communities into main-stream, increased connectivity and entrepreneurship development programmes with the hPelp of micro-finance welfare programmes is yielding dividends.
The “Country Report on Terrorism 2021” (CRT) released by the US State Department on February 27, 2023, revealed that there was a 16 per cent decrease in terrorism-related incidents in India in 2021 from that of 2020 and a 5 per cent decrease in fatalities from 2020.
However, the terror incidents still keep India vulnerable due to the outside hand in aiding and abating it, especially from the western neighbour.
India was in the top 10 countries for most terrorism incidents, but not in the top 10 for fatalities in 2021. In 2020, 679 terror attacks were reported compared to 655 in 2019 and 673 in 2018. The incidents of terror attacks were the lowest since 2018.
According to the CRT, at least 536 people were killed in such assaults in India in 2021 and accounted for 2 per cent of global total fatalities in terror attacks (23,692).
Maoists were involved in the maximum number of terror attacks (225) in India in 2021. Maoists were involved in a maximum of 39 per cent of the attacks in 2021 followed by Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba (50 or 9 per cent).
The Resistance Front (TRF) was involved in 18 or 3 per cent of the attacks and Hizbul Mujahideen 12. The analysis said 33 per cent of attacks across India were not attributed to any group in 2021.
The external hand in perpetrating terrorism could be well appreciated from the state-level comparative assessment. The maximum 252 or 44 per cent of the attacks were reported from Jammu and Kashmir in 2021 followed by Maoist insurgency-hit Chhattisgarh (119 or 21 per cent) and Jharkhand (59).
In April 2021, 22 security personnel were killed and 35 others injured in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur.
The report broadly vindicates the trend that terrorist threat to India is getting diffused as terrorist organisations along with front groups such as TRF shift to targeted killings of civilians and other soft targets by utilising hybrid terrorists and lone wolves.
It said, “In Kashmir Valley, this threat obviously gets amplified due to the Pakistani establishment’s support to the insurgency.
CRT highlighted a shift in tactics and said terrorists were now targeting civilians with greater reliance on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
It cited the drone-based IED attack in June 2021 on the Indian Air Force base in Jammu. A National Investigation Agency probe concluded TRF was involved in the attack. Shootings were the other common tactic used in 49 per cent of the incidents followed by landmines (21 per cent) and bombings (13 per cent) in 2021.
The analysis noted the Indian government has made significant efforts to detect, disrupt, and degrade the operations of terrorist organisations.
It added India and the US have committed to collaborating on improving border security and information-sharing capabilities.
The analysis said the US government is still waiting for a decision from the Indian government “on an offer to collaborate on watch-listing assistance.”
CRT said Indian law enforcement, including border security forces, face budgetary, staffing, and equipment constraints while pointing out issues India’s internal security apparatus faces.
It also added that the “capacity to patrol and secure extensive maritime and land borders is improving but not adequate, given India’s extensive coastline.”
Further, the CRT analysis said India does not have a counter-violent extremism (CVE) policy or a national coordinator. It added state governments have the lead on CVE and de-radicalisation strategies. The analysis noted only five states have so far formulated a CVE strategy.
The analysis noted the Union Home Affairs Ministry was in the process of preparing an action plan on strategic messaging to counter radicalisation.
“Several federal agencies and state police forces monitor online platforms for extremist content and messaging.”
Also, given the expansion of terror outfits’ pan-national presence and foreign connection, it felt that India should have a much more elaborate policy to repatriate foreign terrorist fighters or their families and cited India’s decision against bringing four citizen spouses of Indian ISIS fighters from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in 2021 for want of such a policy.
Not with standing limitations in the wake of changing modes and tactics of terrorism and newly evolving threats, the CRT appreciated India’s achievements in containing terrorism.
The report showcased “the success of the Indian security agencies in neutralising terrorist threats to the Indian hinterland despite challenges as outlined.”
The efforts to contain terrorism are an ongoing effort of the government of India and the government is very serious about it.
The problem is complicated by external hands in terror in order to destroy peace and amity in the country on one hand and the business environment on the other. It could be understood by recent hard and determined measures against designated terrorists even in recent times.
In a major offensive against terrorists operating from Pakistani soil, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India has attached the Srinagar-based property of Mushtaq Zargar aka Latram, the founder and chief commander of Al-Umar Mujahideen, who was released along with Masood Azhar, the Bahawalpur based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief, in exchange of passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight 814 (IC 814) at Kandahar in 1999.
Zargar was also involved in the kidnapping of former union Home Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, sister of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, in 1989.
Zargar was designated a terrorist by the Union Government under the Fourth Schedule of UAPA. He grew up in the Nowhatta area of Srinagar and joined JKLF. In 1989, he was one of the members who kidnapped Rubaiya Sayeed and negotiated her release in exchange for five terrorists. He was arrested on May 15, 1992, and was released from jail on December 31, 1999, as part of the Indian Airlines Flight 814 hostage exchange deal along with Harkat-ulAnsar terrorist Omar Sayeed Sheikh, who was later arrested in Pakistan in 2002 for brutal murder Daniel Pearl.
While both Masood Azhar and Omar Sayeed were hardcore terrorists of the Harkat-ul-Ansar group, the hijackers for Mushtaq Zargar was released to show support for the Kashmir issue. Today, Zargar is active again, Sheikh is in a Pakistani jail and Masood Azhar is in JeM’s main seminary in Bahawalpur, Pakistan.
The security agencies and police in India are today very vigilant. Recently it was revealed by Doda police in Kashmir, 118 terrorists from Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda and based in Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), 10 are most active in spreading violence in the region by recruiting the youth.
They are trying to spread militancy once again in Doda and the Jammu province. Most of them have Pakistani links. Security forces have intensified counterterrorism operations in the Valley after the recent spike in incidents of target killings.
According to the Home Ministry data, incidents of Maoist violence in India dropped by 77 per cent between 2009 and 2021 while left-wing extremism incidents decreased from 2,258 to 509 in the same period.
The geographical spread of left-wing extremism has also reduced to 46 districts today as districts of the country in 2010.
The Government of India believes in a holistic long-term policy in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of the local community, and improving governance and perception management to combat LWE.
This policy has yielded dividends and more and more youth in LWE are now opting for coming back to normal life for skill development and different kinds of entrepreneurial activities based on local resources and supported by the Central and State Governments.
The multi-pronged approaches of India’s federal and provincial governments have optimism for a good life among the youth of tribal areas which were earlier becoming victims of Maoist indoctrination. (ANI)