Recent terror strikes in Bangalore and Ahmedabad point to the fact that anti-terrorism conferences, fatwas and community efforts are not working. One reason can be that a vast majority of Indian Muslims are not convinced the terrorists could be one of them. It is not a denial by Indian Muslims, but a failure on the part of the investigating agencies to produce convincing proof of who is behind these terror acts. The emails sent by the group calling itself “Indian Mujahideen” is our only way to guess who can be behind these attacks.
By the time you reach the warning on Page 7 of the email that bombs would explode in the next five minutes, it would have been too late. Of course, the aim was not to warn but to convincingly establish the fact that the author of the terror letter is the one who is responsible for the serial blasts in Ahmedabad. The letter, “The Rise of Jihad, Revenge of Gujarat”, was sent to various Indian media organizations a few minutes before the bomb blast.
The letter begins with pictures of burning shops probably from Gujarat riots of 2002. It sets the tone for why these blasts were set up in Ahmedabad. If there is any doubt, the heading below the photo states that it is a “revenge of Gujarat”. The letter is a terrorist manifesto released by the group calling itself “Indian Mujahideen in the land of Hind”.
(Illustration by: Malay Karmakar / Mint)
The letter begins in the traditional Muslim style of first praising Allah and sending blessings on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), quoting Quranic verses and Hadith to set up the theme of the letter. The actual message begins on Page 5 of the 14 pages long letter. Interestingly enough, the group doesn’t hesitate calling themselves “terrorists” in the first line itself.
The terrorists’ manifesto
The letter gets down to business in the first few paragraphs, when it asks all to “accept Islam and save yourselves” or else get ready to be “slaughtered by our hands”. If that was not chilling enough for the reader, the group adds it is capable of ensuring that your blood is “spilled on your own cities”.
This manifesto is designed to send chills down the reader’s spine and you don’t have to be a Hindu to feel the impact. The other stated goal of this terrorism in the writer’s own words is—making Islam superior over all religions. It is not mentioned how killings will help make Islam superior or acceptable to all.
Even though the letter warns that in five minutes something terrible would happen, it gives no details on the nature of this threat. Ahmedabad is not even mentioned. But that Gujarat is the target is clear from the beginning itself. Later, Narendra Modi is mocked and ridiculed; the letter terms this attack as “the beginning” and the “opening launch”. But it fails to mention why it took six years to respond to what happened in Gujarat in 2002.
The letter, written in English and sent to Indian news channels, also addresses Gujarati Muslims to join Indian Mujahideen in its terror campaign. It exhorts them to come out of the fear of using names from Muslim history such as Khalid bin Waleed, Ali bin Abi Talib, Salahuddin Ayyubi, Muhammad bin Qasim.
The letter writer seems to be well versed with Indian current affairs and grievances of the community; the letter mentions the Nanavati commission and fast-track courts that have failed to deliver timely justice to Muslims.
The writer is disillusioned by democracy and the election process as well, but offers no alternative vision of governance. Tehelka, which had won much applause from Indian Muslims for publishing reports that revealed the involvement of the Gujarat government in the genocide of 2002, also comes under attack. The media is accused of making money out of the misery of Muslims.
The letter asks the Muslim youth of Gujarat to join the ranks of Indian Mujahideen, but instead of any contact information, it asks them to open their own franchise, do their own planning and, most importantly, to select their own targets. It tells them to target politicians and leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal. The “wicked police force” and their informers and spies are also to be targeted for killing. But the letter does not explain why the group has not acted on its own advice and instead has chosen to attack innocents in the marketplace. As far as we know, none of the politicians, police officers or informers has died in any of the blasts that the Indian Mujahideen takes credit for.
Like any extremist group, this one has also attacked its own, calling them hypocrites. The email makes special mention of Arshad Madani and Mahmood Madani, “who have bartered their faith in return of just one seat in the Parliament”. The writer seems to be unaware of the fact that the Madanis are in a bitter battle with each other for the control of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. Also interesting is the absence of any mention of the Darul Uloom Deoband, which issued a fatwa against terrorism after a huge gathering of ulema. Other Muslim organizations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board are also spared.
It warns the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Except UP, all these states border Maharashtra. The writer also mentions incidents in Maharashtra that did not catch the national media’s attention.
The writer is aware of and mentions the Maharashtrian towns Digras, Yavatmal and Jalna. This, and the fact that incidents in other states find no mention in the terrorist manifesto, suggests that this group, or at least the writer from this group, is based in Maharashtra.
It mentions Vilasrao Deshmukh, R.R. Patil, Madhukar Sarpotdar, and Mukesh Ambani, which also suggests a strong Maharashtra connection.
(It should also be mentioned here that various Hindutva terrorist groups such as the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, the Bajrang Dal, etc. have been active in Maharashtra. They have been accused of involvement in some of the bomb blasts in Maharashtra.)
No threatening letter will be complete without a list of demands. Indian Mujahideen’s demands sound more like threats than political demands. It threatens the Anti-Terrorism Squad, the Special Task Force (special police units) and different state governments to release Muslims arrested in the name of Students Islamic Movement of India, or SIMI, and other outfits. It threatens Mukesh Ambani for usurping Waqf land. Even though the terror writer has contempt for the Indian judiciary, it still wants lawyers to represent those arrested on charges of terrorism. It claims credit for the blasts in UP courts and threatens to do that again if lawyers there continue to deny representation to those arrested.
The letter singles out The Times of India and television channel Times Now as examples of biased media and wants the media to report the torture and oppression of Muslims in riots and “encounters” the same way they report on “Islamic terrorists”.
Unlike the Jaipur (blasts) letter, this one makes no mention of India’s foreign policy, which is surprising, considering that Indian Muslims recently found themselves in the thick of discussions about Indo-US nuclear deal. The vote that saved the United Progressive Alliance government was just three days before the Ahmedabad blasts, yet the terror writer chose to ignore it.
The other interesting feature of this letter is the manner in which Indian Mujahideen claims responsibility for the Ahmedabad blasts. The letter calls it “the Gujarat serial blasts”—while some live bombs were found in Surat, we are not aware of any other city being targeted. The claim also mentions that it was “planned and executed by Indians only”—what was the need to say this? Maybe to show its independent origin and to cut itself off from other international terrorist movements. It specifically asks Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other organizations not to take credit for these attacks. The question is, if Indian Mujahideen is really an independent organization, why would it mention LeT by name?
Behind the masks
The letter is signed by two persons—one signed as Al-Arbi and the other, Guru Alhindi. Both signatures appear in English. The Jaipur letter was just signed as Guru Alhindi, but the handwriting in both letters appear to be different.
In the two terror emails, Indian Mujahideen takes the blame for blasts at Varanasi, UP courts, Jaipur, Mumbai trains and Ahmedabad. Interestingly enough, the Bangalore blasts, which took place just a day earlier, finds no mention in this long letter. Similarly, Hyderabad and Ajmer attacks are also conspicuous by their absence.
The letter addresses Hindus and Muslims but other groups such as Sikhs, Christians, Dalits, tribals do not figure.
The language of the letter suggests someone who had his education in India in English. At places, we see American spelling. But, this could be due to the default word-processor settings. The letter writer seems to be well aware of the Muslim way of speeches, but it seems that he is more comfortable with English than with Arabic or Urdu and chooses to sign even his Arabic pseudonym in English.
If he really wanted to address Muslims, he would have sent his letter in Urdu to Urdu newspapers. By selecting news channels, he wanted to reach out to a wider audience, but more than that, to establish his credibility as the man behind the terror attacks. He has no qualms in calling himself a terrorist and his actions as terrorism. Except for a vague goal of making Islam superior, he doesn’t seem to have any vision to offer Indian Muslims. Except that he wants to see more terrorism in India, he has no plan. He seems sure of himself and believes in his mission. Vague threats provide no clues to future attacks, but he does not seem to be a man in a hurry—he has time to reflect on his actions and explain it to his readers in the most chilling way.
Except for the 1993 Mumbai bombings, none of the recent and high-profile bombings attributed to Muslim terrorists has led to any conviction. People arrested were let go weeks, month and years later for lack of evidence. The credibility of intelligence agencies has evaporated with each new incident and report of arrests of innocents. How is it that those who had no prior knowledge of the terror incident can claim to catch the culprits just hours later? If the agencies were able to get convictions that would have given a face to the unknown terrorists—and a study of how and why a person turned terrorist could have provided valuable clues for containing the menace of terrorism.
Even though Muslims are not fully convinced that Muslims are behind the blasts, still, there is a strong possibility that some of us may be involved in terrorism and we have to work hard to remove any doubt and help the investigating and intelligence agencies find these people. This is possible only if the public and the police work together and trust each other. Harassment of innocents and demonizing the community only help the terrorists.
(Kashif-ul-Huda is the editor of news website www.TwoCircles.net. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org)