26/11 Mumbai Terror attack: 'Modi showed interest but was browbeaten'

Written by: Oneindia Contributor

There have been several books that have been written post 26/11. However one of the most well researched books which deals with every aspect right from the planning of the attack to the end of the trial is Fragile Frontiers:The Secret History of Mumbai Terror Attacks.

Saroj Kumar Rath who is an Assistant Professor of History at the Sri Aurobindo College (Eve), University of Delhi, who has written this book after very intense research says that none of the political parties showed any interest in the probe. In this exclusive interview with Oneindia, Rath speaks in detail about the probe, lack of political will, the mysterious Sajid Mir and also the fact that when Narendra Modi showed intent, he was browbeaten by the Maharashtra government. [Part 3: More horrifying than the attack was the TV coverage]

Saroj Kumar Rath

Six years have passed since 26/11. How different is our resolve today against the war on terror?

The fundamentals are the same. Like before 26/11 law and order, read security, is a state subject even after 26/11. But since none of us trust the state police on security issues this arrangement is in constant tatter. The state police are neither capable nor trained to protect us from terror attacks. [Part 2: Investigative details unknown to us]

At all places starting from Chennai to Srinagar, after every blast/attacks, state government normally summons central security forces ‘to take on the terrorists as well as to investigate the incident'. This practice has been rendering the state police apparatus as a silent bystander making the citizen's first line of defence defunct.

The 26/11 accused were tried the same way a ‘small thief of Chandini Chowk' is tried under the law. Therefore, our punitive-justice system is no deterrent to terrorists.

Our resolve has been tested many times during the past six years and we faltered on all occasions. Since 2009, as per the Home Ministry's data, we have lost 1171 lives to terrorism. What is far more alarming is during the last six years 734 terrorists were also killed. How hundreds of terrorists roaming freely in India till they got killed? There is dead certainty that ‘a sizeable number of terrorist are still operating in our society under the nose of our security apparatus' and the Burdwan Blast was a testimony to this hypothesis.

To make a difference in our fight against terror we have to relook the role and efficiency of our police and judiciary. [Part 1: Several questions remain unanswered]

Does the Lashkar-e-Tayiba continue to be the most dreaded organization for India?

Yes. In fact, LeT's survival and growth is directly correspondence to its lethality against India.

In the past few years, LeT has evolved from a hoard of storm-troopers/bomb detonators to the role of terror mastermind regulating the course of India-centric terror operations in India and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, LeT collaborate with Haqqani Network against Indian interests while in India it solicit the support of home-grown radicals like the Indian Mujahideen and Wahhabi extremists.

What is more alarming is Hafiz Saeed, the LeT leader, is now participating in Pakistan Army's India-centric strategic sessions where decision about how to precipitate border conflagration with India is taken. In Pakistan, ban on LeT is lifted long back and as Nawaz Sharif's National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz has confessed the organization is not disturbed by Pakistan either.

Has the announcement of the Al-Qaeda in the Sub Continent and the rise of the ISIS made India an far more dangerous place?

A mere announcement does not make much difference. However, when we join the dots the announcement looks perilous. Our security agencies asking/digging for direct al Qaeda evidence and in the absence of hard al Qaeda presence they are becoming complacent. Direct al Qaeda evidence will never be available.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been hosting al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal area for a price. Haqqani Network, TTP and al Qaeda shares training centres, terror manual and safe havens in Pakistan. Since National Investigation Agency has already unravelled TTP's connection to Burdwan blast, al Qaeda's footprint in India is undeniable.

The ISIS is the surprised and latest entrant into the troubled terrorist landscape of India. It is difficult for the group to make a foothold in India as the environs is not suitable but it would certainly compete with al Qaeda to draw recruits from India and to assert monopoly over Indian militants. This competition, which is already started, is making India susceptible.

Although President Obama has already extended combat role of US forces till the end of 2015, the thin troop's presence would allow the Afghan Taliban to consolidate their base in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda will enjoy safe-haven in Taliban controlled area of Afghanistan and we can't deny the future possibility forming one Caliph by merger of al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIS.

There was a man called Sajid Mir involved in the 26/11 attack. What more details can you give us about him?

Sajid Mir also known as Sajid Majid is a mysterious, capable and interesting LeT operative who had played a major role in 26/11 attacks. He is the leader of LeT's international wing, possessed multiple passports, change his face frequently with plastic surgery and visited India a couple of time during India-Pakistan cricket matches. Once he was arrested in Dubai but his legendary contacts released him from police net.

Sajid Mir liaise LeT activities with al Qaeda and maintain LeT's contacts in Afghanistan. Sajid facilitate the inflow of Americans, Arabs, Australians, Azeris, Britons, Chechens, Filipinos, Kurds, Singaporeans, Turks and Uzbeks jihadis into LeT camps in Pakistan. Because of his dubious international presence, a French court convicted him in absentia for his involvement in a LeT-orchestrated terror plot.

It was Sajid Mir who broke the news to the world (through Headley) that ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha met Zaki-ur Rehman in Adiala jail to persuade Rehman to ‘deny LeT's and ISI's role in 26/11 attacks and advised him to declare it to be an al Qaeda operation'.

He was the link person in between Headley and LeT. On 21 July 2010, Delhi's Patiala House Court issued a non-bailable warrants (NBW) against Sajid Mir for his direct involvement in 26/11 attacks.

Is Pakistan doing enough against those who live on their soil and stage attacks against India?

Presently Pakistan is standing on a precipice. Its civilian leadership is subservient to its army but the army under Gen. Raheel Sharif has been presiding over a contradictory terror policy. Gen. Sharif has been vocally informing the world that the Zarb-e-Azb operation in tribal areas is against all kinds of militants.

But Hafiz Saeed, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin and scores of other militants not only roaming freely across Karachi to Muzaffarabad but also supervising attacks against India. Added to this Pakistan's NSA does not favour action against those (read LeT and Haqqani) who are not bleeding Pakistan.

Post-9/11, there were several measures undertaken by the US. Do you think India has adopted similar measures after 26/11?

We never tried to understand the 26/11 attacks let alone adopted steps on a US' scale after the attacks. Our politicians, police, prosecution, judiciary and bureaucracy continued with the movement of inertia even after 26/11 while the US heralded a new era after 9/11 not only for herself but for the world as well.

It will be very difficult even for our most optimistic law enforcement officers to discuss about steps taken after 26/11 to improve our security and if we ever succeeded in halting terrorist strike.

India and the US stood on different pedestal and their reactions to terrorist attacks are not comparable. While the US adopted all conceivable measures to stop terrorist attacks on its homeland, India satisfied herself with cosmetic changes.

During your research did you find that any political party had interfered in not letting the local link come to public notice?

Rather the opposite has happened where no political party ever shown interest or constructively participated in the Mumbai attacks case. During the attacks on November 28, 2008, then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Mumbai only to be browbeaten by then Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Actually, public opinion was fiercely and abhorrently against politicians because of their seemingly insensitive and self-centric security apparatus. Therefore, foolishly all parties steered clear of Mumbai imbroglio.

Do you think the new government in Delhi will be able to exert pressure on Pakistan to bring the 26/11 accused to justice?

Why singling out Pakistan? Even the US is equally responsible in shielding 26/11 accused. Why David Headley, the single biggest participant in Mumbai conspiracy is still safe at a US jail?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has met President Obama thrice (at Washington DC, Nay Pyi Taw and Brisbane) within the span of three months. But he has not taken the issue with the US president.

Dealing with the US is simpler as we have an extradition treaty with the US. If we cannot persuade the US, putting pressure on Pakistan because of its mere geographical proximity is an impossibility.

Apart from that the present government is still to come out with a Pakistan policy. Countries like the US and Israel have been killing terrorists, who they consider a threat to their homeland security, across the world by sending their Special Forces and drones. We are far too behind to evolve a policy vis-a-vis terrorists who are harming India.

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