CPI (M) and terrorists Wednesday, Dec 16 2009 

AKG CentreIt is stated policy of the CPI (M), or for that matter any of the mainstream political parties, that they would have no truck with extremist outfits and terrorists. However, in practice, this may not be so.

There is little doubt that both the UDF and LDF had hobnobbed with extremists as part vote bank politics. As a result, extremists could take deeper roots in districts such as Malappuram. The network is deeper than that had come to light so far. However, the police, under political pressure, is still reluctant to strike at those who aided the network to take deep roots.

Now with media reporting about Soofia Maudani’s alleged involvement in the Kalamassery bus burning case and unearthing of part of the terrorist network in the State, it has become difficult for political parties in the State to openly associate with Abdul Nasir Maudani’s People’s Democratic Party. However, the CPI (M) is still in two minds with party State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Chief Minister V. S.Achuthanandan leading the opposing camps. (What a fall for a communist party!)

It is to be remembered that the State Assembly had passed a resolution seeking the release of Maudani from Coimbatore Central Jail. Achuthanandan had gone to Chennai to meet the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and plead for Maudani. The cost that Tamil Nadu extracted was the Assembly resolution in favour of release of Neyyar waters to Tamil Nadu.

So, the promise of any politician that they would not have any truck with extremist organisations in future is to be taken with a pinch of salt. Eternal vigilance by the public would only ensure that the mainstream political parties would not stray into extremist camps.

Related post:

Terrorism: Kerala could be a sitting duck

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Terrorism of a different order Saturday, Jan 10 2009 

A queue for petrol before a petrol bunk on Friday

A queue for petrol before a petrol bunk on Friday

The fuel shortage that gripped the country following the strike by oil sector offices association should be an eye opener to all. It showed that we can strike heavier than the terrorists. And the official machinery and the people could be taken by surprise when the petrol bunks dried up one after another. Nothing much different from the situation we faced when terrorists struck Mumbai and other places.

If the strike had gone on for one more day, several sectors of the economy and critical services would have come to a standstill. Of course, that is hypothetical. However, we cannot still guarantee that it would not happen tomorrow.

As a country we are ill-prepared to handle any king of emergency or disaster ranging from terrorist attacks to natural calamities. Though we have disaster management policies and agencies to handle industrial accident and natural calamities, few districts have assessed the risks they face and are fully prepared to act in the case of emergency. Preventive measures are hardly taken ever taken even if there is prior warnings about disasters. Perhaps that is nothing when compared to communal clashes and strikes which we fail to prevent even if there is advance intelligence.

Election results and terrorism Monday, Dec 8 2008 

The hand symbol of Indian National Congress

Many commentators are quick to say that the Congress victory in three States in the recent elections indicates that the voters were not influenced by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. This may not be fully true.

We know that the tirade against politicians after the Mumbai attacks was mainly an upper class phenomenon. The common on the street shows much more resilience. For they live under one or other type of terror everyday. Thus the average Indian is less panicky about terrorism compared to, say, the Americans. So, he is capable of much more reasoned behaviour. This would have disappointed the terrorists besides the BJP.

The common man does not want India to declare war with Pakistan on the spur of the moment. He would have voted BJP if it was a war that he preferred. For the chances of a BJP going for war are much more than the Congress. He may also be aware that the State governments cannot declare war. They are also not directly responsible for the Central government’s failures.

Many also think that terrorism attacks began to spread from Kashmir to other parts of the country after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and Gujarat massacre. Ordinary man has enough wisdom to understand that bringing BJP to power is not the best way to reduce tensions. If at all the country is to declare war against Pakistan, who else is better than A. K. Antony and Sonia Gandhi to be at the helm of affairs? They would be motivated only by security concerns (and not communal factors).

Election symbol of BJPBut, we could still wonder why the common man did not react to the economic crisis and price rise. Well, the crisis is yet to hit the common man. It is the stock market players, realtors, banks and exporters who had been bruised badly. Moreover, farmers and others are now seeing the end of tunnel after the Central government pumped in money to help the farming sector and create rural employment. Those who look beyond their immediate welfare know that the Central Government is not responsible for the crisis.

The lack of voter response to price rise, however, look inexplicable. One reason may be that the real incomes of the people at middle and lower levels have gone up. Consequently, price rise is not a big concern as in the past.

It is notable that the voters have generally gone against regional parties. The Mizo National Front has been swept out. The ordinary Kashmiris has shown with their feet that they are not with the terrorists. (This is an opportunity that the Centre must know miss to settle the Kashmir issue once and for all.)

India is showing some facets of a slowly maturing democracy despite all our problems with the politicians and bureaucrats and increasing inefficiency and corruption in administration. Progress is marred only by lack of choice for the voters.

Mumbai terrorist attack: Politicians at the receiving end Sunday, Nov 30 2008 

Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi visiting a victim of the terrorist attack in Mumbai

Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi visiting a victim of the terrorist attack in Mumbai

The politicians are at the receiving end following the terrorist attack in Mumbai— quite justifiably.

The Home Minister Shivraj Patil had to resign and there is demand for resignation of Maharastra Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh and Deputy Chief Minister R. R. Patil. There was criticism against political visits to Mumbai by Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Opposition Leader L. K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi while the fight was raging on.

The family of Maharastra ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed by the terrorists, rejected financial assistance promised by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan has been snubbed by the father of Major Sandeep Unnnikrishnan–  who died fighting the terrorists at Taj Hotel.

Mumbai police were too ill prepared to handle a terrorist attack. The situation is no different in other States of the country too. (See Kerala could be a sitting duck). The economic capital of India did not have a force that could be rushed to the spot within, say, 15 minutes. Late Karkare rushed their without proper support, protection or equipment to deal with the situation. He and his team became sitting ducks.

The politicians had failed to take precautionary steps despite many indicators that terrorists would attack India again. There were also intelligence reports. Mr. Patil saw 13 blasts during his tenure and did nothing to equip and train forces to deal with terrorism.

He has not resigned on moral grounds. Despite his best efforts to stay in office, Sonia Gandhi dropped him to save the face of her party. It could be taken as a dismissal for ineptitude.

Ms. Gandhi had to do so because of the ongoing and forthcoming elections. Well, the terrorists would have even timed the attack. It is in their interest that the Hindutva forces come to power in India, so that they would have an additional cause to brainwash people and wage war.

R. R. Patil, who commented that incidents like the terrorist attack happens occasionally in big cities (bade bade sheheron mein ek adh aisi ghatna hoti rehti hai) is yet to be shown the door. Remember that Congress leaders had reacted in a similar vein after the Bhopal tragedy and the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Their insolence shows that they do not care for people. (Update: R. R. Patil, who belongs to the NCP and held the Home portfolio, has since resigned.)

It is no surprise that the Karkare family declined Narendra Modi’s offer, Modi being supporter of Malegaon model of terrorism. Until the other day, Mr. Modi was being highly critical of the ATS investigation into the Malegaon blasts.

For Mr. Achuthanandan, it dawned only late that he could use late Sandeep to his advantage like the party had done with its martyrs. Sandeep’s father, who had earlier declined to take a telephone call from Defence Minister A. K. Antony,  understands politicians. They come with wreaths and solatia when somebody dies because of their fault or neglect.

Mr. Achuthanandan should have respected the sentiments of Mr. Unnikrishnan and kept away instead of sneaking in with the help of police. If he had exercised discretion, the Chief Minister of the State would not have been snubbed by the father who said: “Mr. VS, you please go. I have no respect left for you.”

But discretion does not seems to be the strong point of the Chief Minister. His remark to the media was: “Not even a dog would have cared to visit the house, if it were not the home of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan.”  (Translation from Mayalayam of the words: Athu Sandeep Unnikrishnante Veedallayirunnuvenkil, oru pattiyum thirinju nookumayirunnilla . ) The Opposition in Kerala Assembly has given notice for moving an adjournment motion in the House accusing him of insulting the family of a martyr.  (Updated on 2/12/08)

America is redeeming itself Thursday, Nov 6 2008 

World Trade Centre many days before the terrorist attack

World Trade Centre many days before the terrorist attack

As commentators have said, the United States has voted for change in electing Barack Hussein Obama for the top post. However, how far the country will deviate from Bush’s policies once Mr. Obama is in Office is yet to be seen.

Looking back, once finds that if it was not for 9/11 and subsequent developments, Mr. Obama would not have got elected. For the religious, it would look ordained.

The foolhardiness of his predecessor in Office has seen that the terrorists actually win. The very objective of the attack on World Trade Centre was to hit at the economic might and prestige of America. By jumping for costly was, especially in Iraq, President Bush ensured that the economy and prestige of America suffered– much more than what the terrorists would ever have hoped to achieve. And economic collapse was the last nail on the Republicans in the elections. In a way, Osama bin Laden had his revenge.

Now the world is watching how America would change from a democratic country (!) fighting numerous wars in all corners of the World, often in business interest. Will Mr. Obama have a worldview different from his predecessors and even the average American? (The average American, at least most of them, knows little about rest of the world and cares little.)  Surely, he can connect to the world more than any of his predecessors. He has relatives in Kenya. He spent some years of his childhood in Indonesia. He studied law with students from all over the world at Harward Law School, and had a classmate from Kerala (now practicising in Kochi bar). Even culturally, a Hanuman icon has reached him from India and he is said to be carrying that as a talisman. Though not very significant in this context, his name is a mixture of the Jewish, Muslim and the African while being a Christian.

However, these factors would not overcome the compulsions of his Office. After all, he is to be the President of America, a country whose riches had been usurped from the first nations (Native Americans) and built upon using African slaves and neocolonialism. However, the man occupying the Office will be different. In a sense, he is the rightful inheritor— biracial, and his country has always been willing to change.

He will not be as selfish as the Bush administration. We can expect enlightened selfishness from him, an America redeeming itself.

Terrorism: Kerala could be a sitting duck Monday, Nov 3 2008 

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at bomb blast site at Guwahati, Assam last month

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at a bomb blast site in Guwahati, Assam, last month -- PIB

The bomb blasts in different parts of the country should be a wake up call for Kerala and several other States. Intelligence and security arrangements remain inadequate in Kerala that it is impossible for extremists to target any place in Kerala. Security is lax even at important establishments and locations.

Kerala has several factors that would act as a protective net terrorism from within. The first and foremost is perhaps the support for communist ideologies among the populace. Second is the presence of significant population of Christians and large majority of Hindus and Muslims who are not sympathisers of any extremist activity. (Extremists flourish only when they have roots in the communities and get sympathy and support.) The absence of Cosmopolitan cities and limited population of those from Northern States was another advantage. That made it easy for the police to track outsiders. However, this advantage is being lost with the influx of migrant workers from States such as Bihar, West Bengal  and  recruitment of criminal gangs by extremist organisations. However, it is to the credit of the Muslim community that hardly anyone could be recruited from Kerala by ideological brainwashing.

Despite all this favourable factors, it should concern the State that large sums are flowing into the State from foreign sources. There could be sleeping cells across the State that could be called into action by outside forces any time. In a subtle way, there are also moves to open up channels for public communication by several quarters. These have to be watched carefully as they could be used for subtle communal and ideological propaganda. This applies to both majority and minority communities.

Kerala ran into this situation because of the vote bank politics and resultant communal appeasement policies. Even mainstream political parties courted communal parties with extremist views to secure votes. As a result, deeper investigation into incidents such as the Marad massacre, burning of cinema theatres in Malappuram district and Tamil Nadu transport bus in Kochi, bomb blasts at Kadalundi and Thrissur , hawala, money laundering cases and dubious land transactions were undermined. Telltale developments at places like Kottackal and neighbouring areas, training camp at Vagamon and functioning of dozens of organisations with dubious agenda were ignored.

As the Malayalam saying goes, Kerala is now in a situation that it now would have use a spade to take out what could have been removed with a needle (Soochikondedukedathu, Thoombakondu Edukkuka).

Terrorist threat against Sonia Gandhi and quality of education. Sunday, Nov 2 2008 

Congress president Sonia Gandhi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi

The police recently arrested an engineering student from Kochi (Kerala) for sending an email message to President of India  threatening Congress president Sonia Gandhi and bomb blasts in Kochi and Delhi.

The accused was a B. Tech. student of Cochin University of Science and Technology, and the incident points to poor quality of education in our universities not to speak of colleges.

The boy had sent the email not with the intention of killing anybody but to take revenge on a girl who had rejected his love.

He did not know that his email could easily be traced to him. Though he is a B. Tech student, he seems not to have even preliminary knowledge of how the Internet works- the system of protocols and things like header information and logs. If he had known that, he would not have taken the risk of sending an email in such a silly manner. It is also clear that he does not know anything about proxy servers and the like which makes tracing of messages difficult. (In this case, use of proxy servers would have only delayed the investigation. As the threat is against a VIP, even those running proxy servers abroad would disclose the logs. )

mailThe student had used an email id he had created with personal information about his girl friend. He thought that the police would go after the girl when they find out the name and account details.  Apparently, he did not have a good appreciation of timestamps appearing on the emails. (The headers have information about the path taken by the message from server to server with time stamp). Otherwise, he would have known the police would check where the girl was at the time of sending the message. (And probably where he was; even if they had not traced him using the Internet protocol address of the sending machine).

All these point to the fact that the students are not learning even basics of Internet technology in their classes. Even if they do, it is only theory that they fail to connect to their applications. It is high time that we revamped our education system. Not only engineering students, but other students too should have basic knowledge about the working of the Internet. This would save them from committing foolish crimes. (Unless the courts are lenient, the student could attract a sentence of up to ten years in prison.) More than that, it could help to save them from identity thieves, scamsters behind the Nigerian email scam and other scams, spoofing and much more. And the police would not have to go after inconsequential threats.