A well-known US-based analyst on South Asia who works for the RAND Corporation, Christine Fair, has said of the Mumbai attacks that the attackers could well be homegrown, motivated by anger over the way India's 140 million Muslims are treated by the Hindu majority.
"This isn't India's 9/11," she said. "This is India's Oklahoma City." The attackers caught the Indian security forces oblivious and unprepared. Clueless as they were, it did not deter the Indian state officials, including the prime minister, from the sudden revelation that Pakistan was behind the attacks. Their media, loath to be left behind, upped the ante by creating frenzy with a spate of accusations against Pakistan and what they termed as its "rogue" intelligence agency, the ISI. In its unseemly haste to maliciously malign Pakistan, it let go of all vestiges of sanity which such a sobering matter should have required. Pakistan is plagued by its own security nightmare.
Could the ISI really be foolhardy enough to send "beer guzzling" fidayeen with telltale satellite and mobile phones linking them to Pakistan, to be implicated in an attack as audaciously violent as this, with risks of massive and immediate reprisal from India. Let's face it. The Mumbai attacks are a damning indictment of the failure of India's intelligence agencies, particularly the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Their total focus on Pakistan and their brazenly overt involvement in Afghanistan has helped the homegrown militants to operate with precision and impunity, whenever and wherever they want. India, the second largest Muslim country in the world, is not exactly a shining example of its much vaunted secularism and peaceful coexistence.
The fault lines of Hindus, versus Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and the multitude of other minorities, run deep. If only one per cent of India's minorities are inclined to violence, we have a disenchanted force of millions of militants. Yes, there are the Ambanis and the Tatas but teeming millions sleep every night on footpaths. To quote Amartya Sen, "you cannot expect stability or prosperity from a society that is half Silicon Valley, half Sub-Saharan Africa."
Among some of the major homegrown groups fighting the Indian state are the Maoists and the Naxalites. They cannot rest in peace until we have eliminated this virus. Furthermore, thousands of Sikhs have died in communal violence since 1984. Militant Hindu nationalists affiliated with the RSS have sought to wipe out all traces of Christianity from Orissa and other parts of India. They prevent, sometimes with police assistance, Christians from meeting to pray, murder new converts and are trying to take over the land where churches and Christian homes once stood. Other tragic fatalities include thousands of Muslims in Gujarat and thousands of Christians in Nagaland and elsewhere since 1947. The never-ending body count includes thousands of Bodos, Dalits, Assamese, Manipuris and other minorities.
More recently, a colonel of the Indian army, Srikant Purohit, and a major, Samir Kulkarni, are facing trial for involvement in the Samjhotha Express bombing. The blasts, as the routine goes, were blamed on the ISI, but investigations proved otherwise. The two Indian army officers were arrested, and another five, including a major general and two colonels, are under investigation. These are not rogue officers to be taken in isolation. Various reports have revealed that the Indian Army and intelligence agencies have been infiltrated to the highest ranks by such elements. India needs to face the fact that its so-called "secular democracy" has given rise to an ever increasing aggressive Hindu communalism. This is the breeding ground in which militancy has flourished and perhaps the chickens have come home to roost.
The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org