It is one year since the last reported terrorist attack (in New Delhi in September last year) by the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and its mentor the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Not only has there been no jihadi terrorist attack in Indian territory outside Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) attributable to the IM for a year now, there has been no propaganda offensive by the IM either during this period. There was no evidence of IM involvement in the spectacular terrorist attack launched by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan in Mumbai from November 26 to 29, 2008. A message purporting to be from one Deccan Mujahideen claiming responsibility for the Mumbai attack had originated from Pakistan at the time of the attack, but it was believed to have been sent at the instance of the LET set-up in Pakistan to confuse the Indian security agencies.
The period between November 2007 and September,2008, saw repeated terrorist strikes with timed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by a group of jihadis originally belonging to the SIMI, who claimed to be operating as the Indian Mujahideen. These explosions, with many human fatalities, took place in three cities of Uttar Pradesh on the same day in November,2007, in Jaipur in May,2008, in Bangalore and Ahmedabad in July, 2008 and in New Delhi in September, 2008. Messages purporting to be from the IM received by some media outfits claimed responsibility not only for these explosions, but also for some others which had taken place before November,2007, such as the explosions targeting suburban train passengers in Mumbai in July,2006.
The attacks between November, 2007, and September,2008, were well-planned, well-orchestrated and well-executed and indicated the involvement in their planning and execution by some well-educated members of the Indian Muslim community, some of whom had attended so-called secular educational institutions. Some of the educated Muslims involved and arrested by the Mumbai police were adept in the use of information technology (IT). One of them was reportedly working for a reputed IT company.
The Indian intelligence agencies and the police of the affected States, which were taken by surprise by these attacks, mobilised their resources and succeeded in arresting many of those involved. The investigation brought out that long before launching these attacks, the SIMI had been planning for them and holding training camps for those to be used for these attacks in different parts of Indian territory, including in Kerala and Gujarat. The investigation also brought out that prompt follow-up action by the police of different States on the revelations about these training activities contained in the reports of the Madhya Pradesh police on the interrogation of some SIMI cadres arrested by them in the beginning of 2008 might have prevented at least some of these attacks. Unfortunately, the interrogation reports were allegedly not widely disseminated and no alert was sounded. The details of the planning and training came to be known only after the Ahmedabad explosions.
The credit for the one-year lull since September, 2008, should go to the Indian intelligence agencies and the police of all the states. They have not allowed their preoccupation with detecting and neutralising the cells of the LET, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and other Pakistani organisations come in the way of their hunt for the remnants of the IM and the SIMI, which have escaped attention and arrest so far. Many suspected cells of the SIMI and the IM in Kerala, and other places have been detected and neutralised by them during the last one year.
The details out of these detections and arrests as reported by the media periodically indicate that the SIMI and the IM have been re-strategising their operations for the future and biding their time before striking again. The one-year lull in the terrorist strikes of the IM and the SIMI should not be interpreted as indicating any set-back suffered by them. The arrests made during this period of lull indicate continued planning and training for more attacks.
The IM and the SIMI continue to be as serious a threat to our internal security as they were in 2008.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.