Monday, August 27, 2007

'Hitting Hyderabad gives mileage to jehadis'

27 Aug 2007, 0311 hrs IST,Kingshuk Nag,TNN
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HYDERABAD: In January 2005, there was considerable consternation in old quarters of Hyderabad. A section of people living there were agitated because the king of Saudi

Arabia was coming to Delhi but not visiting Hyderabad. Their agitation was covered extensively by the Urdu press and the aggrieved ones were bitter that in the good old days, when oil had not been struck in Arabia, it was the Nizam who used to be the benefactor of Saudi kings.

"The rest of the city found this behaviour strange. But modernity and economic development have bypassed these sections. They hark back to the past in search of the golden era when the Nizam's was the biggest Muslim kingdom in the world," says an analyst who would rather not be named.

In these circumstances, Pakistan's ISI and the Harkat-Ul-Jehad-Al-Islami (HuJI) have found the old city of Hyderabad a fertile ground for recruiting jehadis. This is especially so in the aftermath of 9/11, which gave an impetus to the process of radicalisation.

"Our religion doesn't teach killing. But with these activities not only are they shaming Islam but also making us vulnerable," says Moazzam Khan, a retired professor. "But then, enemies across the borders are least concerned about peace in India. They want to incite one community against another. It should be noted that at least 10 of those killed in Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat are Muslims."

But liberal voices like Moazzam represent a largely ineffectual Muslim middle class in Hyderabad. This is especially in the context of politics practiced in the old city where the Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (MIM) lords over one Lok Sabha seat and five assembly consituencies.

Hyderabad's troubles can be traced back to the mid-1990s when ISI began picking up recruits from Hyderabad. But as Indian intelligence agencies got smarter, the ISI outfits began donning other identities. "Pakistani operators realised that the Indo-Bangladesh border was more porous and infiltration was easy," says a top cop.

Helping them was the fact that for some strange reason, there has been an economic connection between Hyderabad and Bangladesh. Over the last few years, many technicians — mostly fitters, tradesmen and artisans — have found part-time employment in Bangaladesh. "Small companies have taken up contracts in Dhaka for six months and have been sending men there. This has made infiltration and indoctrination easier," a source said.

The process received a jolt only when there was a blast on Dussehra day in the office of the task force of the Hyderabad police commissioner. The perpetrator died but the police identified him as a Bangladeshi.

"This was the first time the Bangladesh angle came up prominently," the police official said. In reality, however, there was a Bangladesh angle earlier, too, but had been ignored.

Then, the IT era in Hyderabad truly began in 1999 when US president Bill Clinton brought Microsoft along with him. In the years since Clinton's trip, investments in software buttressed the BPO boom. So, when Clinton's successor George W Bush too decided to drop by in Hyderabad in March 2006 (five weeks after the Saudi king decided to skip the city), he thought it fit to order the opening of a full-fledged consulate in Hyderabad.

This was significant because there is already a US consulate in Chennai. By zeroing in on Hyderabad, Bush also ignored the claims of Bangalore. "All this means that from the point of view of jehadis, Hyderabad is an attractive target. Hitting Hyderabad can give a massive mileage to the jehadi point of view," says a senior police officer.

Added to all this the unpreparedness of Andhra police. Geared up to deal with Naxalites, the police has largely ignored the terrorist threat.

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