Friday, August 18, 2006


This was an interview I did with the security expert B. Raman days after the US warning that India could be on Al-Qaeda's radar. B Raman is a retired bureaucrat and has been a former member of the National Security Advisory Board (2000 to 2002) and the Special Task Force on revamping the intelligence apparatus in the country.

Does the Al-Qaeda have a presence in India?

As far as I know there is no presence of Al-Qaeda as an organisation in India. It is an exclusively Arab organisation because Osama bin Laden does not admit non-arabs for the sake of his own security. He hires only those people whose loyalty he is certain of. But there are a number of other organisations that are associated with the Al-Qaeda in the international Islamic front through the United Front of Jihadi organisations of the World formed by him in February 1998. Four of them are very active in India - the Lashkar e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-jihad-al-Islami and Jaish e-Mohammed. These four are associated with Al-Qaeda.

After 9/11 when America attacked Afghanistan the command and control of Al-Qaeda were considerably disrupted. At that time Osama bin Laden asked LeT to take over responsibility of co-ordinating the work of the international Islamic front.

Also, since April this year Osama bin Laden has started taking more interest in India. He made a broadcast on April 23rd where he projected global jihad as a conspiracy of Christians, Jews and Hindus against Islam. So since April he has included Hindus as well.

To answer your question - Al-Qaeda itself does not exist in India, but it has links with several organisations and individuals here.

What was the immediate provocation for him to include the term 'Hindus' in his April broadcast?

It happened immediately after George W. Bush's visit to India. He made a broadcast through an audio tape released through Al-Jazeera. There he said that Bush has allowed himself to be pressurised by the government of India to exercise pressure on Pakistan to stop assistance to Jihadis in Kashmir. So the immediate provocation is the close relationship between India and the US.

Al-Qaeda is becoming an ideology. So does it become just as dangerous that they have links here, even if they dont exist in India?

Al-Qaeda is an ideology which they have borrowed from Pakistan - what they call international Islamism, where they say that the first loyalty of a Muslim is to his religion and then only to the country of which he is a citizen. They claim, Muslims do not recognise national frontiers - so they have the right to make jihad anywhere where Muslims are in danger and their human rights are being violated.

Previously Al-Qaeda was content to act through organisations like LeT, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen etc. They had left it to them - they just provided money, arms and ideas. Since April the Al-Qaeda has taken a more direct interest in India.

Indian Muslims have kept themselves away from the Al-Qaeda and a small number supports groups like the LeT. As a result Indian muslims are not under suspicion - for example a Pakistani Muslim can't get a visa easily to go to the US and Europe. They can't transfer money easily - even through legitimate banking channels it takes a long time because enquiries are made, whereas Indian Muslims are not yet under suspicion - they have kept away from Al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is very keen to organise another major terror strike against the US. So he is looking for people who have not come to the adverse notice of the western intelligence agencies and thats why they are trying to recruit Indians - not only for terror against India but also for terrorist operations in the West. Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda think they can travel much more easily. For example, Bilal al Hindi - a Muslim of Gujarati origin (he was a Hindu Gujarati convert to Islam from East Africa and has been arrested in the UK) was sent to the US because he would not be viewed with as much suspicion as a Pakistani Muslim.

Then will bin Laden find his human resource here?

Well, one has to make a distinction between radicalisation and pan-Islamisation. The radicalisation of Indian Muslims started after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Dec. 1992. Earlier you had communal riots but there was never an act of jihadi terrorism. The first act on Indian territory outside Kashmir took place after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. While they became radical they were not supporting the Al-Qaeda. If Al-Qaeda is to have a base here, it has to have some support from Indian Muslims. Till April this year they did not have support unlike in some parts of south east Asia where you'll find Osama bin Laden caps and T-shirts being sold openly. But in April, when Bush came there were a number of demonstrations in Bombay, Delhi and Lucknow. I read in newspapers that in Bombay people shoulted pro-Osama slogans. Its a very small number but there is that small number that is getting attracted to his pan-Islamist ideology, whereas, previously they were just radicalised. They did not look upon it as part of a global movement. Their problem was with the government at the centre and the state. Now Al-Qaeda is trying to make them feel that they are part of a global movement.


Abhi! said...

Hey. Good one..
Been a while since I've been to your blog !!
How you been ??

uday said...

hi alaphia,

Though most of the answers seem like stuff that has already been seen and read, any amount of detailing on terrorist grps operating in India seems insufficient.

Rememeber watching with keen interest the special report on the same issue a few sundays back on NDTV.

more such...

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

Nice. Thanks for posting it.

The fact of the matter is that both Bush, and the right-wing in India, need an enemy to survive. For now the enemy is Al-Qaeda. If there wasn't an Al-Qaeda they would need to manufacture an enemy.

The US lives in Orwell's 1984; the War on Terror has and always will continue. The enemy is always WestAsia. They have always been fighting terror.

When will India come to this state?

rajesh said...

to start with, im intrigued and fascinated abt the story of Bilal al Hindi...a muslim convert in england who is of east african indian origins...whoa!

pan-islamic vision is always to be welcomed. what is imp is that it shdnt become an outlet to vent local and personal frustrations.

i think there are many fossified jingoists in this country who dont understand that that a nation is just a political arrangement...and that all mankind is one...that all human beings are entitled to equal rights as described in Islam, US constitution, etc...and that a country exists for the sake of all mankind and not vice versa. as in one persian belief.."all of us are born muslims...some are raised as jews, hindus, christians, etc"

The elite blood sucking rich, upper middle class that has infiltrated politics, media, art and other spheres in india and who raise the bogey of patriotism, hindutva and all such irrelevant terms to exploit the exploited are a far more serious problem that al-qaeda in mumbai or delhi. the same bunch of elitists, living in their utopian ideologies are anti-reservation, anti-naxal, etc without knowing the grnd realities.

mr.raman is one of the outspoken ex-bureaucrats. i hope you enjoyed interviewing him.

'1984' was an expression against communist ideology. in it the State is against its own people. 'war on terror' is different. it discriminates the world into US and non-US sections.

cynicalcount said...

Rajesh: You seem to have lot of misconceptions. First of all , upper middle class dont have raise the bogey of hindutva. All your upper classes and the media in particular raise the bogey of secularism . For e.g Mr. Yogendra yadav says the Godhra episode was a mass suicide by the hindus. Be it Kuldip nayyar or Teesta setalvad who are all prime examples of rich class you are talking about, they are not supporters of hindutva. Infact, this man kuldip nayar is on record saying pandits in the valley are liars and no terrorists had done anything against them. I can provide you with 1000's of such examples but since this is alaphia's blog it would not be correct to use her space. I wonder which elite rich and upper class you are referring to. Give specifics dont make ambigious and false statements .

May be you think Modi is upper class or else you think Bajrang dal is a party of rich class. Please get your facts correct. As far as Media goes, look no further than barkha and rajdeep's reporting on Gujarat to know who is raising what bogey.

rajesh said...


you missed the point. the "elite" of this country is the scum....the rich and upper middle class..

you may say that lalu yadav is a peasant...i dont agree....he is in the that "power mesh"...created by this elitist class...industrialists, poilicians, media, showbiz, etc etc

like ms.arundhati roy once beautiful doesnt matter whether you buy product 1 or product 2..coz both are produced by the same firm.

it doesnt matter whether kuldip nayar or barkha is supporting secularism or bajrang dal is raising hindutva....coz the core issue isnt that...the issues are food, free education, housing....dignity of life of EVERY individual in this land. the issues are farmers suicides and abject poverty in telugana shd be the HOT topics day in and day out.

cynicalcount said...


What you agree or not agree is irrelevant out here. You may think Lalu is a elite or you may think Mohd Shahbuddin is US president . You cant change facts just because you dont agree. Facts dont change as per your liking and the fact of the matter is Elite, Rich and Upper class dont raise Hindutva issue. For them its as immaterial as flogging a dead horse. On the contrary they raise the bogey of secularism.

I dont want to go into detail out here on media workings here since you seem to be a novice on how the media funtions. Please dont quote anything said by a person who thinks she is the reincarnation of karl marx. She is as outdated as the Marx economics are in todays world.

rajesh said...

do you know what the Facts are? lack of food or education, denial of basic amentities to citizen of this 'world's largest democracy'...true, religious extremism is also a problem, but it is linked to economic hardships and social injustice. work for EVERYONE to be prosperous and religion will go back to its rightful place. al-qaeda or al-ansar or bajrang wont matter.

to have a society where the disparity is so stark, where the so called "ppl's representatives" are busy attending iftar parties and talk shows with the filthy rich scums...laughing and dancing while malnutrition, suicides and corruption is so rampant in this land...darn! where you do ppl come from?

good for you that you seem to an expert in knowing how media functions, but you can keep the secret knowledge to yourself. thank you.

poverty is not outdated as yet nor the legitimate struggle of ppl who suffer in it.

cynicalcount said...

Rajesh, in your earlier post you talked about the elite fanning communal passions and now you are talking about lack of education, disparity etc,.

First decide what you want to say but i think you are confusing a dozen odd issues into one and making a muddle of it. Religious extremism being the by product of poverty is a fallacy propagated by certain intellectuals. I work in the social sector and i know poverty related issues and as far as it being outdated goes, i talked about an individual not about an issue. You seem to be her fan but you said in one of your earlier post that everyone is entitled to their opinion isnt it?

I think dude you got totally confused since i never said that lack of education , poverty, corruption and farmer deaths are non-issues. You seem to have some kind of problem with the rich since you say they are dancing while people are dying. It is the govt's responsiblity to ensure every citizen gets roti, kapda and makaan but alas the govt is elected on the basis of caste and creed, criminal status of a person so its little immature to expect anything from the govt. Media is interested in boosting TRP's by pouring diesel on a poor man and burning him alive and then showing the entire footage.

The bottom line is the media will never highlight issues mentioned by you and the govt will never do anything to remove the disparity.

Dont confuse this with rich and elite helping hindutva and talking about Ms. Karl marx as the saviour of the poor. She has done nothing except get free publicity.

rajesh said...

im not against prosperity....but certainly against disparity...against everyday feasting by a fringe section when the bulk of nation is starving.

understand that the "elite" consists of both the communal, rich, secular, intellectual elements. i used the term "power mesh".

that whole bunch is callous abt grnd realities and instead fights over natwar singhs, mosques, temples, movies censorships and all such c*ap while thousands are mal-nourished or dying.

it is the same elite bunch that will go on long marches and light candles for jessica lal(may she be in peace) coz she was "one" of them. They were so many rural incidents of ppl not even being able to lodge a complain for their murdered kin...did anyone bother then or now abt these non-model, poor, unknown humans who didnt walk the ramp? says so much abt the great indian middle class of course.

i assume you have enough political acumen to understand which national party the businesses and money making machines from shopkeepers onwards like to have in power. most of them evade tax. its a deadly combo when the situation arises. e.g Gujarat.

Extremism grows only where there is poverty, unemployment, insecurity, injustice. If you beg to differ, "despite" having realtime experience, so bad for you. If you are perturbed by mentioning ms.roy's name...w/o thinking on what she said...well, i cant comment on your personality preferences.

We need ideologies that can unite the world against oppression. lets not link the concept of ummah with the machinations of al-qaeda. its a beautiful thing when an indonesian cries for a lebanese family or a bosnian victim. its not something i expect from the "victimized poor ppl? oh, its the government's job" gang to appreciate.

just wanted to say to alaphia, that it wasnt my intend to clog her blog like this. thanks.

cynicalcount said...

Lol Rajesh, your ideal woman ms. karl marx is one those "power mesh" bunch you are talking about. She dresses up in chic fabindia kurtas and does dharna with hundreds of admirers like you and the consequence of that is traffis snarls. You are going round and round in circles talking about poverty and disparity but poverty being linked to extremism is not entirely true. You are generalising a lot of things and making assumptions without any sort of basis.

I can provide you with hundreds of examples where people want to live in shanty houses and dirty conditions but wont move to a better place provided by the govt or by NGO's. Even if you give them jobs they are so used to their old anti-social responsiblities they are unable to let it go. There are many cases of Shiv sena activists who used to just loiter around and make threats and indulge in extortion. Some of them due to family pressures wanted to mend their ways and started working for Mohalla committee but it was only for a short period and they were back to their old ways soon. They said it didnt suit them and they would rather be doing what they like. I am not saying everyone is like this but dont generalise and assume its the gospel.

You are sitting in a comfy A/c room and talking about issues which you are totally unaware of.
I agree that some times poverty makes people take to extremism but that is not the only issue .

How many times will you apologise to Alaphia dude ? I suppose if you are really not happy writing essay type of comments you would not be doing so. Since you are writing then why pretend to be sorry.

rajesh said...

" I can provide you with hundreds of examples where people want to live in shanty houses and dirty conditions. Even if you give them jobs they are so used to their old anti-social responsiblities they are unable to let it go" reveal the inspiration behind your nickname...

how many times must i apologize to al
before she makes me her pal
how many times must i say im her fan
before the whole world can understand
the answer my friend, is blowin in the wind...
the answer is blowin in the wind.

i apologize to ms.zoyab in every thread coz im acutely aware, guilty im eating into her blogspace..i didnt apologize for the "essay" type comments....see the subtle difference? i definitely hope you not the cynical one here.

cynicalcount said...

HaHa..Bottom line is same gentleman. If you are acutely guilty for eating into blogspace then the question arises is anyone forcing you to eat into the blogspace? You are willingly writing to assauge your ego and then you apologise. Good policy.

The limerick was what we used to write in our 5th class. Another example which proves the saying" Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others"