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Friday, March 26, 2010

Edition 13: Vigilance By Citizens Is Key

With its strategically important location and military presence in the city, Pune was always considered to be a safe and secure place to live. The sobriquet of being a Pensioner's Paradise was not given for nothing. It is one of those few big cities in India which remained aloof from the incidents of terror like bomb blast.
All this was in the past. With a sudden jerk on the fateful evening of Saturday, 13 February, the city witnessed one of the bloodiest occurrences in which 9 people lost their lives on first day itself. Latest victim was recorded when a Sudanese student breathed his last exactly a week later. Is existence of terror network in Pune a new phenomenon? Or was it present in the past also?
Investigations after the Mumbai train blasts in 2006 and following intelligence reports have shown clearly that banned organization Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was slowly but surely spreading its wings in Pune. So much so that the city now assumed the form of a nerve centre for the organization's activities.
The intelligence reports show that SIMI activists from all over the country use the city as a transit point and indoctrination centre. The police have time and again reiterated thatthere are many 'Sleeping Cell' in the city consisting of terror operatives. There were also reports that free funding for the organization's activities in the city and its surrounding areas takes place.
More disturbing trend is that besides Mumbai and Pune, network is now spreading to smaller cities of Maharashtra as well. Security officials investigating an encounter in Kashmir discovered that 19-year-old boy from Kolhapur had become a Hizbul Mujahideen operative. Similarly, Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad reached to Aurngabad and Beed investigating the German Bakery blast case. Security agencies have acknowledged the presence of "sleeper cells" in Maharashtra. These cells consist of youth who are not directly involved in any terror activity but provide logistic support.
After the serial blasts in local trains in Mumbai, the Pune police launched an intensive combing operation. A large number of people were questioned since then. The police also increased vigil. According to the police, they have been keeping a close watch on SIMI's activities in Pune since 2001. Even after that vigil, the number seems to be growing alarmingly.
Not long ago, Pune police arrested a software engineer for alleged links with the Lashkar-E-Toiba. Mansoor Peerbhoy was a youth next door whose arrest sent the shock waves across the civil society. In this background, the recent bomb blast does not appear to be an unexpected event.
What is true for Pune is true for country also. The security environment of India is repeatedly challenged by terrorism. Outfits operating out of Pakistan continue to be highly active and finding new and unexpected targets. The details like pattern of attack, target and scale of the loss changes a bit but the story is same. Terrorist attacks are no longer aimed at security forces or government establishments. They have extended to include strikes against common citizens and more importantly, foreigners.
It is a noticeable trend all over the world that the big cities have become the prime terror targets. Terrorists target big cities with their identifiable landmarks, its heterogenous mix of citizens and media. Like the attack of Nov.26, 2008 in Mumbai or Sep. 11, 2001 in USA showed, they create a visual spectacle which leaves impressions in the public memory. Media coverage chaos resulting from the confusion and panic give the terrorists measure of success.
Incidents That Shocked Us
Aug. 11, 1986 :
Retired chief of Army Staff, Gen. Arunkumar Shridhar Vaidya was assasinated at the age of 60. He was chief of staff in June, 1984, when Indian troops entered the Golden Temple in Amritsar. He took a hard line against Sikh soldiers who deserted after that incident and has often been a declared a target by Sikh terrorists.
Four assailants in their 20s opened fire at Vaidya resulting in his death. The incident took place in Camp Area.
Vaidya was the most prominent victim of Sikh terrorists after former prime minister Indira Gandhi who was assassinated by Sikh members of her home guard in October, 1984.
June 15, 2004 :
The police department was perplexed when it emerged that one of the four alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists gunned down by the Ahmedabad police was a resident of Pune.
Large explosives were recovered from the slain terrorists.
It was later found that Javed lived in Pune. His original name was Pranesh Kumar Pillai and he lived in the Kailas Housing Society in Vishrantwadi. However, his name was never found in activities in Pune.
Oct , 2008 :
Mansoor Peerbhoy, alleged Indian Mujahideen operative was arrested in connection with the Delhi and Ahmedabad blasts. He has admitted that he had sent terror e-mails.
Peerbhoy, a 31-year-old software professional and alleged head of the media wing of the Indian Mujahideen. He was working in the global giant company Yahoo and earned Rs 19 lakh per year.His arrest really came as a shocker to the countless citizens of Pune.
A resident of Pune, he is currently being probed for link to latest blast.

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