Posts Tagged ‘Mumbai

We don’t want to bleed anymore

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When the general secretary of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi walked into the RML Hospital premises on September 07 after the Delhi High Court blast, slogans were shouted against him. And so were against other politicians who came to empathise with the victims and their families. This in many ways is symbolic of the growing frustration of the general public with those who govern them and the apathy with which they are treated.

India has been attacked again and again. Sample this – On March 12, 1993, Mumbai serial bombings shook the financial capital of the country killing more than 250 people. The main accused, Dawood Ibrahim is yet to be extradited to India from Pakistan. On December 13, 2001, more than a dozen people, including five gunmen, were killed in an attack on Parliament. On September 24, 2002, terrorists attacked Akshardham temple in Gujarat. In August 2003, two taxis packed with explosives blew up in Mumbai at crowded areas killing more than 50 people.

In October 2005, three bombs placed in Delhi markets, crowded with Diwali shoppers killed around 62 people and injured hundreds. In July 2006, seven bombs placed on Mumbai’s local trains killed over 200 people. Eight serial blasts rocked Jaipur in a span of 12 minutes in May 2008. On November 26, 2008, attacks on ten locations in Mumbai left more than 180 dead. Pakistani national, Ajmal Kasab has been sentenced to death with an appeal pending before the Supreme Court.

The list, sadly, goes on…

The Ram Pradhan Committee formed after 26/11 attacks to look into the lapses and recommend measures to stop further attacks, called for radical transformation of the police force. In spite of its recommendations, the beat constable is still unequipped, CCTV cameras still do not work and the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad established in 2004 is reportedly working at some 30 percent of the strength as compared to the numbers sanctioned by the government.

National Intelligence Grid was given approval by the Union Cabinet in June this year, months after the idea was first mooted. The project aimed at facilitating information-sharing among law enforcement agencies to combat terror was apparently delayed because of objections from other ministries, especially that of defence and finance, as they felt that the home ministry would have an unlimited access to all the information.

National Counter Terrorism Council (NCTC), an umbrella body to fight terror is also in the pipeline. Not sure when it will see the light of the day.

Delhi Chief Minister, after the High Court blast, had remarked that “multiplicity of agencies” created functional problem in combating terror and solving cases. To which the Home Minister P Chidambaram had replied that no single body can alone handle internal and external intelligence, policing and counter-terrorism. How often have we heard the government talk in different languages? And if statements like these do no create confusion in the minds of the citizens then what does?

On May 25, 2011, a blast took place at the Delhi High Court car park. Nonetheless it did nothing to wake up the authorities.

Home Minister recently said that Af-Pak was the epicentre of terror and that home-grown terror modules are fertilised from outside. And to a foreign television channel he said, “As far as cross-border terrorism is concerned, we have to continue to put pressure on Pakistan.”
The Indian Mujahideen gained notoriety in 2008 after taking responsibility for blasts in Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Delhi and Assam, even though it had been active since 2003. As per intelligence reports, the IM is being controlled from across the border. It was also reported recently that militants trying to infiltrate into India by June had exceeded the figures of 2010.

In this scenario what good are the photo-ops between SM Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar, especially if the perpetrators of 26/11 cannot be brought to book? Yes, we cannot change our neighbours but we can certainly change the way we talk to them. Yes, trade and commerce are important issues, but not at the cost of losing innocent lives.

P Chidambram, was supposedly pulled back when he decided to tighten the noose around the Maoists, due to pressures from certain quarters and certain political parties. After the Batkal encounter case in Delhi, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh, decided to visit Azamgarh. The Afzal Guru hanging case has long been in the public domain for the people to read between the lines. Isn’t it time we stop the policy of appeasement and vote-banks at the cost of bloodshed?

Congress leader Renuka Chowdhry said in a recent television debate, “Do you think that the terrorists will stop if we have a CCTV? What do you do when terrorists are ready to die?” After the serial blasts in Mumbai in July, Prithviraj Chavan, CM of Maharashtra lamented, “Terror groups are active and are able to strike at will.” Instead of statements like these, we need our leaders to send out a stern message to all terror groups that India will go after them in hot pursuit. And we also need a strong anti-terror law in place.

We have generic information about impending attacks but are we in a position to have specific and actionable and preventive attacks. Do our intelligence agencies depend too much on technical intelligence? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed the same concern at a recent event when he said that security establishment needed to improve its, “human intelligence capabilities”.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley said in a television interview, post the Delhi HC blast, “The most dangerous thing is that in the last six or so blasts, the cases are by and large unsolved.”

Think over this – On December 7, 2010, a bomb went off at a Varanasi ghat killing a two-year old girl with no arrests made in the case so far. On December 19, 2010, gunmen on motorbikes shot at a tourist bus injuring two persons. It was considered to be IM’s handiwork. The case is unsolved. On July 13, 2011, triple blasts in Mumbai killed 21 persons, with IM being the prime suspect. ATS is investigating, with an arrest only very recently. On April 6, 2011, two blasts took place in Maligaon in Assam which killed 7 persons. Investigation is on, ULFA are the main suspects. Inspite of some arrests, it is said that the main culprit is still in the run. And the very recent May 25, 2011, Delhi High Court car park blast with no casualties. It too remains unsolved. And add to it the 7/11 blast again at Delhi HC – not much headway in this case either.

Yes, it is a cause for alarm if cases of terror attacks are unsolved for a long period of time.

Amidst all these spare a thought for the victims of the bomb blasts – past and present and if I may add with a dread – the future. The citizens don’t want to be saluted anymore for their so called resilience and die-hard-spirit – what they want is to live in peace and dignity. And anyways what choice do they have than to get up and get going the next day?

Yes, maybe terror attacks all over the world cannot be prevented all the time. Nonetheless, it is important for the government and the intelligence agencies of the day to be perceived as trying to do their best.




Why Indian Corruption Is a Global Security Concern

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India is in the throes of what some are calling a “second freedom struggle.” Across the country, citizens are on the streets, in the courts and on theinternet, fighting to break corruption’s chokehold on the nation. It is a critically important battle, not only for the future of India, but for global security — corruption in India enables some of the world’s most dangerous terrorist networks.

The reason is, illegal money needs illegal methods to move it around. And the amount of corruption-generated money flowing through India is vast. According to Interpol: “In South Asia, the ‘black’ or parallel economy is 30 percent-50 percent of the ‘white’ or documented economy.”

In terms of Indian political corruption, the 2011 2G-spectrum scandal alone is estimated to have lost Indian taxpayers close to $40 billion. And, as soon as the money needs to cross borders, say to get to a Swiss bank account where it can be washed clean, an Indian politician on the take goes from being a national security concern to a global security concern.

Hawala Networks

That is because a preferred method of transferring illegal money is called hawala. A very simplified version of how the hawala system works is shown below in a graphic from INTERPOL. Say Abdul in New York wants to transfer $5000 to his brother Mohammed in Pakistan. Abdul would go to a local New York hawala trader and give her $5000 cash. The New York trader would then call her colleague in Pakistan and instruct him to pay $5000 cash (in local currency) to Mohammad. And that’s it.



The Pakistan trader might get the money back from the New York trader through money transfers the other way, by doctoring invoices using participating import/export companies or other methods. In the meantime, Abdul sent the to money to Mohammad in hours and there is no official trace of the transaction.

From a criminal perspective the advantages of hawala are:

  • No paper trail.
  • No taxation.
  • No customs declarations.
  • Often preferential exchange rates.
  • Money laundering.
  • Due to the illegal nature of the process, the people transferring money (in this example Abdul and Mohammad) are now open to blackmail, giving the hawala traders and their associates leverage over their clients if needed.

For hawala to work, there has to be a high level of what Interpol calls ‘trust’ between the hawala traders. With hawala, that ‘trust’ is often guaranteed by brutal enforcement. If the money disappears en route, the hawala trader involved is likely to be ‘disappeared’ as a result, possibly along with his or her family.

The need for this high level of enforced ‘trust’ is why many hawala networks are controlled by terrorist and related criminal groups. The terrorists are not only willing to be brutal, but also require the quiet transfer of large amounts of untraceable cash. In a coordinated attack, in Mumbai on July 11, 2006, terrorist bombings on trains killed over 200 people. $10,000 that was used to carry out the attacks came from Saudi Arabia to India via halawa networks. The material recovered from Abbottabad shows Osama Bin Laden spent much of his time going through the “corporate” account books, tracking money generation (often through decidedly unspiritual means such as drug dealing) and cash flows.

Like a criminal Western Union, terrorism financiers use vast international hawala networks to move money around the world quickly and quietly. Due to their effectiveness, those same hawala channels also attract cash flows from other illegal sources, including arms traders, prostitution, narco-traffickers and human traffickers.

The problem is compounded when these same networks are used by those whose job it is to shut down criminal networks, such as (corrupt) politicians and law enforcement.

As all these money streams combine and flow through the same channels, each participant, from terrorist to politician, needs to protect the whole system in order to protect their own money flow.Very broadly, those common interests result in a division of labour.

The terrorists and associated criminal groups provide the system ‘hardware,’ such as physical money transfer, enforcement, etc.

Meanwhile the corrupt politicians and associated ‘legitimate’ groups such as (compromised) police, bureaucrats, media, etc., provide the system ‘software’ by keeping cases out of court, losing files, ensuring no coverage of embarrassing incidents, etc.

2011-08-19-HawalaMoneyFlowForHuffPo.jpgRecently J. Dey, one of Mumbai’s top investigative journalists was shot dead. On the list of suspects are politicians, terrorists, gangsters, industrialists and policemen. It pretty much sums up what has happened to India. As dirty money flows between politics, extremist groups, narco-traffickers, business, media houses, and police, it mixes together forming a torrent of intermingled corruption that is drowning the security of the nation, and pouring over the border, carrying terror and crime with it.

Hassan Ali Khan Case

Those dynamics have been on display in the case of Hassan Ali Khan. Khan is sitting in jail in India awaiting trial on charges of running a massive, high value hawala network for an astoundingly varied cast of top-level players, from narcotics dealers to industrialists to politicians. Even Saudi arms broker Adnan Khashoggi’s name has come up.

In the case of Hassan Ali Khan and his associates, the sums were too large to be moved around invisibly like Abdul’s $5000. As a result vast amounts, sometimes up to $8 billion, periodically popped up in tax haven bank accounts, creating a brazen paper and e-trail.

For example, according to investigators, when millions were transferred to a Khan-linked bank account for the purchase of a hotel in Switzerland, it came with an unusual note attached.

According to the letter rogatory from the Indian government to the government of Singapore on criminal case no. ECIR/MZO/02/2006-07 (the case involving Khan):

Deal for purchase of property i.e. Chateu Gutsch [sic] in Lucerne was finalized and during payment, USB [bank] informed that USD 300,000,000 the fund have arrived tagged with comment “Funds from Weapon Sales.

The note shows just how sure Khan and others involved were that they were protected from prosecution. And, until now, people like Khan had good reason to feel safe.

Among Khan’s known associates were three Indian Chief Ministers and a top member of the ruling Congress Party. To protect themselves, they have to protect him, and the system he represents. And so, the case against Khan languished. Interrogations were cursory, files were sloppy, deadlines were missed.

But then, in an echo of what is happening all over India, someone said “enough is enough.” In the case of Khan, it was the Supreme Court of India. In a remarkable order issued on July 4, 2011, the court explained why vast flows of illegal money are a national security concern:

the issue of unaccounted monies held by nationals, and other legal entities, in foreign banks, is of primordial importance to the welfare of the citizens. The quantum of such monies may be rough indicators of the weakness of the State, in terms of both crime prevention, and also of tax collection. Depending on the volume of such monies, and the number of incidents through which such monies are generated and secreted away, it may very well reveal the degree of ‘softness of the State.’ […] If the State is soft to a large extent, especially in terms of the unholy nexus between the law makers, the law keepers, and the law breakers, the moral authority, and also the moral incentives, to exercise suitable control over the economy and the society would vanish. Large unaccounted monies are generally an indication of that.

The court instructed: “Follow the money.” It ordered that the Khan case be taken out of the hands of existing (failing) investigative units, and be given to a special investigate team composed of top officials comprising, among others, two former Supreme Court Justices and the Director of the Research and Analysis Wing.

If properly investigated, the case has the potential not only to bring down governments, but it could also be a huge blow to global terror, drugs, child prostitution, and human trafficking networks.

Anti-Corruption Campaigns

Needless to say, those networks are fighting back. At midnight on June 5th, tens of thousands of fasting, sleeping anti-corruption demonstrators were stormed by the police and cleared from their demonstration site in central Delhi. Reportedly orders for the action came from the very top. But the anti-corruption elements of the system are standing firm. The Supreme Court has ordered the Government to explain its actions on the night of June 5th. Point, counter-point.

Similarly, this week, anti-corruption demonstrator Anna Hazare and hundreds of his supporters were arrested. Subsequently, tens of thousands took to the street to protest the arrests. India is not new to demonstrations, but this fight back mood is different. It will not go away. And it’s spreading. Sympathy protests have taken place in the U.S.Singapore and Hong Kong. And there are more to come.

It is fitting that the protests are going global. Political corruption in India, facilitated by hawala networks, has not only undermined India, it has compromised global security. For years some, like journalist and strategist M.D. Nalapat, have been warning about the deepening and spreading security vulnerabilities resulting from Indian corruption. Now, the Cassandras are being proved right.

Luckily for those around the world concerned about terror, drugs, human trafficking and other multinational criminal organization, the Indian people, from the streets to the courts, are working hard to make India, and by extension the world, a more secure place. This fight concerns us all.


Kasab ka Hisaab – Beyond the Death Sentence

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Mehak Budhrani in The Chakra

This century, the word ‘K’ has dominated India in the arenas of Business, Government and especially Television. But only one ‘K’ shook India within hours – “Kasab”, the only surviving terrorist of 26/11. On the night of November 26, 2008 a war against India was waged which went on till the afternoon of November 29. Only Kasab was captured alive while the other nine terrorists were killed by the security forces. The Kasab trial went on for two years before a death sentence was passed to him on five counts of murder, conspiracy to murder, waging war against the country, abetting murder and indulging in terrorist activities, on the 6th of May, 2010. Kasab was also awarded life imprisonment on five other counts, which included attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and violation of the Explosive Substances Act. Under the law, death sentence awarded to an accused by trial court comes up before the high court for confirmation. The High Court confirmed the order passed by the trial court on 21st February 2011.

Until the verdict was passed, during the two years, there was a huge uproar among the Indians which was justified. A national newspaper reported that “The cash-strapped Congress-led Democratic Front government in Maharashtra has been spending well over Rs 2 lakh a day on India’s priciest prisoner”. (

The Government of India gets money in the form of taxes paid by the citizens of India. The people were infuriated as to why their money was being spent for the protection and treatment of a perpetrator when there was enough evidence against him in the form of CCTV camera footage. The world witnessed the worst form of fear during 9/11. Osama did not go unpunished. He was brutally killed by the American Security Forces in Abbotabad, Pakistan. Don’t we wonder why Osama wasn’t given a chance to be tried by the American Jury? Then why is the Indian Government treating the Kasab issue so lightly? Shouldn’t he be dealt with in the same way the Americans dealt with their terrorist? But our Government claims that they are happy that Kasab was tried in a normal court of law and then given the death sentence. In a way, our democratic spirit is being enshrined.

Even though there was a sense of relief amongst the country and the families of those who were killed in the attack, when the death sentence was passed, there is another thought that confronts us. Do suicide bombers and terrorists really fear death? Kasab knew what he had come for and also knew his fate. Then will the death sentence create a sense of fear in his followers or will it make him a martyr? Surely such a subversive act must be punished in the most severe way. Special Public Prosecutor in the case, Ujjwal Nikam, opinionated that “Kasab is a killing machine and the manufacturing factory of such killing machines are still in Pakistan”. We all know that Kasab’s family was promised Rs 1.5 lakh for his sacrifice by the LeT. If such atrocious acts are awarded and such fanatics are treated as martyrs, then is a death penalty the right approach?

The passing of the death sentence opens up the following avenues for Kasab:

1. Appeal to the Supreme Court.

2. If the Supreme Court upholds the judgment of the High Court and the Lower Court, Kasab can file for a clemency plea to the President of India.

If Kasab files for a plea in the Supreme Court, and if the Supreme Court grants a life sentence, then will the Government spend some more money for the terrorist?

Capital Punishment in India is given in the rarest of rare cases. Currently, there are more than 100 people who have been awarded the death sentence but are in the queue to be executed.

Article 72 of the Indian Constitution gives the President the powers to reduce the sentence or grant a pardon to a convict, especially those involving capital punishment. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, between 1995-2006, the President has rejected seven mercy petitions and commuted two, while between 1985 to 1994 it rejected 41 mercy petitions and commuted four. As many as 173 such petitions were received between 1975 to 1984 of which 121 were rejected and 52 commuted. However, a maximum of 543 mercy petitions were commuted between 1965 to 1974 during which 491 such petitions were rejected. According to Amnesty International figures at least 100 people in 2007, 40 in 2006, 77 in 2005, 23 in 2002, and 33 in 2001 were sentenced to death (but not yet executed). Looking at these figures, if Kasab is given an option to ask for mercy, how long will it be before he recompensates for his doings? The procedure for a Clemency plea (mercy petition) is long before final justice actually takes place. The clemency plea could lead to:

1. Grant of Pardon

2. Rejection of Plea

This again would put Kasab in the queue before the other convicts are executed. This is now a political issue as we have to wait and watch if the Government of India executes this sentence expeditiously or will allow the queue system to continue.

The question to raise here is, is a death penalty or a life sentence enough for Kasab or should he be treated as mercilessly as he acted? Is this act of leniency on part of the Government of India assuring terrorists such as Kasab that they will be treated ordinarily and hence lead to recurring attacks? These issues are yet to be dealt with and answers awaited for. But the real issue which needs to be highlighted is that, is the death penalty really a deterrent for any terrorist?