Lanka’s Jehadi Killings
By Dr. D.K. Giri
(Prof. International Politics, JMI)
The house searches and arrests of three suspects in North of Kerala by the National Investigating Agency have revealed a sinister plot to replicate the suicide bombings in Sri Lanka. The explosions at six places in the island nation of Sri Lanka – three each at luxurious four star hotels and Churches – killed over 300 people and wounded several others. The 21 April terrorist attack shook the entire world, once again jolting every world leader and others on the growing menace of religious fanatic terrorism. The tremors of the attack were immediately felt in the neighbourhood, mainly in South of India that has historical cultural links with Sri Lanka.
Understandably, the Indian authorities swung into action to prevent any probable repeat of what happened in Sri Lanka. Remember, India is recovering from the shock of the Pulwama attack on 14 February on a security convoy killing 40 security personnel, and is dealing with its aftermath. As the stakes are so high vis-a-vis terrorism, New Delhi will have to go into an overdrive to react to Sri Lankan pogrom. But sadly that is not the case. Both media and politicians are too engrossed in the on-going elections to pay serious attention and space to Sri Lankan episode.
It received scanty space in the television and print media, and the politicians, having shown sympathy and solidarity, did not spell out what India could do to repair the damage in the neighbourhood and preclude such dastardly acts in future. Election is a good excuse, but not good enough to ensure security to the citizens. Let us examine this.
Admittedly, the police in the metropolis have been put on high alert and the national security agency has unearthed and undone a plot to carry out similar suicide bombing in Kerala, thanks to NIA, which has been surveilling many youths drawn to Islamic radicalism and extremism. The main suspect Riyas Aboobacker, who has been arrested and remanded to judicial custody until 29th May has confessed to preparing for a suicide bomb attack. He has been influenced by the preachings of Zahran Hashmi, founder of National Thowheed Jamat (NTJ) and the radical preacher Zakir Naik. Hashmi blew himself up in a hotel as he detonated the bomb, and Zakir Naik is in hiding to escape India law enforcement agencies. Lots of CDs, video clips and other literature was found in possession of Aboobacker and his other two accomplices.
There has been reportedly massive intelligence failure on the part of Sri Lankan authorities as there was evidence found in India of preparations for these. India agencies had alerted the Sri Lanka counterparts that the Indian High Commission in Colombo and other areas were being targeted. But Intelligence Agencies in Sri Lanka did not take this input seriously. The Sri Lankan President has removed the Secretary of Defence and the Inspector General of police for this serious lapse.
Be that as it may, Sri Lanka initially admitted that they could not handle such a massive counter operation to get to the bottom of this murderous conspiracy. They need international help. In the meantime, they have rounded up several suspects. Yet, they will have to do a lot more to wipe out the threat of terrorism. India has obviously a role to play in it. Zahran Hashmi was in India for quite some time, months before he masterminded and executed the bombing operations. India knew of the plot. Could India have done more to nudge Colombo to act? New Delhi realises it well that countering terrorism has to be a multilateral exercise. One country cannot handle a cross-border operation like terrorism.
Another question to ponder over is why ISIS chose Sri Lanka, a small island nation of 21 million people. The attack was supposedly retaliation to the bombing of the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Easter-worshipping Christians were the targets. But looking at the demography of Sri Lanka, 70 per cent of population is Theravada Buddhist, followed by 12 per cent Hindu, 10 per cent Muslims and 7 per cent of Christians.
The reasons for choosing Sri Lanka are mainly three: it is a soft target, secondly, it is tourist spot, and foreign nationals could be targeted drawing international attention. Look at the causalities from different countries; United Kingdom, Denmark, Portugal, India, Turkey, Australia, the Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Bangladesh, United States and China. Incidentally, 3 small children of the Danish billionaire Andres Hoch Povlsen were eliminated.
As a part of their strategy, terrorists want international attention, and they got it here. Sample the reactions of the world leaders. The latest victim of terrorism, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said, “New Zealand condemns all acts of terrorism and our resolve has only been strengthened by the attack on our soil.” This was after the attacks in Christchurch. Now on Si Lanka she said, New Zealand rejects all forms of extremism and stands for freedom of religion and right to worship safely”.
Many leaders including Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister, European Commissioner Jean-Claude Junker, the Australian Prime Minster promised support to Sri Lanka. The message was unanimous, “we all stand ready to support”. The message from Turkey was quite powerful as Recep Tayyp Erdogan, despite criticism of him being authoritarian an at home said, “This is an assault on all of humanity. This barbaric act has once again demonstrated the need for decisive fight against all kinds of terrorism.”
As I write this, the State of Maharashtra, India has just been hit by Maoists killing 50 people. It is of course an internal terrorist attack backed by the vested interests from aboard. But the consequences are the same — loss of innocent lives and property, breach of national security. Therefore, India has a major role to pay in wiping out violence, mainly by the terrorists and extremists who do not believe in dialogue or democracy.
India, the land of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence must lead the fight against terrorism, not only from Pakistan, which has become the hotbed for terrorism, but anywhere in the world. New Delhi should already have despatched his intelligence officers to help Sri Lankan agencies to investigate the roots of this latest attack.
As a matter of approach, it is established that a sense and practice of internationalism helps strengthen one’s national resources, and these in turn determine the strength of our global stance. So, both as a votary of non-violence and victim of violence, India needs to take up the gauntlet of fighting terrorism.
Let New Delhi begin it in its neighbourhood in helping Sri Lanka snuff out the last vestige of terrorism in its soil. Apparently, there is a back and forth link between Sri Lanka and South India as what happened in island nation. That makes India the biggest stake holder in Sri Lankan efforts. Let New Delhi play the role it must. —INFA