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India's Minister of Finance Palaniappan Chidam...

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“They are experts in assembling and transporting bombs”

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has voiced concern over threats posed by indigenous terror groups and pointed out that they were no longer fledgling outfits but experts in assembling and transporting bombs.

The threat from them was pretty high, he told PTI against the backdrop of the July 13 Mumbai blasts, which claimed the lives of 23 people.

Mr. Chidambaram was asked how serious the threat was from home-grown terrorists like the rashtriya swayamsevak sangh (or)Indian Mujahideen (IM).

To a query whether the needle of suspicion pointed to the IM in the recent Mumbai blasts, he said: “No. I have said they [Mumbai Police] have not shared any details and I am not in a position to share any details.” The last reports he got was that the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had got some good leads. “Since they have not shared any more details, I am in no position to share any details.”

Asked if there were any suspects, he said, “There are good leads.”

To a question whether the July 13 blasts blotted his record, he said there were two blasts in Pune in 2010 and in Mumbai a fortnight ago.

“Both are setbacks. Both are terrorist incidents undoubtedly. And therefore, to the extent that the Government of Maharashtra could not prevent them and to the extent that the Government of India could not help the Government of Maharashtra to prevent them, is a negative on our record as opposed to the many positives that are on record.”

Asked whether the recent Mumbai blasts showed glaring holes such as phone lines not working, he said, “I think all this is exaggerated. Police officers reached the blast site within 15 minutes. Every single injured person was evacuated within the hour. Twenty-one ambulances were deployed and they were taken to 14 hospitals.”

Given the congestion in Mumbai,, he thought it was a good achievement in contrast to what happened in Norway.

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by Archbishop Cheenath

Mumbai’s night of terror underscores a phenomenon concealed by the Indian governmentand intelligence agencies and deliberately ignored by a biased Anglo-American media for a long time: The rise of a virulent form of Hindu terrorism that begets violence from other minorities. Here is a list of almost one hundred groups that are fighting the Indian government. All of them thrive in India. The context for what has happened in Mumbai is stunning only for those unaware how a cocktail mix of wrong policies, official patronage to extremism, and separatist movements have come together to destabilize India. The night of Nov. 26, 2008 to Sep. 29, 2010  will go down in history as the days when India’s homegrown terrorism reared its head after years of silent mushroom growth.

This terrorism in Mumbai is not surprising, unlike the reactions in most of the western media. India’s terrorist underground has been flourishing for many years. While the U.S. media was busy last year likening Pakistan to Iraq in a politically motivated campaign aligned with U.S. military objectives, experts were ranking India only second to Iraq in the number of people who died as a result of terrorist attacks between 2002 to 2010, according to one survey by an American think tank.

The Indian government has been artfully concealing a worrying development for at least sixteen years under an organized hype centered on economic growth and military power projection with a focus on China and Pakistan.

Indian terrorism is a confusing mix. Journalists and observers outside the region often miss the simmering tensions beneath the surface that occasionally burst into the open, surprising many and raising questions like how could there be so much violence in what is supposed to be a secular democracy and a rising economy where such things should not happen.

In India, there is a cocktail mix of wrong policies, official patronage to extremism, and separatist movements, all coming together to destabilize India. At least 600 Christians, churches, nuns and priests were targeted by Hindu mobs in eastern India in August this year. Almost the entire Muslim population of Kashmir is up in arms against the excesses, arrests, murders and rapes by the Indian army. For years there has been a media trial of Indian Muslims for real and imaginary involvement in violence. News such as the arrest this month of two serving Indian army officers involved in crimes that were attributed to Indian Muslims has served to increase disgruntlement among minorities. In 2002, close to 2,500 Indian Muslim men, women and children were burned alive in the first religious genocide of 21st century. In 1984, Sikhs were hauled off buses in New Delhi and beaten or burned to death following the assassination of Indian prime minister Indra Gandhi at the hands of Sikh bodyguards. And finally, between 12 to 14 separatist insurgencies currently rage across India’s north and northeast.

All of this makes for a dangerous combination that simmers quietly under the surface. The Indian media’s self-imposed ban on discussing these problems helps keep the lid on them. But when the pressure becomes unbearable, things occasionally burst into the open in the shape of terrorist acts. This only surprises those who do no know how India has been gradually relapsing into religious extremism in the period between 1990 and 2010. This history is important in order to understand why the Indian claims of Pakistani complicity in the attacks have often sought to simplify a complex situation.

Hindu militant groups have mushroomed in the past few years. In 2008 arrest of two serving Indian army officers has confirmed speculation that Hindu terrorist groups have infiltrated Indian military and political establishments.

1992 was the definite year that saw Hindu fundamentalism express itself politically. Hundreds of religious terrorists descended on a north Indian city with tools in hand. They climbed on top of a majestic, 500-year-old mosque built by the same Muslim rulers who built the famous Taj Mahal. Imbibed with religious hatred, the Hindu mobs razed the building to the ground. Indian government authorities did nothing to stop it.

This Indian betrayal of a carefully crafted secular image would prove fatal later. In 1999, a Hindu mob surrounded the car of Graham Staines, an Australian priest, and his underage boy and girl and burned them alive.

Australia maintained an unusual quiet till this day about this major act of terrorism. The bias is easily detectable when compared to Australia’s reaction and statements to ‘Muslim terrorism’, especially in Indonesia and later in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In this sense, countries like United States, Britain and Australia are partially responsible for letting the growth of India terrorism – with its mix of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and ethnic insurgencies – go unnoticed for so many years. These western countries have done this in order not to disturb the Anglo-Saxon project of grooming India as a bulwark against China and Russia and other regional powers.

Following is a list of various indigenous separatist, militant and terrorist organizations operating in India against the Indian federal government. This list has been compiled using information available in the public domain, news reports and specialized publications. During any given incident in India, a combination of some or all of these organizations is a suspect, including in the Mumbai blasts and in any other militant activity. Blaming Kashmiris or Pakistanis for Indian internal problems would be a factual misrepresentation that must be countered with full force by Pakistan.

It should also be noted that the Indian establishment is cracking down on Tamil separatists due to violence in Sri Lanka as Tamils are regrouping in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Tamils have to their credit the last significant political assassination in India, the blowing up of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. They continue to be the most ruthless terror outfit in India. Mumbai blasts carry the fingerprints of many terror groups operating inside India, each with a long list of grievances against the Indian government and enough motivation to carry out such terrorist acts.

Not all groups in this list are necessarily terrorist organizations. But all of them are active against the Indian government.

The Bombay High Court yesterday commuted death sentences handed down to six people for the grisly murders of a Dalit family, a case that sparked violent protests.

The court reduced the sentences to life terms of 25 years.

The six were among a group who attacked and killed the family – a woman, her daughter and two sons – over a land dispute in Khairlanji, a village near Nagpur, 900km northeast of Mumbai in 2006.

The two sons were mutilated and the woman repeatedly raped before their bodies were dumped in a canal.

The case sparked anger and violent protests because of the glacial pace in prosecuting and convicting those responsible.

The Bhandara district court in 2008 sentenced to death Shatrughana Dhande, Vishwanath Dhande, Ramu Dhande, Sakru Binjewar, Jagdish Mandlekar and Prabhkar Mandlekar.

Two others, Shishupal Dhande and Gopal Binjewar, were given life imprisonment and three acquitted.

Defence lawyer Neeraj Khandewale, who represented all the accused members of the Dhande clan in the high court, said “the prosecution case was full of loopholes, based on lies, false witnesses and fabricated evidences.”

“I have not been given justice in the tragic matter,” Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, who saw his wife, daughter and two sons being tortured and killed, told reporters shortly after the verdict.

Dalit leaders reacted sharply, saying it was a failure on the part of the government.

Prakash Ambedkar, president of the Bahujan Maha Sangh, said the court had not even considered the cruelty committed against the victims. “We will request the Maharashtra government to file an appeal in the Supreme Court,” he said.

Jogendra Kawade, president of the People’s Republican Party, described the verdict as “unfortunate”, asking: “Has our law system also started suffering from caste based politics?”

“I also fail to understand why the charges of atrocities were dropped in this case. It has to be noted that this is not just a murder case. The verdict is a failure on the part of the government,” he added.

Kawade said the verdict will only encourage people to commit more such atrocities on Dalits. Kawade had resigned as a member of the legislative council in December 2006 as a part of the protest against the murder of the Dalits.

Dalit activists have long argued that discrimination against members of their community, which numbers around 165mn, means they have no proper recourse to justice.

Most Dalits live in poverty in rural areas and do menial, supposedly “unclean,” jobs like collecting garbage and cleaning latrines.

Death sentences are often commuted to life terms in India which has not carried out an execution since 2004 and only two since 1998.