India faced with home-grown terrorism
Police have arrested the head of Indian Mujahideen, which claims responsibility for recent bombings.
Five arrests made over the past two weeks in connection with the Sept. 13 bomb blasts here are forcing the country with the world's second largest Muslim population to acknowledge that it cannot blame every bomb attack solely on Pakistan. India is seeing a rise in home-grown terrorism.Skip to next paragraph
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The portrait of an Indian terrorist has long been a caricature: poor Indian Muslims indoctrinated in radical seminaries and funded by Pakistan, India's neighbor and longtime enemy. But two of the suspects arrested Wednesday were software engineers, one ran a hotel.
It suggests that Indian terrorism is not motivated by dire poverty alone, but also by the perception of systemic prejudice against Muslims here. This is a bitterly controversial idea in the Hindu-majority nation sensitive to claims of intolerance, but the arrests are creating a small window for India to consider it more deeply.
"The role of Pakistan-based terrorist groups cannot be minimized, but the involvement of local elements in recent blasts adds a new dimension to the terrorist threat," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said this month after the New Delhi bombings.
"It's not only about Pakistan – we can't afford to oversimplify anymore," says Swapna Kona Nayudu, a security analyst at the Center for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi. "We're going to have to look at the sociological fault lines."
These sociological fault lines do not appear to be grooming terrorists with global intentions or strong connections to Al Qaeda. Though an Indian bombed the Glasgow airport last year, Indian terrorism remains an inwardly focused phenomenon for now.
The group that claimed responsibility for the Delhi bombings, the "Indian Mujahideen" (IM), said the bombs were in response to police sweeps nationwide that indiscriminately arrested Muslims. Investigators in Mumbai (Bombay), where the arrests were made, pointed to Mohammed Sadiq Sheikh as the leader of the group. They say the software engineer formed the IM with Amir Raza, based in Pakistan, in 2005. The group claims involvement in recent bombings in Jaipur and the western state of Gujarat.
Though Indian authorities and experts still allege that Pakistan's intelligence agencies were involved, perhaps funding or guiding the IM, the police cast a picture of a distinctly Indian organization. All those killed, in custody, or implicated in the bombings come from one district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. They sent their manifestos by e-mail to media outlets moments before the attacks.