By Jaideep Saikia
For a nation that has been one of the most terror afflicted in the world, it is baffling that there should be so much speculation about the Coimbatore car blast of 23 October 2022 which killed one Jamesha Mubin. It is plain providence that the explosion did not take place as was planned: scores of people would have died in the incident. However what is not baffling is the manner in which the authorities are reacting to the latest incident of Islamist terror attack. Complacence has become a norm with the state apparatus, and this time around it took a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Special Director and present Governor of Tamil Nadu, R.N. Ravi to query—after the blast—“those involved in the car explosion were on our radar in the past. Where did we miss? Did we lose our monitoring system?” Indeed, it is such an observation from a former top IB official that should be raise eyebrows about government action, or in this case inaction.
Islamist terror action in India is not a new phenomenon. The Coimbatore car bomb was not the first and it would not be the last. Every time an event takes place, the speculation about the identity of the perpetrators ranges from a near-abroad directive to a terrorist group that has a global identity to one that is home-grown. For some reason or the other, such blasts are always attributed to a group when it is very well known that Islamist terrorism is no longer a compartmentalised affair. Indeed, the attack was an expected one, especially in the wake of the crackdown on the Popular Front of India (PFI) in the closing days of September 2022!
It must be reiterated that in an anti-India context the most important aspect that must be borne in mind is that the Islamist terror situation can no longer refer to separate tanzeems. The agenda is now being guided only by al-Qaeda-ISIS combine and even PFI was but a “silhouette fusion” of the two. The uniqueness of the movement is that no conventional command and control exists, and each tanzeem follows a set of general motivation. The coordination system between the groups (despite the fact that they are all subservient to al-Qaeda-ISIS) is untenable—groups have their own agenda and have their own system of functioning. In other words, inter-changeability has become the prime strategy. It would, therefore, be sensible to institute non-orthodox methodologies. Indeed, this author would not be surprised if the Coimbatore conspiracy was hatched in Bangladesh by Indian surrogates, who are increasingly becoming subservient to near-abroad, al-Qaeda-ISIS direction. Furthermore, it must be understood that names mean nothing when it pertains to Islamist action. Therefore, the name Ansarullah Bangla Team that has been doing the rounds in Assam is a mere merry-go-round. The non-comprehension of the new paradigm is perhaps one of the reasons why the authorities have been unable to pre-empt the Islamist terror design. The accent should be to avoid patterns and search for unorthodox links.
[The author is a celebrated conflict analyst and author of several bestselling books. He was awarded the Indian Eastern army commander’s GOC-in-C Commendation Card on 15 August 2022]