Thursday, November 25, 2010

Terrorism: Continuing victim lethargy in India

See also:

( To be read in continuation of my article of July 11,2010, titled “ Lockerbie & Mumbai 26/11” at )

Since the Madrid conference on “Democracy & Terrorism” held in March 2005, to which I was invited, I have been repeatedly writing and speaking on the need for victim activism in India in order to make the Government of India act effectively against terrorism and Pakistan, the State-sponsor of terrorism against Indian nationals, but in vain.

2. Since Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) started using terrorism as a strategic weapon against India in 1981, we have had four acts of mass casualty terrorism in which there were more than 150 fatalities. These were the blowing up of the Kanishka aircraft of Air India by the Babbar Khalsa, a Khalistani terrorist organization, in June 1985, the multiple explosions in Mumbai in March 1993 carried out by a group of Pakistan-trained terrorists directed by Dawood Ibrahim, now living in Pakistan, the multiple explosions in some suburban trains of Mumbai in July,2006, carried out at the instance of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the sea-borne attacks in Mumbai by 10 Pakistanis recruited and trained by the LET with the help of the ISI from November 26 to 28,2008.

3.The relatives of the Canadian victims of the Kanishka explosion pursued their case against the Canadian authorities for their negligence in protecting the aircraft , which started from Toronto. As a result, the Canadian Government was forced to re-investigate the entire case and take necessary follow-up action.

4. In the other three cases, which took place in Indian territory, the total lack of interest by the relatives of the Indian victims in pursuing the cases from the point of view of justice and compensation to the affected families has enabled Governments responsible for the tragedies escape accountability. In all the three cases, the Governments of Pakistan and India were liable for action. The Government of Pakistan became liable because of the use of terrorism by the ISI. The Government of India was liable because of its failure to protect those who died at the hands of Pakistan-trained terrorists and to act against Pakistan as permitted by international law.

5. In the case of the Mumbai 26/11 terrorist strikes, the US Government and its Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were also liable for action because of the FBI’s failure to alert the Indian security agencies about the frequent visits to India of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the LET. He was used by the LET to collect information about the targets to be attacked and to select a suitable landing point for the LET boat. The FBI had been alerted by the wives of Headley about his links with the LET. The Indian agencies were not told by the FBI about the visits of Headley to India before the attacks and about the one visit made by him after the attacks. Had the Indian agencies been told about his visits in time, they might have arrested him and foiled the plans of the ISI.

6. During his interrogation by a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of the Government of India, which had visited the US for the purpose earlier this year, Headley has reportedly given details of serving and retired officers of the ISI who had played a role in the attacks.

7. Thus, three parties are liable for action by the relatives of the victims of the 26/11 terrorist strikes:

* The Government of Pakistan and its ISI for their role in the attacks.

* The Government of the US and its FBI for their failure to alert the Indian security agencies about the LET background of Headley and his frequent visits to India to help the LET in drawing up its plans for the attacks.

* The Governments of India and Maharashtra and their agencies for their failure to prevent the attacks despite the availability of intelligence about the plans of the LET to carry out a sea-borne terrorist strike on some seafront establishments, including the Taj Mahal hotel.

8. All the three Governments have been able to get away with their acts of commission ( in the case of Pakistan) or omission ( in the case of the US and India) because of the failure of the relatives of the victims to pursue the cases against the three Governments. Unfortunately, in India we have not had a tradition of victim activism in terrorism cases and no precedents are available which could have guided the relatives of the victims to take up the cases. Even public-spirited lawyers, who often take up such cases, show a lack of interest in terrorism related cases.

9. In contrast, see what the US-based relatives of some Jewish victims of the terrorist attacks have done. “The Hindu” of November 24 has reported that the relatives of four of the victims of the 26/11 terrorist strikes, who had the dual nationality of Israel and the US, have filed a law suit in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, against the ISI and the LET with the help of James Kreindler, the famous lawyer, who helped the American victims of the Lockerbie terrorist attack sponsored by the Libyan Intelligence in obtaining compensation from Libya. In the Lockerbie incident in 1988, a Pan-Am aircraft was got blown up off Scotland, allegedly by the Libyan intelligence. Two of those, who have filed the suit in respect of the Mumbai attack, are reported to be related to a Jewish couple---- a man and his pregnant wife--- who were brutally killed by the LET terrorists in the Chabad Jewish religious-cum-cultural centre.

10. According to “The Hindu”, Kreindler said that under the US anti-terrorism laws, the plaintiffs had the right to sue the defendants in the US. Unfortunately, the relatives of the Indian victims cannot possibly make themselves parties to the suit filed in the US because they are not US citizens and their relatives were killed in Indian territory. The benefits under the US anti-terrorism laws will not be applicable to them and they may not be able to sue the ISI and the LET in a US court.

11. They should still explore the possibility of intervening in the case against Headley in a Chicago court and suing the US Government and the FBI for not acting in time against Headley despite the warnings of his LET connection from his wives. Legal action against the Governments of India and Maharashtra and the ISI in an Indian court should also be pursued. Even if their cases do not succeed, it could have a deterrent effect. India’s anti-terrorism laws should be studied by public spirited lawyers and necessary changes proposed in order to make them victim-friendly as the laws in the US are. ( 25-11-10)

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.