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ATS Reforms 15 trained terrorists

ATS Reforms 15 trained terrorists

Author: Deeptiman Tiwary
Publication: Mumbai Mirror
Date: July 20, 2009
URL: http://www.mumbaimirror.com/index.aspx?page=article&sectid=15&contentid=2009072020090720033553390527ee88e

The youths were part of two groups - one from Kandivli that had been indoctrinated and was waiting to go to Pakistan for training and the other from south Mumbai that had returned from Pakistan. Now, they are not only back in the mainstream, but are also helping police identify other misguided youths

M S Khan (name changed), a 22-year-old Muslim boy from south Mumbai, had gone to Pakistan last year for a three-month Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) training camp. He was supposed to be part of a sleeper module in Mumbai that could strike any time on orders from across the border. But close to seven months after his return, instead of waiting for the orders, Khan has forsaken the path of terror to make a living selling fruits.

Khan's transformation is the result of a process started by the Maharashtra ATS to reform youths indoctrinated by terror organisations. He is one of 15 potential terrorists brought back into the mainstream in the recent past. He is now an important cog in the ATS's intelligence gathering network and also helps reform other radicalised Muslims.

The ATS did not discuss individual cases or reveal details as it might compromise their operations and prompt terror outfits to introduce counter-measures, but recently it neutralised two groups, one from Kandivli and the other from south Mumbai, of potential terrorists. "The Kandivli group had merely been indoctrinated and was waiting to go to Pakistan while the south Mumbai group had returned from Pakistan after training," an ATS officer said.


Until recently, potential terrorists would simply be incarcerated for uncertain periods. But, having realised that punishment alone cannot win the war against terrorism, the ATS has started weaning them away from the path of terror by restoring their faith in the system. ATS sources say, authorities have realised that by arresting them, the State merely reinforces their misplaced sense of injustice against Muslims.

"In any case, we never get much evidence of their training abroad. Also, no one can be prosecuted merely for harbouring jihadi thoughts," said an ATS officer.

ATS chief K P Raghuvanshi said, "Hence, after identifying such people, we counsel them. We have in place an elaborate process where we try to make them understand the futility of their supposed religious war and wean them away from their jihadi mentality. We have already reformed about 15 such people. A reformed jihadi will not only stop others from becoming terrorists, but is also a good source of intelligence. It is part of our non-combat strategy to counter terrorism."


Once the ATS receives information about radicalised youths, they are brought to its headquarters and told to speak freely. "People don't open up immediately, but we make them comfortable and try to understand their anger. We empathise with them and encourage them to talk openly," said Raghuvanshi.

Once a person opens up, "we logically counter their misplaced idea of injustice and express solidarity with their genuine grievances," said an ATS officer.

"The first problem is their belief that Muslims never get equal opportunities in India. We counter this by citing examples of successful Muslims in various sectors. We tell them how Indian democracy has given space to all religions and we have had Muslim Presidents, so many Muslim police and military officers," said Raghuvanshi.

Secondly, many Muslims feel that they are treated unjustly by the police. "We explain that this is merely a perception. Every common man, irrespective of religion or caste, faces the same problems. Everyone is equally reluctant to visit a police station and is scared of dealing with policemen. If a policeman is helpful, he helps everyone; if he is apathetic, he is so to everyone," said an ATS officer.


Some belligerent youths question the police about atrocities committed on Muslims during riots in various parts of the country. "Many carry photographs of the Babri masjid demolition while some have video footage of Muslims being beaten up, raped and murdered in the 2002 Gujarat riots. We tell them that such acts cannot be defended. We convince them that we are as pained about these incidents as they are and that an average Indian, irrespective of his religion, never approves of such acts," said Raghuvanshi.

The police also exposes them to the reality of those who train them, the politics and economics of terror, and the fact that they are merely pawns in a bigger game. They are made to understand how their families, who are completely innocent, have to suffer because of them and how, despite their jihad, their religion does not benefit in any way.


The last step involves educating them about the real tenets of Islam and correct interpretation of the Holy Koran. "Many indoctrinated youths know the Koran or Islamic teachings only the way they have been taught by their trainers across the border. We get Muslim clerics here to explain to them the real meaning of Islam, which abhors killing of innocent people. When such words come from a leader of their own community, they listen carefully," said an officer.


The strategy is proving to be of great help to the ATS in countering terrorism. Even as police helps rehabilitate them, they reciprocate by providing vital intelligence about terror activities. "Many of these people are either employed or self-employed. Those who are unemployed, we help them set up a business or get a job. We build such relationships with these people that they give us information about who in their colony or community is being contacted for indoctrination or if any sleeper module is being formed. Besides, having got their priorities right, they influence people around them and help wean away other potential terrorists," said the officer.

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