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Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mumbai attacks: How Indian-born Islamic militants are trained in Pakistan

An underground network of Islamic extremists has recruited a new generation of Indian-born terrorists by exploiting sectarian tensions in the fault-line city of Hyderabad.

By Damien McElroy in Hyderabad
Last Updated: 8:55AM GMT 15 Dec 2008

Indian authorities have denied that there is a homegrown terrorist threat to the country, instead blaming Pakistan for allowing Islamist attacks including the atrocities in Mumbai to be launched across its borders.

But The Sunday Telegraph has learned that scores of young Muslim men have disappeared from the central Indian city of Hyderabad, suspected of leaving for Pakistan to be trained by the country's Islamist terror groups.

As many as 40 potential recruits are reported to have left the city - which has a large Muslim minority - under extremist guidance, while many other young men cannot be traced.

Police efforts to track the youths have floundered in the wake of the Mumbai attacks last month. A wall of community silence has protected the activities of teachers and other shadowy figures working inside fundamentalist Islamic schools and mosques.

"We have tried to establish where the city's youth has gone but we don't know," said Hyderabad's police commissioner, Prasada Rao. "We know they have gone to other places, either Indian states or abroad. We are checking but the parents or the others will not let us into what's going on."

Two Islamic movements based in Hyderabad, Darsgah Jihad-o-Shahadath (DJS) and Tahreek Tahfooz Shaer-e-Islam (TTSI), have been accused by local police of allegedly acting as "feeder" groups for militants seeking to recruit armed fighters. They have denied the allegations.

Members of a third local group, the Students Islamic Movement of India - which has been banned by the government - carried out a gun attack on police just days after the Mumbai attacks.

Police in Mumbai blamed 10 Pakistanis and their leaders back home for the carnage that killed 171 people last month. But Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the banned Pakistan-based group India accuses of planning the attack, has deep ties to Hyderabad. When an initial claim of responsibility for the Mumbai attacks was made in the name of "Deccan Mujahideen" - a previously unknown group - the perpetrators revived a historic Islamic claim on the Deccan Plateau, the territory which stretches between Mumbai and Hyderabad.

Extensive surveillance operations and intelligence investigations have failed to penetrate the inner workings of Hyderabad's radicals, officials admitted. "These kind of elements that are linked to violence even allow us to observe their gatherings," said Commissioner Rao. "But they know we are there and so do nothing to trigger suspicion."

Officials at the DJS madrassahs - religious schools - in Hyderabad were not willing to discuss the disappearance of the city's young men.

While there is no suggestion that the organisation orchestrates terrorist acts, the DJS carries a message on its website that is explicit about the right of Muslims to resort to violence.

"The DJS has trained and are training thousands of Muslim youths to defend themselves and to help, protect and defend the other Muslims," it states, before adding that once trained in "self defence" members can leave to join any other Muslim group.

It continues that "the long term goal of the DJS remains to achieve the supremacy and prevalence of Islam in practice in its entirety".

Hyderabad, like war-torn Kashmir, has been disputed since Indian partition when its princely rulers chose India over the Muslim homeland. Even though the city was the venue for a recent gathering of conservative Muslim clerics, who issued a fatwa against terrorism following the Mumbai attacks, riots and terrorist activity have risen steadily in the city since the emergence of radical Islam across south Asia.

The atmosphere in Hyderabad's alleys and markets leading from its Raj-era square is marked by mutual loathing and suspicion between Muslim and Hindu sects.

"The young people are totally insecure," said Omar Farook Sidique, a madrassah owner. "Everything for them is highly impossible here - the situation is all manipulated for political reasons. Every killing and every beating is given labels to put down legitimate activities."

But Ram Mohan Reddy, a prominent Hindu lawyer, claimed: "Hyderabad is the epicentre of all this terrorism in the world.

"Every house is a cell and everyday those people in Pakistan are on the phone and internet with people here drawing strength from Hyderabad. Terrorism has become such a big problem because of government laxity."

Violence has marred Hyderabad's recent drive to develop a high-tech reputation by adopting a second name: Cyberabad.

Deprivation in the predominantly Muslim old city is palpable. A lake of raw sewage, populated with pleasure boats, sits not far from the construction site of an elevated highway.

"The circumstances for Muslims have changed for the worse in the 60 years of India's independence," said Judge E. Ismail of the provincial Human Rights Commission. "Muslims have fallen down in education, health and are not properly represented in the police or the administration. They feel they are not part of the mainstream.

"It's not as if terrorism started for these reasons but some people misguide the youth that because of this they are entitled to heaven."

Hindu activists maintain a vigilant outcry against supposed government concessions that they condemn as nurturing extremism.

The predicament of India's Muslim minority plays only a small role in the indoctrination of the youth, according to Commissioner Rao. "This new generation has much broader grievances," he said. "They are motivated by extreme views on the American presence in Iraq, Middle East frictions and Muslim torment worldwide."

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