Extremists operating with impunity in UP — US embassy

UP is the state most vulnerable to Islamic terrorism and extremists seemed to operate with impunity in the state, worrying the community elite; according to the US embassy’s survey after 2006 Mumbai bombings.

An embassy survey among Muslim intellectuals in Lucknow, including Maulvis (both Sunni and Shia), Urdu language journalists, political and community leaders, scholars and academics, revealed that they were afraid that “terrorists have established a support system and sympathizers’ network among Indian Muslims to help carry out attacks conceived and orchestrated by foreign Muslims,” Geoffrey Pyatt, the in-charge at the US embassy in Delhi wrote in July 2006, shortly after serial blasts in trains in Mumbai.

“Our Muslim contacts have reported over the past six months that SIMI and other Islamic extremists, (including mysterious ihdividuals they claim are “”members of al Qaeda””) have been active in the Muslim community, recruiting disaffected young men with offers of physical training, study of the Qu’ran, job opportunities and easy money,” he added.

Pyatt pointed out that not only does the state have a 17 percent Muslim population and a large concentration of Shias, it is a state where the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the two principal suspects in the Mumbai attacks, are both active.

The survey respondents were also “remarkably unanimous” that the response of the traditional Muslim leadership on the attacks was weak.

The respondents “accused such leaders of taking a “”head in the sand”” approach and denying stark realities,” he pointed out.

“A leading Barelvi community leader and journalist questioned why the media, especially the Muslim and Urdu media, has not been more condemnatory of those supporting terrorism.

“A Lucknow Shia and Urdu newspaper editor expressed shock that Muslim leaders in UP have largely remained silent about the Mumbai attack. A Shia Lucknow Maulvi compared terrorism to a deadly disease that requires strong medicine to overcome and pointed out that it will persist as long as the majority of India’s Muslims remain silent.

“A leading Islamic scholar based in Delhi noted that the principal target of the terrorist attacks is the Indian people rather than the GOI, as they are aimed at destroying “”the unity and harmony among Hindus and Muslims all over the country.”” In this light, he emphasized, GOI action will be insufficient, as the Indian people will have to “”maintain vigilance”” to prevent the social mosaic from unraveling,” the cable went on.

None of the Muslim intellectuals sampled by the embassy were “confident that the Indian government, security forces or intelligence agencies are capable of dealing with these developments, and complain that extremists in UP barely conceal their activities and seem to operate with impunity,” he pointed out.

The then home minister, Shivraj Patil, would lose his job two years later after a more daring attack at major landmarks in Mumbai.