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Uttar Pradesh Emerging as a Terror Hub

T. Khurshchev Singh was Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • January 10, 2008

    Uttar Pradesh is emerging as a terror hub in the country. The January 1 attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Rampur by four militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is the latest in a series of terror-related incidents to rack the state during the last year. Six serial blasts were earlier trigged on November 23, 2007 by militants belonging to the Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HuJI), targeting the Varanasi court premises, the lawyers’ chambers in Faizabad, and a civil court in Lucknow. Two live bombs were also recovered and subsequently defused. Six months earlier, on May 22, 2007, three serial bombs ripped through the Golghar area of Gorakhpur.

    Over the last several months, quantities of arms have also been recovered from several places in the state. On July 27, 2007, the Special Task Force (STF) of the state police recovered two kilograms of RDX and two detonators from an industrial area on the Lucknow-Kanpur road in Unnao district. Two weeks earlier, it seized a cache that included two kilograms of RDX sticks, ten hand grenades and ten detonators in Mohanlalganj. And the Railway Police recovered about 10 kilograms of explosives and 20 litres of ammonium nitrate from the waiting room of the Faizabad railway station on May 23.

    Several fundamentalist militant groups are active in Uttar Pradesh, including HuJI and LeT, which became evident from a series of incidents in recent months. On December 23, 2007, the STF, after engaging in cross-fire with two LeT militants on Dewa road, some 18 kilometres from Lucknow, recovered two AK-47 rifles along with their cartridges, 10 hand grenades, a fuse, a detonator, a suicide belt and a map with notings. In a joint operation a day earlier, UP police and security agencies arrested two HuJI operatives with 1.25 kilograms of RDX, six detonators and ammonium nitrate rods at Barabanki railway station. One of the men arrested turned out to be Tariq, the UP chief of HuJI who was involved in the November 23 serial blasts. Two other HuJI militants had earlier been arrested in the state on June 21, 2007, and seven kilograms of RDX, six detonators, five watches including three improvises watches equipped with timer wire, two batteries and a remote switch were recovered from them.

    These militant groups also seemed to be engaged in targeting high profile political leaders. On May 13, a letter suspected to be written by a LeT militant was recovered from a cinema hall in Meerut, which threatened to kill Sonia Gandhi and the then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The letter also contained the threat to blow up the railway station and several cinema halls in Meerut as well as the railway station in Delhi, India Gate and Delhi’s international airport. Recently, on November 16, three Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants were arrested from the district court premises of Lucknow for plotting to kidnap Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

    The activities of these groups are being facilitated by sleeper cells of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which help outfits like HuJI recruit cadres. Such sleeper cells are active in Jaunpur, Allahabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Ambedkar Nagar, Aligarh, Azamgarh, Sonauli, Ferozabad and Hathras. Here, it is worth noting that the Intelligence Bureau has issued a warning that the Hapur-Moradabad-Bareilly-Rampur belt in western UP is most vulnerable to terrorist action, given that several terrorist modules are suspected to be operating in these parts.

    According to a November 25, 2007 statement issued by the central government, Uttar Pradesh tops the list for the highest number of jihadi attacks – outside of Jammu & Kashmir – in the past few years. Minister for Legislative Affairs, Lalji Verma, stated in the UP Assembly on July 2, 2007 that 34 districts in the state, including Lucknow, face the threat of terrorism.

    In response to this emerging threat, the state government has set up 39 special cells, though it appears that these have not so far been as effective as they were expected to be. In late November, the state government established a special Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) with a technical intelligence wing in Lucknow. Chief Minister Mayawati has sanctioned Rs. 67.5 million to purchase sophisticated hi-tech equipment for the team to enable it to meet the advanced techniques used by terrorist groups operating in the state. The ATS will have units located in all police zones including Allahabad, Bareilly, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Meerut and Varanasi. In addition, after the serial blasts in November, the state government has decided to deploy as many as 25,000 Home Guards across the different court premises in the state.

    It is essential that the entire security apparatus of the state, including the STF and the recently established ATS, are suitably trained and equipped to counter the growing threat posed by terrorists. In addition, the state government should also ensure that its various arms share information and intelligence and co-ordinate their activities. Most important, policing has to be improved at the grassroots level through special training programmes and police personnel immunised from political pressure.