R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing) is the CIA of India. It obtains and analyzes information about foreign governments, corporations and persons (Indian and non-Indians), and advises the policymakers. It was established in 1968 and since then it has been run by professionals who are mostly drawn from India's top caste, Brahmins.
Inter Service Intelligence or ISI, established in 1948, is R&AW's counterpart in Pakistan. It specializes in the collection, analysis and assessment of external intelligence, either military or non-military. Its top leadership is drawn from three main military services.
Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) was founded in 1925 to unite Hindus under the leadership of Brahmins. It propagated the idea that India is for Hindus only and minorities and all those who are not part of Hindu caste system must remain subservient to Hindus. It carried out acts of violence against minorities, especially against Muslims, since its inception. Over the years it has formed militant groups who engage in attacks on minorities. It was banned immediately after independence but now has become a formidable force in Indian politics.
Indian Mujahideen (IM) came to the limelight in 2008. Its aim is to create an Islamic Caliphate in South Asia. Experts believe that the organization was composed of lower cadres of the former Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), that started as a youth group of Jamat-e-Islami, India in 1977. SIMI/IM are banned in India, UK, the US and other countries.
The Hindu-Muslim politics of India and Pakistan is the story of these four major outfits. It's a story that is buried under secrecy as no one really knows the true and inner dimensions of these groups, unless leaks by former members reveal their inner functioning.
The R&AW and ISI have created and supported extremist organizations in both countries to fulfill their mission and vision. They have their own politicians, public officials, journalists, celebrities and people belonging to all sectors of society serving their organizational goals.
A public incident like the following illustrates the modus operandi of intelligence organizations and groups that work for them. Some time ago an Indian Police officer K.V., who was the station chief of India's R&AW between 1985-1987, was trapped by CIA to reveal that India was providing training to Tamil freedom-seeking groups and arming them to create a Tamil State in Sri Lanka. Unnikrishnan was later arrested by the Indian Intelligence Bureau. He was stripped of his IPS status and sent to Tihar Jail for one year for revealing state secrets.
The revelation substantiated the suspicion people already had that intelligence agencies were manipulating groups and individuals in the two countries to run their operation and serve their purposes.
Pakistan's intelligence agency is primarily concerned about the stability and security of the country. India's intelligence is not only concerned about the security of the country, but also about the supremacy of Hindu upper castes in India's organizational and political structure. R&AW is not known for allowing minorities to serve in sensitive positions. Brahmins are the ones who are preferred on top and crucial positions.
RSS wants to create a Hindu state and it sincerely believes that it can. For almost 90 years it has worked hard towards that goal. Its members are found in all branches of the government as well as in the army, and organizations like R&AW and military intelligence include many RSS members.
IM aims to create an Islamic caliphate without having any sense of the demography of the country in which it is located. Those who are often accused of being part of IM cannot carry out an intelligent discussion about Islam and its political structure. Apart from the rhetoric often used to incite mass sympathy, they offer nothing. In fact their understanding of Islam's basic principals would make a first grader in any Islamic school wonder if he was learning the same religion.
In reality it has become an organization of unknown faces whose names appear only during terror related blasts. No one really knows if RSS, ISI or R&AW manipulates individuals who are later dubbed as Indian Mujahideen. No one really knows if details attributed to individuals accused of being part of IM were coerced or concocted by the authorities. Anything is possible when the authorities have absolute secrecy about anything they want to discuss in public.
It serves R&AW and RSS to have an outfit, identified as Indian Muslim, which can develop possible links with ISI. Access to individuals who have ISI connections provides a connection to ISI modus operandi in India and elsewhere. For intelligence agencies, the loss of human lives in either places is just a game of manipulation of their resources.
If IM was a active group with a cadre, like the RSS, R&AW would have had no difficulty in tracing its activities. It should not surprise anyone that the Intelligence Bureau of India, (IB) has had its moles implanted in a highly disciplined organization such as the Jamat Islamic Hind during the 70s. According to IB sources, devices were placed in the Jamat headquarters to listen to the proceeding of its Shura Council. Needless to say that the devices were placed by someone considered reliable in the Jamat. Intelligence agencies are expert in such activities.
The argument that RSS and R&AW are unaware of IM activities and membership does not make much sense. It is possible that R&AW or RSS have access to individuals in the Muslim community or other communities who could be dubbed as IM once they carried out the plan they were recruited for. Otherwise, how does one get information that is later translated into terror alerts?
Trapping individuals with criminal records or illegal activities as possible intelligence assets and recruits is a known intelligence tactic. Intelligence agents also look out for individuals with low IQ's who could easily be manipulated into believing in their ability to change things for their group or community. Intelligence agencies are also known to use religious scriptures to motivate such individuals to commit acts of violence.
In the case of RSS and R&AW, such tactics offer good tactics in their pursuit of their ultimate goals. RSS could always use the fear of IM and its activities to rally Hindu masses against an enemy that is out to destroy their religion and culture and R&AW can also use IM to justify its continuous involvement in Pakistan.
Intelligence gathering is a very sophisticated process and an agent uses all possible (legal and illegal) means to achieve the ends. The veil of secrecy makes it almost impossible for an average person or even expert to precisely know the details.
The details become known only when someone blows the whistle or some other competing group traps the other agent and uses the information as political leverage.
Sometimes intelligence groups misinform the people deliberately and sometimes they create information to get more information. Sometime they run psychological operations to create fear in the hearts of people.
By and large a great majority of Muslims has taken a principled stand against terrorism. It believes that violence against innocent people and civilians is neither justified nor sanctioned under any interpretation of Islam. This community understands the spirit and meaning of jihad that cannot be randomly declared by anyone claiming to be a Muslim. So if anyone uses Islam to promote acts of terrorism, the community gets suspicious of that individual and group. The doubt always lingers in the mind of many if this individual or group was working for someone else to project Islam and Muslims as a danger to the nation or a particular community.
India's intelligence groups have not given the impression to Indians that they are objective in matters pertaining to minorities. The absence of Muslims in intelligence services is conspicuous and the agenda of RSS is known. Even though some Muslim leaders have toyed with the idea of an outreach to RSS and its multifaceted outfits, the community is not yet convinced that a hungry lion can be trusted with the life of a goat. The RSS offers a real threat to minorities and Muslims in particular. One has to look at the literature of RSS in vernaculars that are widely distributed in India's rural areas.
In the coming months before the next general election, it is possible that IM becomes more visible. But who knows who would be manipulating it from behind. What is certain is that neither Islam nor Muslims would be behind those individuals who might act in the name of IM or similar outfits to serve the interests of someone else.
Dr Aslam Abdullah is director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, Vice president of the Muslim Council of America (MCA) and the President elect of the Nevada Interfaith Council. He has authored several books and published more than 400 papers on issues related with Islam and contemporary issues. He has taught at colleges in India as well as in the US. He is also Editor-in Chief of America's largest circulating Muslim weekly, The Muslim Observer.