Woolwich Butchery: A Warning For India
The tragic incident of chopping into pieces by two radicalised British fanatics of Nigerian-origin with machetes of an off-duty soldier, Drummer Lee Rigby, an Afghan war hero and father of two year old, in Woolwich in south-east London on May 22, although took place 5500 kms away from India, it serves as a warning of a new type of terror attacks which would almost be impossible to pre-empt. India has most to worry.
The fear of copycat attacks either by radicalsed individuals or sponsored by an organisation was expressed by terror experts immediately after the tragic incident. Well, it happened within 72 hours of the attack in Woolwich. A uniformed soldier on duty in a business quarter in Paris was stabbed by a bearded person of North African origin. The possibility of such attacks in India is distinctly possible, given that with the not-too-friendly Pakistan there is a long porous border and the organisations like LeT supported by the ISI are constantly planning to terrorise India.
There is more to worry. The sheer brazenness and the inexplicable desire for publicity by the two butchers serves notice of a more sudden but deadly form of terror attacks, no bombs, no remote-controlled dynamite or kalshinikov are needed. The 9/11 in New York was coordinated by 19 people and planned for over a year, the Woolwich type of attack just needs two people who have to have just a machete which can be bought without drawing any suspicion. There would be no dearth of such home-grown radicalised youth here. It is now established that the 26/11 terrorists who caused horror for days in Mumbai had the support of some locals. The same types could repeat Woolwich-kind assault.
The example set by the two Woolwich killers would incite many youth. The two frenzied lunatics had not run away. Instead they stayed back, and tried to dance on the chopped pieces, while shouting Allah o Akbar. They were apparently briefed to display utmost courage and make the beheading so outrageous that the whole world would feel the impact. They urged people who had gathered to take pictures. The two knew the pictures would be wired across the world. They obviously wanted the world to know the novel way of terror attack and how effective it would be in spreading fear.
The crazed two waited for the police to arrive. One of them gave reason for the butchering of the soldier. Speaking calmly into a witness’s video phone, while holding a knife and a meat cleaver and with his hands dripping with blood, he said: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. Your people will never be safe. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day. We must fight them as they fight us.
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth….You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns?
It is obviously a reference to Iraq and Afghanistan. Although India is not involved in Iraq or Afghanistan, it does not make the country any safer. A general anger is over Kashmir and the likes of Hafeez Sayeed and the radical Generals of the ISI are, as it is, determined to undermine if not destroy India. They have carried out several attacks, on temples, on Parliament and continue to plot new assaults aimed at maximum loss of lives and property and if possible ignite a communal inferno.
The Woolwich attack could inspire Sayeed and the ISI from instead of sending suicide bombers like in 26/11 attack, to let in twos and threes Woolwich like killers who will mingle with the crowds in say Colaba or Crawford Market where not only they would cause mayhem but stampede would kill hundreds. Such attacks could be staged anywhere and at anytime.
India is more vulnerable both because terror outfits are next door in Pakistan and because of our weak defences and intelligence. Britain is comparatively a much smaller country and it is easier to mount surveillance through CCTVs—1.85 million across Britain, one for 32 people– and monitor sleepers estimated to be over 3500—than in a huge country like India with a population of over 1.25 billion. This puts the country and the people more in danger especially from attacks like that in Woolwich.
We are also not as disciplined and alert as the west when an intelligence warning has been issued. The Woolwich killing sent shockwaves across all levels in Whitehall and right from meeting of Cobra, the ministerial group for emergencies, there have been inquiries by intelligence agencies who have been briefing ministers.
How did we react when one jawan was beheaded by Pak Rangers and his head carried away as a trophy in the Poonch sector? The Prime Minister made a forceful statement and demanded that the offenders must be punished. But after that, nothing is known, possibly the soldier’s life was sacrificed on the altar of peace.
Our politicos too are less sensitive and worry more about good relations with Pakistan and then there is vote-bank politics. On the contrary note Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, warned in an article in The Sunday Telegraph that it was time for them to bring the full weight of the law to bear on extremists and not be hampered by political correctness.
The Indian government would have to learn from what happened in London, how such incidents—more easy here—can be prevented. Advise by a former Police Commissioner in Surrey, “CCTVS at most isolated places, police helicopter flying low more frequently (as in London) and patrolling in risk-prone areas.”
Most of us would possibly now look over our shoulders all the time!
By Vijay Dutt
(The author is former London-Correspondent, Hindustan Times)