Tag Archives: India

India’s Maoist uprising morphs into women’s armed insurgency

 

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
May 20, 2017

By M Tracy Hunter, Creative Commons via Wikipedia

Women guerrilla fighters are at the forefront of an emerging insurgent war in India aimed at protecting women from sexual violence and human rights abuse.

On April 24, about 300 guerrillas, half of them women, attacked a police outpost guarding road construction workers in Sukma district in Chhattisgarh State in east-central India.

The guerrillas, armed with grenades and AK-47 assault rifles, killed 25 members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force before disappearing into the forested mountains. Three days later a group called the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) issued a statement taking responsibility for the attack, and saying it was a continuation of similar attacks on the paramilitary police in other parts of the state in recent weeks.

The statement, issued as an audio clip by a PLGA spokesman known as Vikalp, said the reason for the attacks is to stop the construction of roads, railways and communication towers. Governments say these are to improve the lives of the poor, indigenous people living in what are called tribal areas, said the statement, but in reality “it is being done to loot natural resources, to exploit common masses and to make easy transport for security forces.”

“These attacks should be seen as retaliation against the sexual atrocities that are being committed by the security forces against the tribal women and girls in the conflict zone. It should also be seen as an answer to the countless incidents of sexual violence, which is a blot on any civilized society,” said Vikalp.

The recent attacks in Chhattisgarh are a resurgence in a guerrilla war which started in the 1960s when Maoist communists took up arms in protest at New Delhi’s failure to give autonomy and control over natural resources to the country’s 84 million tribal peoples. At the height of the insurgency in 2007, it was estimated that the Maoists, of which the PLGA is the armed wing, were active in half of India’s 28 states. This covered about 40 percent of India’s geographical area, mostly down the country’s eastern states, and became known as the “Red Corridor,” where the Maoists controlled 92,000 square kilometres.

There are no reliable estimates of the number of people who have died in the 50 years of conflict, but there have been hundreds of deaths each year among both the insurgents and the security forces.

However, the violence has been on the wane since 2009, when the previous government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh brought in a new two-pronged policy. On one hand, Singh ordered the beefing up of security by deploying special police units, and outlawing local militias raised by wealthy landowners, which often operated as vigilantes and were responsible for countless outrages against tribal villagers.

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At the same time, a lot of money was allocated to development in the poorest and most neglected areas. At the top of the list were new roads, schools and medical centres. The policy was remarkably successful, at least on the military front. Government forces claim to have killed 800 Maoists and arrested 3,400 since 2013. In addition, several thousand Maoists surrendered in return for an amnesty.

The number of people killed in actions between the Maoists and government forces has dropped off sharply since 2010, when 1,180 people died over the course of the year. In 2014 there were 314 deaths, 252 in 2015, and 433 last year. The 25 policemen who died in the Sukma attack last month was the largest number of security force fatalities in a singe incident since 2010.

Indian intelligence and security agencies reckon that there are now about 10,000 Maoist fighters throughout the “Red Corridor.”

The quest to improve the lives of the tribal peoples with economic development has not been as successful as the security drive. The roads pushed into the mountainous, forested areas where the tribal people live have been a great boon to resource industries, especially mining companies, that can now get at previously inaccessible reserves. Lack of regulation meant that mining companies all-too-often felt unconstrained, expropriated local people’s land, and devastated the local ecology.

Ironically, India’s economic slow down in recent years has taken some of this development pressure off the tribal peoples. And new laws, backed by judicial activism by India’s Supreme Court, has seen many illegal mining operations closed down and the enforcement of environmental protection regulations.

However, there are clouds on the horizon flowing from the policies of the present government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He pays lip service to the two-pronged, security-teamed-with-development policy of his predecessor, Singh, but Modi is also committed to the rapid growth of Indian industry.

To this end, he is advocating simplification of laws pertaining to both land acquisition and control over forests. This will inevitably bring back the pressures on the tribal peoples in the hill country.

Meanwhile, the composition of the Maoist movement has changed significantly. Studies by both civilian and military analysts in India have found that women now make up about 60 per cent of the members of the Maoist organization, and also its fighters. Information gathered by New Delhi’s Intelligence Bureau suggests that in many regions of the “Red Corridor,” which stretches down India’s eastern, Bay of Bengal seaboard, most local Maoist committees are run by women. In Bastar district of Chhattisgarh State, the Intelligence Bureau says 20 of the 27 local Maoist committees are led by women.

Police and paramilitaries who have faced the women fighters say they are usually much more brave and committed to the battle than their male comrades. The woman have also gained a reputation for brutality towards prisoners, but they deny this. The audio message from Vikalp about last month’s attack on the police post at Sukma, for example, denies allegations in Indian media that the guerrillas mutilated the bodies of the dead policemen.

Anuradha Ghandy. BBC photo via Wikipedia, Fair use

Women have always been active in the Maoist movement since its founding 50 years ago. But they have risen to be dominant both as organizers and fighters since Singh’s efforts to end the insurgency started in 2009. One reason is that men have been more willing than women to take the government amnesty and leave the Maoist movement. Women Maoists have been more loyal, and their proportion of the group’s membership has risen accordingly.

Leading from that, has been a move to put more focus on recruiting women. One study published by India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses found that “some have joined the underground due to desperation. Exploitation at the hands of the high and powerful in the village is another reason.”

Other studies have found women recruits escaping unwanted arranged marriages, and it is not just rural, tribal women who are joining the guerrillas. There are many examples of urban, educated women who join the Maoists for political reasons. One of the most prominent was the renowned feminist and sociology professor, Anuradha Ghandy.

Ghandy was a member of the Maoist organization’s Central Committee, but died of malaria in April, 2008. She was a fierce advocate for an end to the laws and cultural practices that keep women in India as, at best, second class citizens and more usually as chattels.

Ghandy was highly critical of western feminist movements. She had little time for Liberal Feminism, Radical Feminism, Anarcha-Feminism, Eco-Feminism, or Post-Modern Feminism. One of her last essays ended with the thought: “These solutions have at best benefited a section of middle class women but left the vast mass of oppressed and exploited women far from liberation. The struggle for women’s liberation cannot be successful in isolation from the struggle to overthrow the imperialist system itself.”

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2017

Contact Jonathan Manthorpe, including for queries about syndication/republishing: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Jonathan Manthorpe is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Who knew? Modi’s secretive attack on black money

People queue outside a bank to withdraw cash and deposit their old high denomination banknotes in Mumbai, India, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

People queue outside a bank to withdraw cash and deposit their old high denomination banknotes in Mumbai, India, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

By Douglas Busvine and Rupam Jain
December, 2016

India's Financial Services Secretary Hasmukh Adhia answers a question during a news conference in New Delhi, India, August 14, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

India’s Financial Services Secretary Hasmukh Adhia answers a question during a news conference in New Delhi, India, August 14, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi handpicked a trusted bureaucrat, little known outside India’s financial circles, to spearhead a radical move to abolish 86 percent of the country’s cash overnight and take aim at the huge shadow economy.

Hasmukh Adhia, the bureaucrat, and five others privy to the plan were sworn to utmost secrecy, say sources with knowledge of the matter. They were supported by a young team of researchers working in two rooms at Modi’s New Delhi residence, as he plotted his boldest reform since coming to power in 2014.

When announced, the abolition of high-value banknotes of 500 and 1,000 rupees (£5.9 and £11.78) came as a bolt from the blue.

The secrecy was aimed at outflanking those who might profit from prior knowledge, by pouring cash into gold, property and other assets and hide illicit wealth.

Previously unreported details of Modi’s handling of the so-called “demonetisation” open a window onto the hands-on role he played in implementing a key policy, and how he was willing to act quickly even when the risks were high.

While some advocates say the scrapping of the banknotes will bring more money into the banking system and raise tax revenues, millions of Indians are furious at having to queue for hours outside banks to exchange or deposit their old money.

Labourers have also been unpaid and produce has rotted in markets as cash stopped changing hands. Not enough replacement notes were printed in preparation for the upheaval, and it could take months for things to return to normal.

With India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, holding an election in early 2017 that could decide Modi’s chances of a second term in office, there is little time for the hoped-for benefits of his cash swap to outweigh short-term pain.

Modi has staked his reputation and popularity on the move.

“I have done all the research and, if it fails, then I am to blame,” Modi told a cabinet meeting on Nov. 8 shortly before the move was announced, according to three ministers who attended.

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DIRECT LINE TO MODI

Overseeing the campaign, with support from the backroom team camped out at Modi’s sprawling bungalow in the capital, was Adhia, a top finance ministry official.

The 58-year-old served as principal secretary to Modi from 2003-06 when he was chief minister of Gujarat state, establishing a relationship of trust with his boss and introducing him to yoga.

Colleagues interviewed by Reuters said he had a reputation for integrity and discretion.

Adhia was named revenue secretary in Sept. 2015, reporting formally to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. In reality, he had a direct line to Modi and they would speak in their native Gujarati when they met to discuss issues in depth.

In the world’s largest democracy the demonetisation was revolutionary: it called into question the state’s promise to “pay the bearer” the face value on every banknote.

At a stroke, Modi scrapped money worth 15.4 trillion rupees (£181.5 billion), equal to 86 percent of cash in Asia’s third-largest economy.

The idea is backed by some economists, although the speed of its implementation is widely seen as radical.

“One is never ready for this kind of disruption – but it is a constructive disruption,” said Narendra Jadhav, a 31-year veteran and former chief economist of India’s central bank who now represents Modi’s party in the upper house of parliament.

Modi, in his TV address to the nation, cautioned that people could face temporary hardship as replacement 500 and 2,000 rupee notes were introduced. Calling for an act of collective sacrifice, he promised steps to soften the blow for the nine in 10 Indians who live in the cash economy.

“BIGGEST, BOLDEST STEP”

Immediately after the address, Adhia sent a tweet: “This is the biggest and the boldest step by the Government for containing black money.”

The boast harked back to Modi’s election vow to recover black money from abroad that had resonated with voters fed up with the corruption scandals that plagued the last Congress government. Yet in office, he struggled to keep his promise.

Over more than a year, Modi commissioned research from officials at the finance ministry, the central bank and think-tanks on how to advance his fight against black money, a close aide said.

He demanded answers to questions such as: How quickly India could print new banknotes; how to distribute them; would state banks benefit if they received a rush of new deposits; and who would gain from demonetisation?

The topics were broken up to prevent anyone from joining the dots and concluding that a cash swap was in the offing.

“We didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag,” said a senior official directly involved. “Had people got a whiff of the decision, the whole exercise would have been meaningless.”

Under Adhia’s oversight, the team of researchers assembled and modelled the findings in what was, for it, a theoretical exercise.

It was made up of young experts in data and financial analysis; some ran Modi’s social media accounts and a smartphone app that he used to solicit public feedback.

Yet for all the planning, Modi and Adhia knew they could not foresee every eventuality, and were willing to move swiftly.

The announcement caused chaos, with huge queues forming at banks when they reopened after a short holiday.

New 2,000 rupee notes were hard to come by and barely any new 500 rupee notes had been printed. India’s 200,000 cash dispensers could not handle the new, smaller, notes and it would take weeks to reconfigure them.

Filling ATMs with the 8 trillion rupees in new banknotes that the finance ministry reckons are needed to restore liquidity to the economy is even trickier.

In a best-case scenario, in which India’s four banknote presses churned out new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes designed to replace the abolished ones, it would take at least three months to hit that target.

SECRECY PARAMOUNT

Secrecy was paramount, but clues had been left.

Back in April, analysts at State Bank of India said that demonetisation of large-denomination notes was possible.

The Reserve Bank of India, the central bank, also disclosed in May that it was making preparations for a new series of banknotes that were confirmed in August when it announced it had approved a design for a new 2,000 rupee note.

The printing presses had only just started turning when the media finally started to run with the story in late October.

“The plan was to introduce it around Nov. 18, but there was a clear sign that it could get leaked,” said one person with direct knowledge who, like others interviewed by Reuters, asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Some officials in the finance ministry had expressed doubts about scrapping high-value notes when the idea came up for discussion. They now feel resentment at the secrecy in which Adhia rammed through the plan on Modi’s orders.

They also say the plan was flawed because of a failure to ramp up printing of new notes ahead of time.

Other critics say the Adhia team fell prey to a form of “group think” that ignored outside advice.

In the words of one former top official who has worked at the finance ministry and central bank: “They don’t know what’s happening in the real world.”

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh, Manoj Kumar, Mayank Bhardwaj and Neha Dasgupta in New Delhi, Suvashree Choudhury in Mumbai and Subrata Nagchaudhury in Kolkata; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; or donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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The toddler tied to a rock while parents work

By Amit Dave
May, 2016

Barrier tape is tied around 15-month-old Shivani's ankle to prevent her from running away, while her mother Sarta Kalara works at a construction site nearby, in Ahmedabad, India, April 19, 2016. Kalara says she has no option but to tether her daughter Shivani to a stone despite her crying, while she and her husband work for 250 rupees ($3.8) each a shift digging holes for electricity cables in the city of Ahmedabad. There are about 40 million construction workers in India, at least one in five of them women, and the majority poor migrants who shift from site to site, building infrastructure for India's booming cities. Across the country it is not uncommon to see young children rolling in the sand and mud as their parents carry bricks or dig for new roads or luxury houses. REUTERS/Amit Dave       SEARCH "TIED TODDLER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Barrier tape is tied around 15-month-old Shivani’s ankle to prevent her from running away, while her mother Sarta Kalara works at a construction site nearby, in Ahmedabad, India, April 19, 2016. Kalara says she has no option but to tether her daughter Shivani to a stone despite her crying, while she and her husband work for 250 rupees ($3.8) each a shift digging holes for electricity cables in the city of Ahmedabad. There are about 40 million construction workers in India, at least one in five of them women, and the majority poor migrants who shift from site to site, building infrastructure for India’s booming cities. Across the country it is not uncommon to see young children rolling in the sand and mud as their parents carry bricks or dig for new roads or luxury houses. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Ahmedabad, India (Reuters) — Fifteen month-old Shivani tugs at a plastic tape her mother has wrapped around her leg and tied to a rock at a building site in western India.

Barefoot and caked in dust, the toddler spends nine hours a day in temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) attached to the 4.5 foot (1.4 meter) tape marked “caution.”

Sarta Kalara, her mother, says she has no option but to tether Shivani to the stone despite her crying, while she and her husband work for 250 rupees ($3.8) each a shift digging holes for electricity cables in the city of Ahmedabad.

“I tie her so she doesn’t go on the road. My younger son is three and a half so he is not able to control her,” said the 23-year old, covering her face with her sari.

“This site is full of traffic, I have no option. I do this for her safety.”

There are about 40 million construction workers in India, at least one in five of them women, and the majority poor migrants who shift from site to site, building infrastructure for India’s booming cities.

Across the country it is not uncommon to see young children rolling in the sand and mud as their parents carry bricks or dig for new roads or luxury houses.

Many such families live in tents on site or, like Shivani’s, bed down in the open at night.

Sarta Kalara (C), a construction worker, stands among other female workers in Ahmedabad, India, April 20, 2016. Kalara says she has no option but to tether her daughter Shivani to a stone despite her crying, while she and her husband work for 250 rupees ($3.8) each a shift digging holes for electricity cables in the city of Ahmedabad. There are about 40 million construction workers in India, at least one in five of them women, and the majority poor migrants who shift from site to site, building infrastructure for India's booming cities. Across the country it is not uncommon to see young children rolling in the sand and mud as their parents carry bricks or dig for new roads or luxury houses. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Sarta Kalara (C), a construction worker, stands among other female workers in Ahmedabad, India, April 20, 2016. Kalara says she has no option but to tether her daughter Shivani to a stone despite her crying, while she and her husband work for 250 rupees ($3.8) each a shift digging holes for electricity cables in the city of Ahmedabad. There are about 40 million construction workers in India, at least one in five of them women, and the majority poor migrants who shift from site to site, building infrastructure for India’s booming cities. Across the country it is not uncommon to see young children rolling in the sand and mud as their parents carry bricks or dig for new roads or luxury houses. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Sarta Kalara, a construction worker, holds her 15-month-old Shivani as a barrier tape is tied to Shivani's ankle to prevent her from running away when Kalara works nearby in Ahmedabad, India, April 20, 2016. Kalara says she has no option but to tether her daughter Shivani to a stone despite her crying, while she and her husband work for 250 rupees ($3.8) each a shift digging holes for electricity cables in the city of Ahmedabad. There are about 40 million construction workers in India, at least one in five of them women, and the majority poor migrants who shift from site to site, building infrastructure for India's booming cities. Across the country it is not uncommon to see young children rolling in the sand and mud as their parents carry bricks or dig for new roads or luxury houses. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Sarta Kalara, a construction worker, holds her 15-month-old Shivani as a barrier tape is tied to Shivani’s ankle to prevent her from running away when Kalara works nearby in Ahmedabad, India, April 20, 2016. Kalara says she has no option but to tether her daughter Shivani to a stone despite her crying, while she and her husband work for 250 rupees ($3.8) each a shift digging holes for electricity cables in the city of Ahmedabad. There are about 40 million construction workers in India, at least one in five of them women, and the majority poor migrants who shift from site to site, building infrastructure for India’s booming cities. Across the country it is not uncommon to see young children rolling in the sand and mud as their parents carry bricks or dig for new roads or luxury houses. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Prabhat Jha, head of child protection at Save the Children India, said creche facilities were rare, and usually cost.

“There should be creche facilities, either from the government or the construction companies. There should be a safe place for these children. They are at real risk of being hurt,” Jha said.

Indian companies usually outsource the hiring of cheap labor. Contractors bring gangs of workers, often recruited from the same village, to lift, dig or hammer with little oversight or safety provisions.

While Shivani is tied to her rock, men pause for coconut and water amid the searing heat as mothers take quick breaks to feed their kids.

Parents said their children usually stayed with them until they are seven or eight, when they are sent to live with grandparents in poor tribal villages in a neighboring state.

Kalara, holding Shivani as the plastic tape dangled from her leg, said managers had turned a blind eye to her plight.

“They don’t care about us or our children, they are only concerned with their work.”

When a Reuters photographer returned to the site on a second day, a group of laborers laying power cables threw stones at him.

Copyright Reuters 2016

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Mumbai Attacks: Piles of Spy Data, a Puzzle Unsolved

 

Photo by "Trakesht," via Wikimedia. Creative Commons

The Mumbai attacks in November, 2008, may rank among the most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft. Indian, British and American intelligence agencies did not pull together all the strands gathered by their high-tech surveillance and other tools, which might have allowed them to disrupt a terror strike so scarring that it is often called India’s 9/11. The Taj Mahal hotel was the scene of one of the most lethal attacks. Photo by “Trakesht,” via Wikimedia. Creative Commons



by Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, and James Glanz and David E. Sanger, New York Times 
December, 2014

This ProPublica story was co-published with the New York Times and Frontline.

In the fall of 2008, a 30-year-old computer expert named Zarrar Shah roamed from outposts in the northern mountains of Pakistan to safe houses near the Arabian Sea, plotting mayhem in Mumbai, India’s commercial gem.

Mr. Shah, the technology chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani terror group, and fellow conspirators used Google Earth to show militants the routes to their targets in the city. He set up an Internet phone system to disguise his location by routing his calls through New Jersey. Shortly before an assault that would kill 166 people, including six Americans, Mr. Shah searched online for a Jewish hostel and two luxury hotels, all sites of the eventual carnage.

But he did not know that by September, the British were spying on many of his online activities, tracking his Internet searches and messages, according to former American and Indian officials and classified documents disclosed by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

They were not the only spies watching. Mr. Shah drew similar scrutiny from an Indian intelligence agency, according to a former official who was briefed on the operation. The United States was unaware of the two agencies’ efforts, American officials say, but had picked up signs of a plot through other electronic and human sources, and warned Indian security officials several times in the months before the attack.

What happened next may rank among the most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft. The intelligence agencies of the three nations did not pull together all the strands gathered by their high-tech surveillance and other tools, which might have allowed them to disrupt a terror strike so scarring that it is often called India’s 9/11.

“No one put together the whole picture,” said Shivshankar Menon, who was India’s foreign secretary at the time of the attacks and later became the national security adviser. “Not the Americans, not the Brits, not the Indians.”

Mr. Menon, now retired, recalled that “only once the shooting started did everyone share” what they had, largely in meetings between British and Indian officials, and then “the picture instantly came into focus.”

The British had access to a trove of data from Mr. Shah’s communications, but contend that the information was not specific enough to detect the threat. The Indians did not home in on the plot even with the alerts from the United States.

Clues slipped by the Americans as well. David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American who scouted targets in Mumbai, exchanged incriminating emails with plotters that went unnoticed until shortly before his arrest in Chicago in late 2009. United States counterterrorism agencies did not pursue reports from his unhappy wife, who told American officials long before the killings began that he was a Pakistani terrorist conducting mysterious missions in Mumbai.

That hidden history of the Mumbai attacks reveals the vulnerability as well as the strengths of computer surveillance and intercepts as a counterterrorism weapon, an investigation by The New York Times, ProPublica and the PBS series “Frontline” has found.

Although electronic eavesdropping often yields valuable data, even tantalizing clues can be missed if the technology is not closely monitored, the intelligence gleaned from it is not linked with other information, or analysis does not sift incriminating activity from the ocean of digital data.

This account has been pieced together from classified documents, court files and dozens of interviews with current and former Indian, British and American officials. While telephone intercepts of the assault team’s phone calls and other intelligence work during the three-day siege have been reported, the extensive espionage that took place before the attacks has not previously been disclosed. Some details of the operations were withheld at the request of the intelligence agencies, citing national security concerns.

“We didn’t see it coming,” a former senior United States intelligence official said. “We were focused on many other things — Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, the Iranians. It’s not that things were missed — they were never put together.”

After the assault began, the countries quickly disclosed their intelligence to one another. They monitored a Lashkar control room in Pakistan where the terror chiefs directed their men, hunkered down in the Taj and Oberoi hotels and the Jewish hostel, according to current and former American, British and Indian officials.

That cooperation among the spy agencies helped analysts retrospectively piece together “a complete operations plan for the attacks,” a top-secret N.S.A. document said.

The Indian government did not respond to several requests for official comment, but a former Indian intelligence official acknowledged that Indian spies had tracked Mr. Shah’s laptop communications. It is unclear what data the Indians gleaned from their monitoring.

Asked if Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, Britain’s eavesdropping agency, should have had strong suspicions of a looming attack, a government official responded in a statement: “We do not comment on intelligence matters. But if we had had critical information about an imminent act of terrorism in a situation like this we would have shared it with the Indian government. So the central allegation of this story is completely untrue.”

The attacks still resonate in India, and are a continuing source of tension with Pakistan. Last week, a Pakistani court granted bail to a militant commander, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, accused of being an orchestrator of the attacks. He has not been freed, pending an appeal. India protested his release, arguing it was part of a Pakistani effort to avoid prosecution of terror suspects.

The story of the Mumbai killings has urgent implications for the West’s duel with the Islamic State and other groups. Like Lashkar, the Islamic State’s stealthy communications and slick propaganda make it one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated terror organizations. Al Qaeda, which recently announced the creation of an affiliate in India, uses similar tools.

Although the United States computer arsenal plays a vital role against targets ranging from North Korea’s suspected assault on Sony to Russian cyberthieves and Chinese military hacking units, counterterrorism requires a complex mix of human and technical resources. Some former counterterrorism officials warn against promoting billion-dollar surveillance programs with the narrow argument that they stop attacks.

That monitoring collects valuable information, but large amounts of it are “never meaningfully reviewed or analyzed,” said Charles (Sam) Faddis, a retired C.I.A. counterterrorism chief. “I cannot remember a single instance in my career when we ever stopped a plot based purely on signals intelligence.”

The targeting of Mr. Shah’s communications also failed to detect Mr. Headley’s role in the Mumbai attacks, and National Security Agency officials did not see for months that he was pursuing a new attack in Denmark.

“There are small successes in all of this that don’t make up for all the deaths,” said Tricia Bacon, a former State Department intelligence analyst, referring to intelligence and broader efforts to counter Lashkar. “It’s a massive failure and some small successes.”

Lashkar’s Computer Chief

Zarrar Shah was a digitally savvy operative, a man with a bushy beard, a pronounced limp, strong ties to Pakistani intelligence and an intense hatred for India, according to Western and Indian officials and court files. The spy agencies of Britain, the United States and India considered him the technology and communications chief for Lashkar, a group dedicated to attacking India. His fascination with jihad established him as something of a pioneer for a generation of Islamic extremists who use the Internet as a weapon.

According to Indian court records and interviews with intelligence officials, Mr. Shah was in his late 20s when he became the “emir,” or chief, of the Lashkar media unit. Because of his role, Mr. Shah, together with another young Lashkar chief named Sajid Mir, became an intelligence target for the British, Indians and Americans.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which translates as “the Army of the Pure,” grew rapidly in the 1990s thanks to a powerful patron: the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the Pakistani spy agency that the C.I.A. has worked with uneasily for years. Lashkar conducted a proxy war for Pakistan in return for arms, funds, intelligence, and training in combat tactics and communications technology. Initially, Lashkar’s focus was India and Kashmir, the mountainous region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

But Lashkar became increasingly interested in the West. A Qaeda figure involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center was arrested in a Lashkar safe house in 2002. Investigators dismantled a Lashkar network as it plotted a bombing in Australia in 2003 while recruiting, buying equipment and raising funds in North America and Europe. In 2007, a French court convicted in absentia the ringleader, Mr. Mir. He remained at large in Pakistan under ISI protection, investigators say.

Lashkar’s alliance with the ISI came under strain as some of the militants pushed for a Qaeda-style war on the West. As a result, some ISI officers and terror chiefs decided that a spectacular strike was needed to restore Lashkar’s cohesion and burnish its image, according to interviews and court files. The plan called for a commando-style assault in India that could also hit Americans, Britons and Jews there.

The target was the centerpiece of Indian prosperity: Mumbai.

Hatching a Plot

Lashkar’s chiefs developed a plot that would dwarf previous operations.

The lead conspirators were alleged to be Mr. Mir and Mr. Lakhvi, according to interviews and Indian court files, with Mr. Shah acting as a technical wingman, running the communications and setting up the hardware.

In early 2008, Indian and Western counterterrorism agencies began to pick up chatter about a potential attack on Mumbai. Indian spy agencies and police forces gathered periodic leads from their own sources about a Lashkar threat to the city. Starting in the spring, C.I.A. warnings singled out the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and other sites frequented by Westerners, according to American and Indian officials. Those warnings came from electronic and human sources, not from tracking Mr. Shah, other officials said.

“The U.S. intelligence community — on multiple occasions between June and November 2008 — warned the Indian government about Lashkar threats in Mumbai,” said Brian Hale, a spokesman for the director of the Office of National Intelligence. “The information identified several potential targets in the city, but we did not have specific information about the timing or the method of attack.”

United States spy agencies also alerted their British counterparts, according to a senior American intelligence official. It is unclear if the warnings led to the targeting of Mr. Shah’s communications, but by the fall of 2008, the British had found a way to monitor Lashkar’s digital networks.

So had the Indians. But until the attacks, one Indian official said, there was no communication between the two countries on the matter.

Western spy agencies routinely share significant or “actionable” intelligence involving threats with allies, but sometimes do not pass on less important information. Even friendly agencies are typically reluctant to disclose their sources of intelligence. Britain and India, while cooperative, were not nearly as close as the United States and Britain. And India is not included in the tightest intelligence-sharing circles of international, eavesdropping agencies that the two countries anchor.

Intelligence officials say that terror plots are often discernible only in hindsight, when a pattern suddenly emerges from what had been just bits of information. Whatever the reason, no one fully grasped the developing Mumbai conspiracy. “They either weren’t looking or didn’t understand what it all meant,” said one former American official who had access to the intelligence and would speak only on the condition of anonymity. “There was a lot more noise than signal. There usually is.”

Flooded with Clues

Not long after the British gained access to his communications, Mr. Shah contacted a New Jersey company posing online as an Indian reseller of telephone services named Kharak Singh, purporting to be based in Mumbai. His Indian persona started haggling over the price of a voice-over-Internet phone service — also known as VoIP — that had been chosen because it would make calls between Pakistan and the terrorists in Mumbai appear as if they were originating in Austria and New Jersey.

“its not first time in my life i am perchasing in this VOIP business,” Mr. Shah wrote in shaky English, to an official with the New Jersey-based company when he thought the asking price was too high, the GCHQ documents show. “i am using these services from 2 years.”

Mr. Shah had begun researching the VoIP systems, online security, and ways to hide his communications as early as mid-September, according to the documents. As he made his plan, he searched on his laptop for weak communication security in Europe, spent time on a site designed to conceal browsing history, and searched Google News for “indian american naval exercises” — presumably so the seagoing attackers would not blunder into an overwhelming force.

Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist who would survive the Mumbai attacks, watched Mr. Shah display some of his technical prowess. In mid-September, Mr. Shah and fellow plotters used Google Earth and other material to show Mr. Kasab and nine other young Pakistani terrorists their targets in Mumbai, according to court testimony.

The session, which took place in a huge “media room” in a remote camp on the border with Kashmir, was part of an effort to chart the terrorists’ route across the Arabian Sea, to a water landing on the edge of Mumbai, then through the chaotic streets. Videos, maps and reconnaissance reports had been supplied to Mr. Mir by Mr. Headley, the Pakistani-American who scouted targets.

“The gunmen were shown all this data from the reconnaissance,” said Deven Bharti, a top Mumbai police official who investigated the attacks, adding that the terrorists were trained to use Google Earth and global positioning equipment on their own. “Kasab was trained to locate everything in Mumbai before he went.”

If Mr. Shah made any attempt to hide his malevolent intentions, he did not have much success at it. Although his frenetic computer activity was often sprawling, he repeatedly displayed some key interests: small-scale warfare, secret communications, tourist and military locations in India, extremist ideology and Mumbai.

He searched for Sun Tzu’s “Art of War,” previous terror strikes in India and weather forecasts in the Arabian Sea, typed “4 star hotel in delhi” and “taj hotel,” and visited mapsofindia.com to pore over sites in and around Mumbai, the documents show.

Still, the sheer scale of his ambition might have served as a smokescreen for his focus on the city. For example, he also showed interest in Kashmir, the Indian Punjab, New Delhi, Afghanistan and the United States Army in Germany and Canada.

He constantly flipped back and forth among Internet porn and entertainment sites while he was carrying out his work. He appeared to be fascinated with the actor Robert De Niro, called up at least one article on the singer Taylor Swift, and looked at funny cat videos. He visited unexplainable.net, a conspiracy theory website, and conducted a search on “barak obama family + muslim.”

In late September and again in October, Lashkar botched attempts to send the attackers to Mumbai by sea. During that period, at least two of the C.I.A. warnings were delivered, according to American and Indian officials. An alert in mid-September mentioned the Taj hotel among a half-dozen potential targets, causing the facility to temporarily beef up security. Another on Nov. 18 reported the location of a Pakistani vessel linked to a Lashkar threat against the southern coastal area of Mumbai, where the attack would occur.

Eventually Mr. Shah did set up the VoIP service through the New Jersey company, ensuring that many of his calls to the terrorists would bear the area code 201, concealing their actual origin. But in November, the company’s owner wrote to the fictitious Indian reseller, Mr. Singh, complaining that no voice traffic was running on the digital telephone network. Mr. Shah’s reply was ominous, according to Indian law enforcement officials, who obtained evidence from the company’s communications records with F.B.I. assistance after the attack.

“Dear Sir,” Mr. Shah replied, “i will send trafic by the end of this month.”

By Nov. 24, Mr. Shah had moved to the Karachi suburbs, where he set up an electronic “control room” with the help of an Indian militant named Abu Jundal, according to his later confession to the Indian authorities. It was from this room that Mr. Mir, Mr. Shah and others would issue minute-by-minute instructions to the assault team once the attacks began. On Nov. 25, Abu Jundal tested the VoIP software on four laptops spread out on four small tables facing a pair of televisions as the plotters, including Mr. Mir, Mr. Shah and Mr. Lakhvi, waited for the killings to begin.

In a plan to pin the blame on Indians, Mr. Shah typed a statement of responsibility for the attack from the Hyderabad Deccan Mujahadeen — a fake Indian organization. Early on Nov. 26, Mr. Shah showed more of his hand: he emailed a draft of the phony claim to an underling with orders to send it to the news media later, according to American and Indian counterterrorism officials.

Before the attacks started that evening, the documents show, Mr. Shah pulled up Google images of the Oberoi Hotel and conducted Wikimapia searches for the Taj and the Chabad House, the Jewish hostel run by an American rabbi from Brooklyn who would die in the strike along with his pregnant wife. Mr. Shah opened the hostel’s website. He began Googling news coverage of Mumbai just before the attacks began.

An intercept shows what Mr. Shah was reading, on the news website NDTV, as the killings proceeded.

“Mumbai, the city which never sleeps, was brought to its knees on Wednesday night as it came under an unprecedented multiple terror attack,” the article said. “Even as heavily armed police stormed into Taj Hotel, just opposite the Gateway of India where suspected terrorists were still holed up, blood-soaked guests could be seen carried out into the waiting ambulances.”

A Trove of Data

In the United States, Nov. 26 was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

A long presidential election fight was over, and many officials in Washington had already drifted away for their long weekend. Anish Goel, director for South Asia at the National Security Council in the White House, left around 6 a.m. for the eight-hour drive to his parents’ house in Ohio. By the time he arrived, his BlackBerry was filled with emails about the attacks.

The Pakistani terrorists had come ashore in an inflatable speedboat in a fishermen’s slum in south Mumbai about 9 p.m. local time. They fanned out in pairs and struck five targets with bombs and AK–47s: the Taj, the Oberoi Hotel, the Leopold Cafe, Chabad House, and the city’s largest train station.

The killing was indiscriminate, merciless, and seemingly unstoppable over three horrific days. In raw, contemporaneous notes by analysts, the eavesdroppers seem to be making a hasty effort to understand the clues from the days and weeks before.

“Analysis of Zarrar Shah’s viewing habits” and other data “yielded several locations in Mumbai well before the attacks occurred and showed operations planning for initial entry points into the Taj Hotel,” the N.S.A. document said.

That viewing history also revealed a longer list of what might have been future targets. M.K. Narayanan, India’s national security adviser at the time, appeared to be concerned about that data from Mr. Shah in discussions with American officials shortly after the attacks, according to the WikiLeaks archive of American diplomatic cables.

A top secret GCHQ document described the capture of information on targets that Mr. Shah had identified using Google Earth.

The analysts seemed impressed by the intelligence haul — “unprecedented real-time active access in place!” — one GCHQ document noted. Another agency document said the work to piece the data together was “briefed at highest levels nationally and internationally, including the US National Security Adviser.”

As early reports of many casualties came in, Mr. Goel said the focus in Washington shifted to a question already preoccupying the White House: “Is this going to lead to a war between Pakistan and India?” American officials who conducted periodic simulations of how a nuclear conflict could be triggered often began with a terror attack like this one.

On Nov. 30, Mr. Goel was back at his office, reading a stack of intelligence reports that had accumulated on his desk and reviewing classified electronic messages on a secure terminal.

Amid the crisis, Mr. Goel, now a senior South Asia Fellow at the New America Foundation, paid little attention to the sources of the intelligence and said that he still knew little about specific operations. But two things stood out, he said: The main conspirators in Pakistan had already been identified. And the quality and rapid pacing of the intelligence reports made it clear that electronic espionage was primarily responsible for the information.

“During the attacks, it was extraordinarily helpful,” Mr. Goel said of the surveillance.

But until then, the United States did not know of the British and Indian spying on Mr. Shah’s communications. “While I cannot comment on the authenticity of any alleged classified documents, N.S.A. had no knowledge of any access to a lead plotter’s computer before the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008,” said Mr. Hale, the spokesman for the Office of the director of National Intelligence.

As N.S.A. and GCHQ analysts worked around the clock after the attacks, the flow of intelligence enabled Washington, London and New Delhi to exert pressure on Pakistan to round up suspects and crack down on Lashkar, despite its alliance with the ISI, according to officials involved.

In the stacks of intelligence reports, one name did not appear, Mr. Goel clearly recalls: David Coleman Headley. None of the intelligence streams from the United States, Britain or India had yet identified him as a conspirator.

The Missing American

Mr. Headley’s many-sided life — three wives, drug-smuggling convictions and a past as an informant for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration — would eventually collapse. But for now, he was a free man, watching the slaughter on television in Lahore, Pakistan, according to his later court testimony. At the time, he was with Faiza Outalha, his Moroccan wife, having reconciled with her after moving his Pakistani wife and four children to Chicago.

Mr. Headley’s unguarded emails reflected euphoria about Lashkar’s success. An exchange with his wife in Chicago continued a long string of incriminating electronic communications by Mr. Headley written in a transparent code, according to investigators and case files.

“I watched the movie the whole day,” she wrote, congratulating him on his “graduation.”

About a week later, Mr. Headley hinted at his inside information in an email to fellow alumni of a Pakistani military school. Writing about the young terrorists who carried out the mayhem in Mumbai, he said: “Yes they were only 10 kids, guaranteed. I hear 2 were married with a daughter each under 3 years old.” His subsequent emails contained several dozen news media photos of the Mumbai siege.

Almost immediately, Mr. Headley began pursuing a new plot with Lashkar against a Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He went to Denmark in January and cased the newspaper, meeting and exchanging emails with its advertising staff, according to his later testimony and court records. He sent messages to his fellow conspirators and emailed himself a reconnaissance checklist of sorts, with terms like “Counter-Surveillance,” “Security (Armed?)” and “King’s Square” — the site of the newspaper.

Those emails capped a series of missed signals involving Mr. Headley. The F.B.I. conducted at least four inquiries into allegations about his extremist activity between 2001 and 2008. Ms. Outalha had visited the United States Embassy in Islamabad three times between December 2007 and April 2008, according to interviews and court documents, claiming that he was a terrorist carrying out missions in India.

Mr. Headley also exchanged highly suspicious emails with his Lashkar and ISI handlers before and after the Mumbai attacks, according to court records and American counterterrorism officials. The N.S.A. collected some of his emails, but did not realize he was involved in terrorist plotting until he became the target of an F.B.I. investigation, officials said.

That inquiry began in July 2009 when a British tip landed on the desk of a rookie F.B.I. counterterrorism agent in Chicago. Someone named “David” at a Chicago pay phone had called two suspects under surveillance in Britain, planning to visit.

He had contacted the Britons for help with the plot, according to testimony. Customs and Border Protection used his flight itinerary to identify him while en route, and after further investigation, the F.B.I. arrested him at Chicago O’Hare Airport that October, as he was preparing to fly to Pakistan. For his role in the Mumbai attacks, he pleaded guilty to 12 counts and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

After disclosures last year of widespread N.S.A. surveillance, American officials claimed that bulk collection of electronic communications led to Mr. Headley’s eventual arrest. But a government oversight panel rejected claims giving credit to the N.S.A.’s program to collect Americans’ domestic phone call records. Case files and interviews with law enforcement officials show that the N.S.A. played only a support role in the F.B.I. investigation that finally identified Mr. Headley as a terrorist and disrupted the Danish plot.

The sole surviving attacker of the Mumbai attack, Mr. Kasab, was executed in India after a trial. Although Pakistan denies any role in the attacks, it has failed to charge an ISI officer and Mr. Mir, who were indicted by American prosecutors. Though Mr. Shah and other Lashkar chiefs had been arrested, their trial remains stalled six years after the attack.

Mr. Menon, the former Indian foreign minister, said that a lesson that emerged from the tragedy in Mumbai was that “computer traffic only tells you so much. It’s only a thin slice.” The key is the analysis, he said, and “we didn’t have it.”

Creative Commons

Sebastian Rotella, of ProPublica, reported from Chicago, India, New York and Washington; Jeff Larson of ProPublica, and Tom Jennings and Anna Belle Peevey of PBS’s “Frontline” contributed reporting from New York. New York Times journalists James Glanz reported from India, New York and Washington; David E. Sanger reported from Washington; Andrew W. Lehren contributed reporting from New York; and Declan Walsh from London.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

Further reading on F&O:

The U.S. botched chance to stop the American behind India’s 9/11, by Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica

Evidence lacking in U.S. claim that NSA thwarted attacks, by Justin Elliott and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica

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The BRICS hit a wall: Manthorpe

640px-Rio_de_janeiro_copacabana_beach_2010

Copacabana Beach

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have not lived up to the grandiose hopes expressed for them 13 years ago, when it was predicted the developing countries would soon overtake the world’s top economies, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. An excerpt of today’s column:

There is probably little hope that when Terence James “Jim” O’Neill heard the news on Tuesday he buried his head under a pillow and groaned with embarrassment.

But perhaps he should have done.

It was O’Neill, who as head of Goldman Sachs’ global economics research in 2001, coined the term BRICs, by which he envisaged that the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China would soon overtake the economic power of the seven top industrialized nations.

It was a charming thought that has captivated trade and economic discussion and debate for the last 13 years. But looking at the BRICS today  — the S of South Africa was added in 2010, apparently for reasons of inclusiveness rather than economic muscle – O’Neill’s prophesy looks at best overly-optimistic and at worst, out of reach.

The news on Tuesday that ought to have made O’Neill redden with shame was that James Coates, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, said Brazils preparations for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro are “the worst I have experienced.”

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Analysis: Japan’s military and Asian storm clouds

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the symbolism of Japanese and Indian military exercises, and their relevance to China. Excerpt:

The Japanese and Indian navies are in the second of four days of joint exercises in the Bay of Bengal, an event which neatly demonstrates the gathering storm of military preparations rumbling over Asia.

Log in to read the column, Japan moves to unshackle its military as storm clouds gather over Asia.*

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Not Guilty: Questions abound after Air India terrorism trial

Conflicts over nationalism linger in the Canadian-Sikh community, after not-guilty verdict in terrorism trial
 
By Deborah Jones
Vancouver, Canada, March 2005
 
The ruling by Judge Ian Bruce Josephson absolving two Sikh nationalists in the bombing of Air India Flight 182 divided the packed room in the Vancouver Law Courts: supporters of the accused gasped with relief while relatives of the 329 victims cried in disbelief that their 20-year quest to bring the killers to justice would be unfulfilled.
 

Air India's craft Kanishka, photographed in London two weeks before its destruction in 1985. Ian Kirby/airliners.net/Wikipedia

Air India’s craft Emperor Kanishka, photographed in London two weeks before its destruction in 1985. Ian Kirby/airliners.net/Wikipedia

Josephson’s ruling, that the chief witnesses against Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri were not remotely credible, still leaves intact a whodunit of global proportions, among other issues. Who conspired to plant bombs on flights leaving Vancouver and connecting with two Air India planes? Will the acquittals fan once ardent passions among extremist Sikh separatists, who two decades ago waged a ferocious fight with India for an independent Sikh state called Khalistan? The massive investigation and trial did not even touch the hardest question for all Canadians: Is the country prepared to stop an attack by the next group of extremists?
 
The established facts in the Air India case shed some light. The leader of the conspiracy was Talwinder Singh Parmar, a Canadian immigrant killed by police in India in 1991. He was a co-founder of the separatist group Babbar Khalsa. Bagri was part of the group, whose members had called on Sikhs to punish India for crushing a 1984 separatist uprising at the Sikh Golden Temple at Amritsar. Yet India is now led by a Sikh Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and separatism has all but vanished there.
 
The dream of Khalistan has faded in Canada, home to 300,000 Sikhs, but separatist factions remain, says Rattan Mall, editor of the Indo-Canadian Voice in Surrey, B.C. When Mall was leaving India in 1990, friends there chided him about Canada by joking “Welcome to Khalistan.” Experts say most extremists arrived here with a wave of conservative immigrants in the 1970s. Babbar Khalsa remains active in Europe and North America, say terrorism experts. “If there is a need and a leader, perhaps they will become active again,” says Inderjit Singh Jagran, 41, a separatist who fled to Canada in 1991 and now works toward Khalistan with Akali Dal International, a political party that espouses peaceful methods.
 
Canada banned three Indian separatist groups in 2003 as terrorist, but their posters have been reported in gurdwaras, or Sikh temples, in Ontario and only recently were removed in conservative British Columbia temples. “I won’t say they are a spent force yet,” says John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute, a Toronto-based security think tank.
 
Among Sikhs in Canada, reaction to the Air India trial is as deeply split as the bitter, longstanding rift between moderates, who have accepted modern customs, and conservatives, who want Sikhs to adhere to traditional ways. That split does not bode well for solving the actual crime anytime soon. While moderates have controlled the majority of British Columbia’s Sikh temples since 1998, some Sikhs still won’t help authorities. “In our communities, nobody will come forward, even though they know who did it, due to fear,” says Sadhu Singh Samra, vice president of North America’s largest Sikh temple, the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Surrey, B.C.
 
That fear is well founded. The identities of many witnesses in the Air India trial are shielded, some are in witness-protection programs, and two potential witnesses were assassinated in the 1990s. The C$100 million trial itself was conducted in a specially built, C$7.5 million bombproof courtroom. Only one person has been convicted in the case: Inderjit Singh Reyat, who was charged with Bagri and Malik. Before the trial, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for supplying materials used in the Flight 182 bomb, and was sentenced to five years. Reyat had also been convicted earlier in the explosion of another suitcase bomb–destined for another Air India flight–at Tokyo’s Narita airport, which killed two baggage handlers. That leaves no other suspects despite a 20-year police investigation costing some C$140 million.
 
Ottawa prosecutor Susheel Gupta, spokesman for the victims’ families, discounts statements by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that 15 investigators are still working on Air India. “I don’t really believe that at all … as they’ve tried to do in the last 20 years, they’ve put it under a rock.” The victims’ families have called for a federal public inquiry into the failed investigation. Some are calling for renewed effort in finding the killers of Tara Singh Hayer, slain before he could testify. Malik, in an interview with the Globe and Mail, suggested that he was more interested in Sikh education than in Khalistan. But someone else was more interested in revenge: one of Malik’s businesses was vandalized last Thursday. The Air India trial may have concluded, but after two decades there is still no resolution in sight. –With reporting by Arjuna Ranawana/Toronto

Copyright © 2005 Deborah Jones

Originally published by Time magazine on March 28, 2005

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UPDATED, Further reading:

Air India Flight 182: A Canadian Tragedy: Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182 

CBC digital archives: Air India report

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