Indian Home-Grown Militants Eye Common Wealth Games For AttacksFebruary 5, 2010
Farzana Shah | Asian Tribune
ISLAMABAD – The athletes face a risk of terrorist attacks during the October 3 to 14 Common Wealth Games in India.
According to sources the Hindu fundamentalist organizations are planning to disrupt the games to show the Congress government in a bad light as well as take revenge for attacks on Indians in Australia coupled with creating communal riots for political point scoring.
There are reports of possible attacks at the venues of different events at the game. The hotels where the players would be accommodated are said to at a greater risk.
The reports reaching here from India and Nepal suggest that hardline Hindu organisations are joining hands with former LTTE members to sabotage the games. There is already resentment in South India about defeat of LTTE in Sri Lanka and weak stance of Congress government in condemning the military action by Sri Lankans.
The plane is said to be more appealing for the Hindu fundamentalist organisations because, the blame for any terrorist attack in India mostly put on Indian Muslims, Pakistan and Bangladeshi Muslims.
The games are going to be attended by almost 7000 athletes, 30 heads of state and about 100,000 visitors, for which the security arrangements will remain to be the biggest challenge for India.
The level of possible attacks at the games runs higher specially in the wake of recent threats by one of the fundamentalist Hindu organizations, Shiv Sena against Australian players as well as Pakistani Cricket players.
Two Bollywood actresses who co-own IPL teams have claimed they were threatened into snubbing Pakistani cricketers in the IPL auction, while an explosive report has blamed the threats as coming from Indian hardline group Shiv Sena, which recently issued warnings against Australian players.
Film stars Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta have said that threats were made against them and any Pakistan player who participated in this season’s IPL.
Preity Zinta, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab, reportedly told an Indian-language TV channel: “We would have loved to have the T20 world champions in our teams to bring real joy to the extravaganza but what can we do if we have certain threats about not (only) our own safety but the safety of the Pakistani players too, with no official quarter assuring us of foolproof security of players during the tournament?”
When Asian Tribune contacted a member of one of the hardline Hindu organisations for comments on the reports of possible attacks during Common Wealth games, he said there were too many separatist movements going on in India and anyone can take advantage of the event.
There are said to be over two dozens insurgencies going on in India specially in its Northeast.
The Indian outgoing National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan acknowledged that there are 800 home-grown terrorist cells active in India and are capable of carrying out terrorist attacks in the country.
The Indian prime minister is on record saying Naxals, Maoists pose greater threat to India.
Recently the Indian media quoted Indian intelligence agencies claiming that Naxals have set up IED and weapons including mortar shells and rocket launchers manufacturing factories.
The Maoists for the first time used rocket launchers during Lok Sabha polls last years in India and this aspect itself pose a greater risk of indirect attacks on the venues of the game despite strict physical checks and other security clearances of the spectators during the games.
The media reports also suggest that Indian ex-armymen and ex-policemen are helping the Maoists in preparing training modules as the separatists are said to be undergone military training similar to that of security men.
In such a scenario the possibility of beating up the security apparatus by well-trained militants can not be ruled out.
Different ethnic and linguistic groups are also creating tension in the country which has also engulfed the sports.
Recently Telangana activists (supporters of separate status for Telangana state) threaten to obstruct Indian Premier League (cricket) matches.
Earlier, the Indian Premier League governing body decided to move out the opening match from Hyderabad and shift it to Mumbai amidst unrest in Andhra Pradesh over the Telangana issue. The protesters earlier disrupted a Twenty20 tournament in Hyderabad on January 21.
The head of the Hindu organisation Shiv Sena and Rahul Gandhi are being reported to have been exchanging harsh statements about the issue of North and South Indians and linguistic issues, for the last few days. Earlier too over linguistic issues there had been violence in the country.
In August, Britain withdrew from the World Badminton Championships in Hyderabad because of a perceived threat. In April, Australia’s Davis Cup team pulled out of the Chennai event for similar reasons.
In December last year British press speculated that England may pull out on security concerns. However, the speculations were denied by British officials but it was reported that England will likely to involve Scotland Yard to protect the British contingent of 1500 athletes and officials.
This seems to be a precautionary measure but what about the safety of players from other countries?
Is every country going to bring own team of security personnel?
Though the Indian government and organizers of the games have assured security to the participating players and officials, however, security experts are cautious about the situation.
Recently the paper “The Australian” quoted Scott Stewart, vice-president of tactical intelligence with US-based security analysis agency Stratfor as saying “The problem is the sheer number of militant actors running around India today that could carry out a terrorist attack. You can lock down a stadium but you have crowds trying to get in. That crowd will be incredibly vulnerable to an attack before they get through security.”
“I will say the likelihood is very high that India will face attacks. It’s not a matter of if; it’s going to be a matter of when and where,”Scott was quoted further.
The same paper also quoted Australian security expert Clive Williams saying “India long had a poor track record in the areas of security intelligence, command and control, and counter-terrorism response” and the biggest security concern will be “India’s own willingness to accept and act on external advice”.
These statements and recent incidents of terrorism indeed indicate grave threat of attacks on foreign sportsmen in India from the Hindu fundamentalists. In the wake of such a great threat to lives of players it will by wise on the part of countries taking part in coming Common Wealth games to be very cautious. They have to either take their own security measures which indeed cant guarantee the safety of their players, or they have to withdraw, which again would be unfortunate.
A good step to save the lives of players/officials and to save the games would be to shift the Common Wealth Games to some neutral venue like UAE or any other country where security level is satisfactory.