Today in Terrorism: 30 October 2008, Assam, India

Bangladeshi Islamist terrorist group suspected in 13 near simultaneous bombs that kill 66 in Assam.

I often wonder why countries or governments make what are known as ‘own goals’ or unforced errors. These are decisions or policies taken for what appear on the surface to be good reasons, at least by some, but which end up not resolving the problem they set out to fix and often make things worse. In my opinion, Quebec’s bill C-21, ostensibly an effort to protect ‘laicity’ (i.e. secularism) but clearly a racist screed, is one such mistake.

India is currently responsible for a similar error in Assam state, in the country’s northeast. Under pressure from Hindu nationalists, authorities prepared a citizenship list—known as the National Register of Citizens— which aimed to identify “genuine” citizens and strip others of their citizenship. The targets were ‘illegal’ Bangladeshis, some of whom have been in the state for decades. That these ‘illegals’ are mostly Muslim should tell you a lot why Hindu extremists are itching to make this change.

What is unfortunate about this move, aside from its sheer discrimination, is that there has been a real terrorist threat in the region for years. Some Islamist extremists, either living in Assam or infiltrating from Bangladesh, have carried out attacks in the state. On this day in 2008 66 people were killed and about 470 injured in 13 near-simultaneous blasts in four towns. The group suspected to be behind the attacks was Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, a terrorist organisation active in south Asia since the 1990s.

Some of the bombs went off in crowded markets while others were set off in the court district – was this a message to state authorities?

I cannot help but think of an analogy between India’s actions in Assam with what the PRC is doing in Xinjiang province. Yes, Uyghur terrorists have carried out large-scale attacks across China in recent years but incarcerating 1 million Muslims in concentration camps and clamping down on Islamic practices is not the solution. This will simply lead to more terrorism. And the removal of citizenship in Assam will do likewise.

It seems obvious to me – when will states learn?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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