The Indian intelligence apparatus monitoring the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba had got information about plans for a major terror attack by the Pakistan-based group around seven-eight months before the 26/11 Mumbai attacks took place. Intelligence officers were aware that a group of 10 terrorists would take the sea route to reach Gujarat’s Jamnagar coast and from there disperse throughout the country. However, politically motivated victimisation of certain officers who were handling anti-terror operations, including encounters, and the use of NGOs by the then Central government to question every successful terror operation, scared the intelligence apparatus into dropping the plan of “tackling” the terrorists in a way that they deemed fit, once the latter landed in Jamnagar. Instead, they passed on the information to every agency responsible for coastal security, including Indian Navy, Coast Guard and the water wing of the Border Security Force (BSF). This led to an increase in coastal security, as a result of which the LeT was forced to postpone its plan of taking the sea route to India at that point in time. The LeT went on to implement its plan later in November that year, 2011. This was revealed to The Sunday Guardian by former Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Rajendra Kumar, who believes that if the intelligence apparatus was not afraid of repercussions to their actions, they could have prevented the terrorist attack on Mumbai which killed 168 people.
Kumar, who played a key role in setting up the intelligence network tracking the LeT and their undercover movement in Gujarat following the Godhra incident and the subsequent riots, said that a few months before the 26/11 attack, some well-identified LeT operatives approached their local sympathisers in Gujarat and asked them to arrange for a safe place on the Jamnagar coast where a group of men and large quantities of ammunition from Pakistan could land to carry out a “big operation” in India.
These local contacts of the LeT were under the surveillance of the security agencies for a long time. “The initial plan of these 10 people was to get off at Jamnagar. We do not know whether they were planning to carry out the attack in Gujarat itself or go to Mumbai. The point is that we already knew much before the Mumbai attack took place that the LeT had taken concrete steps towards carrying out a terror strike in India by using the sea route. The security agencies’ initial plan was to let these men and weapons come in and then trap them once they entered Indian territory,” Kumar said.
However, the security agencies did not act for “fear of political victimisation”, as the UPA government had started politicising counter terror and anti-underworld operations by asking certain NGOs to approach the judiciary at virtually every successful instance of an anti-terror operation, like in the Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin Sheikh cases. “Our officers were demoralised and were reluctant to take the responsibility. They would say what if something like Ishrat Jahan happens in this case too,” Kumar said.
As a result, the security agencies monitoring the LeT’s plans, shared all the information regarding an imminent terror attack by terrorists coming in boats, with the other agencies, including the Navy, Coast Guard and the water wing of the BSF. “Following this, security along the Gujarat coast was increased manifold. The LeT was forced to drop its plan at the time. If the terrorists were allowed to come to India and dealt with before they could create any mayhem, the Mumbai attack would have never happened. The UPA has the blood of those killed in Mumbai in its hands as it created an atmosphere where the intelligence and security agencies could not work the way they wanted to,” Kumar alleged.
According to him, if the Congress had not negatively publicised the anti-terror operations the way it did in Gujarat, the Mumbai attack would not have happened. “Imagine, the blow it (capturing of the terrorists once they entered Jamnagar) would have caused to the LeT, which was preparing for this attack since 2006,” he said.