Radical Books Raise Fears in Indonesia of Spread of Militants’ Ideas

9 02 2009

SOLO, Indonesia — At a small, back-street bookstore here, the young employees, wearing matching green skullcaps and sporting wispy chin beards, stock books with titles like “Waiting for the Destruction of Israel” and “Principles of Jihad.”

Image

Peter Gelling for The International Herald Tribune
In Solo, a cluster of publishers have issued Islamist texts, which do not sell well but popularize radical ideology. One book was by a man involved in the Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

The New York Times

Solo is known as a bastion of a conservative brand of Islam.
They work quietly, listening to the voice of a firebrand Islamic preacher playing on the store’s sound system, his sermon peppered with outbursts of machine-gun fire.
Another young man, a customer, sifts through a pile of DVDs that chronicle the conflicts in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Sudan. T-shirts, stickers and pins on sale at the back of the store are emblazoned with slogans like “Support Your Local Mujahedeen” and “Taliban All-Stars.”
The jihadi books at the store, which is called Arofah, have been made available by a small but growing group of publishers in and around Solo, a commercial city known as a bastion of conservative Islam.
Many of the publishers openly support the ideological goals of Jemaah Islamiyah, a banned Southeast Asia terrorist network that has been implicated in most of the major terrorist bombings in Indonesia.
The publishers, about 12 so far, still have limited prospects for sales and influence. Radical books generally do not sell well in Indonesia, where a vast majority of the population of 240 million practice a moderate brand of Islam.
A book by one of the Bali bombers, whose attacks on nightclubs in 2002 killed 202 people, is considered a success for its genre but sold only about 10,000 copies.
Nevertheless, the publishers have caught the attention of some counterterrorism experts, who fear they are proof of how interconnected, and resilient, the Jemaah Islamiyah movement is in Indonesia.
By most accounts, the Indonesian authorities have had great success in weakening Jemaah Islamiyah’s militant arm since the Bali bombings, jailing or killing most of its top leaders. But they have been less successful in fighting the organization’s ideology, which counterterrorism experts say spreads within an informal association of groups operating in mosques, prisons and schools around the country, providing a continuing source of recruitment.

“The most interesting aspect is what the publishing operations reveal about the overlapping networks binding Jemaah Islamiyah together,” said Sidney R. Jones, an analyst with the nonprofit International Crisis Group in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital.

“This organization is not some Arab import,” Ms. Jones said of Jemaah Islamiyah. “It’s an extraordinary social organization linked by family, schools, culture, training and now businesses.”
She notes that Solo is not only the base for the publishers, but also the site of Pesantren al-Mukmin, an Islamic boarding school that has educated some of the country’s most notorious extremists. Some of the publishers have taught at the school, and Abu Bakar Bashir, a militant Islamic cleric who helped found the school, originally conceived of the idea of opening publishing houses in Solo that could specialize in books on Islam, Ms. Jones said. Mr. Bashir served time in prison on conspiracy charges in several bombings, including those in Bali.
The International Crisis Group, an organization established to prevent or resolve deadly conflicts, says there is a chance that the growth in publishers of radical books could have an upside, possibly indicating that Jemaah Islamiyah is beginning to wage jihad through the printed page rather than violent acts.
“Some publishers may be playing a more positive than negative role, directing members into above-ground activities and enabling them to promote a jihadi message without engaging in violence,” said a report issued last year by the International Crisis Group.
But Indonesian authorities say that the message of jihad, once put into book form, often enters classrooms and Islamic study circles, ultimately helping to draw young people into Jemaah Islamiyah’s ranks. And that could allow the militants to regroup as a potent fighting force.
Most of the books celebrating radical Islamic thought are Indonesian translations of Middle Eastern works. But the publishers are also picking up the works of some local authors.
One was Imam Samudra, who was executed for his role in the terrorist attacks in Bali in 2002.
The publishers are also hoping to publish the work of another Bali bomber, Ali Ghufron, better known as Mukhlas, the former operations chief for Jemaah Islamiyah.
Before his execution last year, he wrote 10 books, including an autobiography that his lawyer says portrays the Bali bombings as justifiable acts of vengeance for the ill treatment of Muslims around the world.
Solo’s publishers can afford to print such jihadi books by piggybacking on a broader trend: the ballooning demand in Indonesia for mainstream Islamic texts.
Books that explore the Islamic faith — addressing issues like how to be a good Muslim woman, or Islamic beliefs about life after death — are the biggest sellers here now. One popular love story with an Islamic theme sold hundreds of thousands of copies and was recently made into a movie.
“The mainstream Islamic publishing industry is booming right now,” said Setia Darma Madjid, chairman of the Indonesian Book Publishers Association. “Writers and publishers recognize that these themes appeal to readers right now, and so they are rolling out hundreds of books on the subject.”

At least some publishers of radical texts say they, too, are just meeting market demand, not trying to spread an ideology.

One such publisher is Bambang Sukirno, who owns the Aqwam Group and its imprint Jazera, which got its start with Imam Samudra’s first book. He said he was only addressing a topical subject, just as “journalists and others around the world are doing.”

“We see that this ‘terrorism’ phenomenon, whether you like it or not, has seized space in this world,” he said.

So far, the government has taken no action against the publishers despite its crackdown on Islamists. Officials are worried about terrorist attacks but are also trying to nurture their young democracy and the freedoms that democracy guarantees.

“The publication of such material is an issue; we are not very happy about it,” said one senior counterterrorism official in the government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. “However, because we are in the process of democratization, it is problematic how we would be able to control the publication of such material.”

Mr. Sukirno said he was not worried that the government would shut down his company.
“Democracy in Indonesia is thriving, and if the government ever tried to interfere in the publishing industry, well, that would be dangerous,” he said. “Interference would just give birth to waves of resistance and undermine democracy.

“Books,” he said, “are a reflection of a civilized nation.”

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Militants marry Kashmiri girls on gunpoint

9 02 2009

Srinagar, Feb 07:

Source: Zeenews

Militants in Jammu and Kashmir have been forcing young girls to get married to them at gun-point only to abandon them later. Such an instance came to light when sixteen-year-old Fatima Bi of Kishtwar district gathered courage to narrate her misfortune.

Fatima said she was abducted by Sher Khan, the then divisional commander of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), a Pakistan militant group four years ago. Sher Khan and his associates tortured Fatima for eight days until she gave in to their demands and agreed to marry Hashim, a HuJI worker. She managed to run away and got a police complaint registered against Sher Khan, who was later arrested.

“There was this one Bilal, then another one named Ansari, there was a third man also, I don”t remember his name. They used to keep me in a room and beat me with iron rods. They used to tell me that if I don”t get married according to their will and wish, I would have to face dire consequences. I used to tell them I want to get married to a man I chose for myself. Sher Khan used to head these people,” said Fatima.

Fatima said that such horrendous abduction was still taking place, and authorities should put a check on them. “The girl has given a very different story and she has given a nerve shaking story in terms that she was forcibly married to a person against her will when she was a minor girl. It was done by a Sher khan and his associates who were running a HuJI organisation in this area,” said Haseeb Mughal, superintendent of police, Kishtawar district. Shehnaz of Doda district too was abducted just like Fatima.

“These militants they are dreadful people. They come to our village, sit and eat here, utter bad words for women, abuse them. But now the police is with us, I am sure we can also hit back at them,” said Shehnaz. Shehnaz felt that the future forced brides like her was dark. Many have to up bring their children alone, when their militant husbands get arrested. Society, too, sees them as an outcast. Police officials say that the militants get married in order to mingle with the locals and avoid any suspicious eyes on them. Though the authorities have been trying to tackle the issue but they express their helplessness, as such incidents come to light only when the forcibly married girls gather the strength to register a case.

ANI





Red storm risingRed storm rising

9 02 2009

Presley Thomas,
Source: Hindustan Times

Gadchiroli, February 07, 2009

IST(8/2/2009) At the ramshackle teashop in Gadchiroli, where locals gather for their morning tea and the town’s favourite snack, poha, local banter is run-of-the-mill. Most of it is centred round Bollywood’s latest action adventure, Chandni Chowk to China and with the cinema house as a backdrop just behind the teashop, villagers dissect Akshay Kumar’s antics in the movie. “How about a ticket for the afternoon show? I want to see the movie again,” says a young man. The film may have been declared a flop but it sure is a hit in this outpost, even if Gadchiroli has seen enough adventure and violence around it in the last few days.

Gadchiroli town, a three-hour drive from Nagpur, is the headquarters of a district spread across 15,000 sq km, where left-wing extremists have been waging an ‘armed struggle’ for close to 30 violent, bloody years now. Last Sunday’s massacre of 15 policemen was just the latest in a disturbing list of incidents that have all but wiped out the rule of law in this desperately poor, exploited part of India. The local populace has long learnt to balance those on either side of the law. When we ask taxi driver Pavan if he will take us into the hinterland, he looks at us warily, weighing the profits and dangers of the trip. “What time will you return?” he asks. And doesn’t wait for an answer as he declares, “Nobody travels on those roads after 6 pm. We’ll have to come back before that. Only then will I take you.” Before we can indicate our assent (we have no ch

Growing influence 1980 :
Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, legendary Naxalite leader, sets up the Peoples’ War Group of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). It infiltrates Gadchiroli after a police crackdown on Naxalites in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and makes news in September when activist Peddy Shankar is killed in a police encounter near Sironcha, near the AP border.

1990 :Ten years after the Naxalites’ entry, the movement has taken hold and 113 incidents of violence and 16 deaths are reported.

1991:The number of violent incidents drops to 96, but deaths shoot up to 30. Naxalites kidnap Dharmarao Baba Atram, former Maharashtra minister, who was compelled to resign for poaching chinkaras near Etapalli. He is later let off in exchange for the release of their leader, Shivanna. In November, 10 SRPF jawans are killed and 13 policemen injured in a landmine blast triggered by Naxalites near Etapalli.

2003: A landmine blast kills five policemen near Hemalkasa in Gadchiroli district.

2005 :Seven police personnel killed and six injured on February 22, when a landmine is triggered near Bhamragarh, bordering Chhattisgarh.

2006 : Seven police personnel killed in a landmine blast in April at Bewartola village in Gondia district, adjacent to Gadchiroli.

2007: Naxalite leader Shivanna, now secretary of Gadchiroli division, killed in a police encounter. Murali alias Satya Reddy, divisional secretary of North-Gadchiroli, arrested along with Mumbai professor Arun Ferreira. Two more leaders, Vernon Gonsalves and Sridhar Srinivasan, are arrested in Mumbai.

2008 : Four policemen killed on October 26 in an ambush near Korepalli village in the Aheri tehsil.

2009: Fifteen policemen killed in an ambush on February 1. oice anyway) he adds, “And I will charge you extra because I’m risking my life to take you into Naxalite territory.” THE

INVISIBLE PRESENCE To begin with, the tarmac laid out across the countryside is a joy to ride on. Then, we notice that the forest has become denser. And when we spot a milestone that tells us we’re 70 km away from Gadchiroli town, we realise we have not seen a single human being for the last few kilometres. In fact, we’ve barely seen any signs of habitation.

The turning point, literally speaking, comes at Gyarapatti, where we take the diversion into red territory. “Here, it is the Naxalites who call the shots,” Pavan tells us, and then goes silent as he keeps a sharp eye on either side of the road. Any new person or vehicle entering this region is monitored. And we have to be prepared to step out of the car for an interrogation at any point. Fear hangs heavy in the air here and villagers have been forced to choose between the law and the outlaws. They most often tilt towards the Naxalites.

At Bhurgi village, some 150 km from Gadchiroli, for instance, a tribal youth was hacked to death before a numbed village audience. Those who witnessed the incident are reluctant to speak about it, much less identify themselves. “I just know that there was a fight between two parties, and in the morning I saw the boy murdered,” says one woman. Probe further and she replies, “I will have to bear the consequences if I open my mouth. ‘They will be at my doorstep in 10 minutes.”

At Tumbargunda village, five kilometres away from Bhurgi, the panchayat office was blown up. With it perished all the villagers’ precious documents. “They want to keep a gap between the locals and the political set-up,” explains a police officer. Tumbargunda is just 10 km away from a police station. But villagers sneer, “The police do not dare enter this area.” Even vehicles rarely pass through the 200-km long Ettapalli-Pendri-Michgaon-Lekha-Dhanora stretch in which the village sits.

THE SPILLOVER EFFECT The guerilla zone or ‘liberated zone’ is one that the Naxalites have carved out systematically since

1980. It was easy for them: Gadchiroli district is sandwiched between the Naxalite-dominated areas of Rajanandgaon, Kanker, Dantewada and Bijapur in Chattisgarh; and Karimnagar and Khammam in Andhra Pradesh. The Intelligence Bureau estimates that about 500 full-time CPI (Maoist) cadres are active in Gadchiroli district and have a base of nearly 4,000 to 5,000 local supporters. The Naxalites have divided Gadchiroli district into three operational divisions:

South Gadchiroli, North Gadchiroli and North Gadchiroli/Gondia. The divisions have under their command more than 20 guerilla squads and platoons. Though they earlier operated in ‘dalams’ of 15 to 20 cadres, they’ve switched to a military-style hierarchy now, of local guerilla squads, platoons, battalions and divisions. And there is hardly any police presence to deter their operations.
One senior police official who has spent almost his entire tenure in the Naxalite belt admits that the problem could have been contained much earlier. “When the Naxalites entered Maharashtra from Andhra Pradesh (see ‘Growing Influence’), our government chose to see it a just a ‘spillover’. And we are paying the price now.” Governmental apathy continues. And the Centre seems to have its head buried in the sand even now — the turbulence in the underdeveloped tribal pockets of eastern Maharashtra is conspicuously absent in the Ministry of Home Affairs’s Annual Report (2007-2008).

And the state government has yet to respond satisfactorily with enough development plans for the region. It has taken some measures, though. Pankaj Gupta, chief, anti-Naxalite operations, states that a cash reward of Rs 3 lakh has been announced for villages that follow the Gaon Bandhi scheme in which villagers opt not to provide any support to Naxalites. “When the programme started only a few villages came forward,” admits Gupta. But now, he says, “More than 500 villages in Gadchiroli district have done so.” Gupta also claims that the government’s surrender policy done well. “About 145 Naxalite cadres, including a divisional committee member, have surrendered.

They have been rehabilitated and given police protection,” he says. And Rajesh Pradhan, superintendent of police of Gadchiroli district, claims, “We have managed to restrict the Naxalites to the fringes of Chattisgarh and the Andhra Pradesh border. He adds, “Strategies are being revisited and revised, to counter the leftists’ plans.” How successful those plans will be is a matter that, unfortunately, the police alone do not decide.