Army officer’s terror link serious issue, say analysts

November 6th, 2008 - 6:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 6 (IANS) The arrest of a serving Indian Army officer for his suspected involvement with a terror blast by a Hindu hardline group is a serious development and the army should act fast to nip such radicalism in the bud, say defence experts.”Having somebody in uniform involved in terror charges is a very serious issue. On the face of it, it seems to be a one-off case but there may be many others who would be ideologically inclined,” Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar, former director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), told IANS.

Maharashtra’s anti-terrorism squad arrested Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit late Tuesday for his links with the Sep 29 bomb blast in Malegaon, which killed five people and was blamed on a Hindu militant group.

Purohit, who was doing a foreign language course from the Army Education Corps, Panchmarhi, is said to be a founding member of Abhinav Bharat, a radical Hindu rightwing group. He has been remanded in judicial custody till Nov 15.

Bhaskar said even if it was an isolated case, it would set a bad precedent.

“It may be in isolation but I will not be complacent about it. The entire system needs to be alert,” Bhaskar said.

Major General (retd) Ashok Mehta said: “The kind of people who have been joining the army is a reflection of society. There are many people in the army who feel the same way. People have to be educated on secular values, especially in the army.”

Members of Abhinav Bharat have been linked to the deadly bombing near a mosque in Malegaon The police suspect that Purohit helped the blast accused - Hindu missionary Pragya Thakur, retired army Major Ramesh Upadhyaya and his associate Sharad Kulkarni - in procuring explosives used in the blast. The three are already in police custody.

The incident has shocked everyone and some experts see it as an infiltration of Hindu radical groups in the echelons of the army.

“The Indian Army never had such a case when a man has become a terrorist accused. It is a question of the infiltration of radical groups in the Indian Army. The groups have been trying it for long,” Major General (retd) Afsar Karim said.

Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. S.S. Dhillon, however, termed it a “freak case”.

“We are alert but it is one-off case. Even though it is a setback for the Indian Army’s image, it should not be thought that the whole army is such,” Dhillon said.

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