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Combating Terrorism
08/05/2008
By Ram Puniyani

The sufferings of the country are worst compounded with the occurrence of acts of terror. Every such act not only inflicts bodily blow to the innocents but also acts as a divisive force, subtly polarizing the communities and weakening the bonds of National integration. One is not talking of the massive bonhomie shown by the communities in the wake of terror attack. Actually immediately after the attack the communities come together like solid rocks, helping each other in the moments of grief. One is talking of the strengthening of communal politics, which emerges stronger after the terror attacks. The role which communal violence has played during last two and a half decades, of dividing the nation, gets a deeper strength due to these blasts as by now despite the most immediate protests by most of the Muslim groups, coming out with severest condemnation of these dastardly acts, the 'social common sense' that 'all terrorists are Muslims' does get a shot  in the arm.

The blasts of Bangluru, 25th July 2008, and the one's in Ahemadabad, 26th July 2008, left a trail of blood and suffering. The bombs in Bangluru were crude unsophisticated, ones? meant more to frighten than to kill. Out of 9 areas, which were hit by these none of the areas was that of IT affluence, four Muslim majority areas were part of it. In Ahmedabad also neither RDX nor other trade marks of 'Jehadi' terrorists were clear. A cycle, Ammonium Nitrite and low level of intensity was the hall mark of these bombs also. At the same time many of these bombs were defused in Surat, these did leave a question mark in mind. How did only one political groups? members knew that bombs are there at particular spots, and how come they confidently picked up the live bombs in front of cameras?

When these blasts took place many a significant events had been taking place in the country. The Manmohan Singh Government won the vote of confidence and Advani, the leader of opposition and BJP did feel humbled due to passing of confidence motion in Lok sabha. BJP led agitation in Jammu for Government land for a Shrine board has been peaking to the communal heights, which may leave a severe mark on the values of national integration. A pilgrimage by Hindus which was extensively managed by Muslims, a pilgrimage which was the major tourist attraction and means of livelihood for Muslim majority state is being communalized in a severe form. And in Gujarat itself, a close spiritual ally of BJP, Asaram Bapu, has been mired in the doubts following the death of four boys in his Ashrams. In Gujarat Narendra Modi had blurted that Jehadi terrorists will not dare to enter his state, so who entered?

It is not that we have not witnessed the acts of terror before. Starting from attack on Parliament, Ansal Plaza, Akshrdham temple, Raghunath Temple in Jammu; during NDA regime to blasts in Malegaon, Samjhauta express, Nanded, Jalana , Parbhani, attack on RSS headquarters in Nagpur and Chennai, killing of two Bajrang Dal workers in Nanded while making bombs, Hyderabad blasts and Jaipur one's the country has suffered enormously during recent times. Post blasts some scenarios have become fairly repetitive. Some of these are welcome while others should raise our eyebrows. What is welcome is the post blast community response of helping the victims. What should raise our eyebrows are, first, the fact that failure of intelligence agency to either gather intelligence or to act in time. Second, the pet thesis is immediately dished out by investigating agencies, pointing its fingers to ISI, HUJI, SIMI and other organizations which give clear boost to the popular  perception that all terrorists are Muslims. Some Muslims, beards or without, are arrested and languish in jail. Barring steps where few helpful terrorists have been carrying their dairies, phone numbers of contact to make the job of our agencies easier, the charges against those arrested, have not been proved most of the times. The whole set of allegations begins with a bang and ends with a whimper. Interestingly though this happens case after case, no rethink on the issue! Third, there are some instances when the investigative agencies have got a success, but these events, as their results are contrary to what are the popular theories about who the terrorists are, remain in the backyard of popular consciousness and remain a foot note in the media.

Three such cases of underplayed 'success' and simultaneously a failure to learn from those are glaringly obvious. First, on April 2006 two Bajrang Dal workers died while making bombs, false moustache and typical clothes of a Muslim were recovered from the site and one of the survivors of the accident stated that Hindus should be doing blasts; else they will be taken as eunuchs. These blasts should be done on Fridays near the mosques where the congregation of Muslims generally takes place in the afternoon. The blasts in Parbhani, Jalana did follow this pattern and Samjhauta express case was also very similar. In the blasts which took place in Thane and nearby places (June 2008), the connection of Hindu Jagran and Sanatan Ashram was proved beyond any shadow of doubt. The Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad succeeded in apprehending the culprits. The case of attack on RSS head office in Chennai also was led to the culprits, who were the RSS workers only. What  is a bit surprising this time is that BJP spokespersons who usually blame some Muslim terrorist group in the aftermath of the blasts, this time has accused Congress for the same. Their blaming Congress out of frustration is understandable but how come the needle of their suspicion is not on the usual suspects?

Now while this is the overall schemata of these tragic events, what do the political parties say to it? So far, during the UPA regime BJP after every act of terror has been calling for more stringent laws, particularly POTA. What does POTA entail? It merely empowers the authorities to arrest any body on the grounds of suspicion and to put them behind bars infinitely. Despite POTA many attacks took place while this was in place during NDA regime. Then there is an argument that BJP governments are better motivated to deal with terrorism. Most of the recent attacks of terror have taken place in BJP ruled states, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Gujarat. Despite Modi?s boast that terrorist dare not touch his state as they know he can deal with them.

Whatever are the other interpretations, one thing stands out undisputed and that's that these acts in the long term benefit the communal politics. Communal, divisive politics has become stronger with the rise of communal violence during last two decades. Most of the inquiry committee reports (Communalism Combat March 1998) show us that somewhere the hand of a BJP associate organization is there in orchestrating the violence. What communal violence was doing earlier, polarizing the communities, is now being done by the acts of terror, as the propaganda that "it is those from one religious community do it" has succeeded like nothing else.

No body can deny the role of Pakistan Administration, the role of AL Qaeda types (both supported and propped up by US for oil interests) had a very adverse impact on the south Asian perceptions about such acts. It is post Al Qaeda and post communal violence 92-93 Mumbai, that these insane acts were sometimes presented to be done for the defense of faith! The role of US media in coining and propagating the word Islamic terrorism, post 9/11 completed the circle.

It is high time we get over this mind set and our agencies get over the preformed notions to be able to crack the real culprits, the way they could do in Thane. And surely no investigation which begins with preformed biases can succeed in proper results and the real elimination of the problem.