Date with Terror: 9/8
By Mubasshir Ahmed
06 November, 2006
It has never happened before.
This is the very first time that Malegaon, a Muslim majority town, 300km
North-east of Mumbai, has awakened to the horrors of the bomb blast
culture. The target was carefully chosen and so was the occasion—Hamidiya
Masjid inside the premises of perhaps India's largest Muslim cemetery
on the occasion of Shab-e-Barat. (Shab-e-Barat, according to one tradition,
is one of the holiest nights in Islam; the day Muslims visit cemetery
in large numbers to offer prayers to their ancestors). The other target
was a crowded and centrally-located area called Mushawerat Chowk. This
"tit-for-tat-terrorism", to borrow Pritish Nandy's phrase,
claimed 40 innocent lives and left 300 injured. This "specific
and successful targeting of Muslims in significant-scale violence for
the first time in India" raises some unanswered questions. So far,
the Government has always associated the menace of terrorism with the
so called "Islamic fundamentalists."
have become victims. A "town of rabble-rousers" has been hit
and yet the "terrorists living in Malegaon" have shown exemplary
calm and behaved like the civilised human beings of a secular India.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
had issued a clear and unambiguous warning of the terrorist strikes
on September 5, 2006, but as usual our intelligentsia and guardians
were caught napping. The Ganesh Utsav got over on September 7, so the
Malegaon police were in a lax mood although the next day was Shab-e-Barat.
When it comes to the security of Muslims, the relaxed behaviour of the
police speaks volumes about their general attitude. It's quite worded:
How can there be trouble with trouble-makers?
The security at the Muslim
cemetery was specifically discussed in the local Peace Committee meeting
just before Shab-e-Barat. So grave was the concern that the committee
members in fact discussed whether the policemen should be posted in
plain clothes or in khaki inside the premises of the cemetery. A proposal
to restrict the influx of beggars was also discussed—they should
be restricted till the Sulaimani Masjid which is located 250 metres
away from the blast site.
There was no implementation
on these proposals. This Peace Committee meeting will go down in the
dustbin of Malegaon's history as 'remarkable'.
Didn't this security rumble
reach the ears of the Malegaon police? Or did they deliberately choose
to ignore it?
When the believers were struck
right after the Friday prayer, there was not a single policeman there.
Isn't it a security lapse? A classic example of the security blunder
directly from a B-grade Hindi movie.
Our deputy Chief Minister,
RR Patil agreed. But the explanation given was rather preposterous—since
Muslims start visiting the cemetery only after the evening prayer there
was no bandobast for the Friday prayer which is held in the afternoon!
Khuswant Singh summed up
the essence of the Indian police quite wryly:
"They seem always wise
after the event."
"Who were these sons
of Satan who carried out this diabolical operation?"
Unlike any other bomb blast
where the investigating agencies are quick to indulge in a name-calling
ceremony, Malegaon has seen a marked departure from the 'standard pattern'.
The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) which was infected with Acquired Teasing
Syndrome (ATS — I could not think of a better term. There
is no law in India which gives sanctity to demonise an entire community.
Yet they got away with it in the aftermath of Mumbai train blasts) is
in "no hurry to name the culprits" may I add, openly.
Instead of let's call a spade
a spade; they turned to the Media which like a willing whore complied.
That is not to downplay the excellent role of the media as far as the
reporting of the human interest stories are concerned. Since our topic
is 'whodunit', I shall not deviate from it.
From the very next day, stories
were planted by the security agencies in the national dailies. 'Desperate
Jehadis at Work — Malegaon Blasts Aimed at Creating Communal Riots'
read one headline in The Times of India.
"Security agencies feel
the Malegaon blasts were triggered by desperate jehadis anxious to escalate
communal tension and tap resulting schisms to garner support and sanction
for terror strikes during the forthcoming festival season……..Though
counter-terror experts said they would wait for details of explosive,
they seemed to have few doubts that it was the handiwork of jehadis."
It went on to divide the
believers against the believers:
is also attached to the target of attack being Barelvis who are looked
down upon for persisting with 'un-Islamic' practices like 'Shab-e-Barat'
involving visiting and lighting of candles at graves of ancestors—a
custom not in line with beliefs of puritanical sects like Ahl-e-Hadis
from which Lashkar-e-Taiba is derived, Tabligh-e-Jamaat and, to a lesser
It didn't stop there:
"Top intelligence sources
also confirmed that a major jehadi plot, hatched with the same aim to
incite communal flare-up by attacking targets in Maharashtra on the
day of Ganesh immersion on Wednesday, could not be carried out only
because of the vigil by security agencies". (Emphasis added).
Congratulations to the security
agencies for being 'vigilant' during the Ganapati immersion only. What
stopped them from extending their 'vigilance' to the holy Shab-e-Barat?
How can you expect Hindustan
Times to be left behind in the 'commodification' of news? It went one
step ahead and declared — 'LeT Chief Raheel Planned Blasts with
"According to police,
Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) commander Raheel Abdul Sheikh (also the alleged
mastermind of the 11/7 blasts) could have taken the help of associates
Abdul Latif Khan and Junaid Hussein to plan the Malegaon blasts. The
duo are said to be members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of
India (SIMI). Khan and Hussein, say officers, are absconding since May
and may have 'taken instructions' from Raheel to execute the blasts.
Raheel, said a senior officer, stayed in Malegaon for a few weeks before
fleeing to Bangladesh in May………………………….Top
officers believe that the blasts could have been the LeT's and SIMI's
Plan C to force a 'communal divide', their attack on RSS headquarters
in Nagpur being Plan B, and the 11/7 blasts Plan A."
But if so much was known,
why could not the police "destroy them while the conspiracy was
being hatched instead of waiting for the violence to blast our lives?"
Malegaon bomb blasts have
given birth to a new journalistic term: selective-judgmental reporting.
And the above report has given a vertical dimension to the term. And
thanks to the media moguls who drive their sustenance from the selective
Why am I making so much fuss
over the alleged Muslim connection? My approach is simple— Why
relinquish all other lines of investigation?
It seems that the media is
in no mood to recall the recent developments in Maharashtra. Let me
quote the noted lawyer and columnist, A.G. Noorani at length to drive
"At Nanded, on April 6, two Bajrang Dal activists, Naresh Rajkondwar
and Himanshu Phanse, were killed while attempting to make a bomb in
the former's house along with three others. The police reportedly recovered
a second bomb, timers, switches, detonators and gunpowder, as well as
evidence that they had struck before. A diary recovered had pictures
of all ex-RSS chiefs and notes on bomb-making techniques. It also had
mention of the Bajrang Dal sponsored camps that Himanshu had attended………
The warning was overdue. Kondwar and Phanse were suspected to be key
figures in a bombing incident at Parbhani that very month, in which
25 persons had been injured. It was at a mosque, as were the bombings
at Parbhani and Jalna in April 2004, where 18 persons were injured.
These incidents obviously
formed a pattern. A reasonable, though not conclusive, presumption arises
that Malegaon formed part of this pattern. Pointing fingers while investigations
are on is unfair and hazardous. Fingers accustomed to pointing in one
direction, however, pointed in the same direction after Malegaon . (Emphasis
added)……….On September 13, two unidentified packages
of fake bombs were discovered. The Additional Commissioner of Police,
ATS, Subodh Jaiswal, gave the following explanation. 'The aim was to
unleash panic.' The motive: to create 'rage against the police and Hindu
residents so that riots could break out.' With equal speed he asserted:
'They were planted by the same terror outfit that triggered the Friday
blasts.' This gave the game away. By then no 'outfit' had been identified
officially. Evidence was admittedly scant. The investigators seemed
to be groping in the dark. Yet, Subodh Jaiswal was all certitude.
On September 16, the Additional
SP, Rajwardhan, attacked the media: 'There seems to be a deliberate
attempt in a section of the media to pressurise the police into taking
a line of investigation — of Hindu fanatics being involved —
but we will go by the ground reality and the rule book, and explore
all the possibilities.' Precisely what he had in mind became clear when
he added: 'But it seems to be the handwork of organised terrorists who
want to destabilise the country and incite communal violence.' The patriotic
Bajrang Dal was exonerated." (Emphasis added).
Even a political commentator
like Swapan Dasgupta wrote in Daily News & Analysis, "There
is, as yet, no evidence that the devotees of Hanuman have complemented
their visceral anti-Islamist bile with murderous technology. Indeed,
the reports suggest that the explosives were of 'high intensity', something
beyond the ken of the Bajrangis." (Emphasis added).
Of course there is no evidence
as yet because the investigations are still going on. But how can one
give a clean chit to Bajranj Dal which in the recent past, as the evidence
suggests, has attacked mosques. And there is, as Praful Bidwai writes,
"convincing photographic evidence to show that the Bajrang Dal
was indeed running a bomb-fabrication operation. Some of the pictures
also showed that the local police tried to cover up Bajrang Dal-VHP
involvement by planting fire-crackers — to suggest that the blast
was caused by crackers, not bombs — and false beards."
Whoever said 'ignorance is
bliss', I am his slave for life. Senior journalist Kuldip Nayar has
given a new twist to the story by declaring, "I have no doubt that
Al Qaeda had a hand in the Malegaon bomb blasts." He didn't elaborate
Sounds like the 'breaking
news' of the decade? Or is it the emergence of one-line-journalism of
the full stop kind?
According to M.J. Akbar,
one of the seven deadly sins of media is ignorance and Kuldip Nayar
perfectly fits in the description. Wisdom, as I always say, evaporates
with old age.
It took 40 innocent lives
to highlight the sheer governmental apathy and the neglect which has
persisted for decades in Malegaon. The bomb blasts have exposed the
vulnerable underbelly of 'two Indias' — The India of Mumbai and
the India of Malegaon. Pamela Philipose rightly remarks, "The tragedy
of the September 8 blasts in this town served to uncover the greater
tragedy of Malegaon, a town that Maharashtra — and India —
remembers only in times of blasts and riots."
In Malegaon, the Creator's
own house is under threat from His most civilised creature. Old and
sturdy locks hanging in the iron gates of the town's major mosques are
a rare sight in this textile town. Fear still looms large in the prying
eyes of a muezzin as he peeps out from the Iron Gate.
The writer, a freelance journalist,
is with NADY (National Awakening for Development of Youth), Malegaon.
He may be reached at email@example.com
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