By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHI/AJMER â€“ Celebration of this yearâ€™s Eid-ul-Fitr in India stands out as a decisive victory of the spirit of countryâ€™s secularism against attempts being made by communal and terrorist elements to shatter peace and harmony in the nation. The attempt made last Thursday (11 October) at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer (Rajasthan) claimed two lives and injured seventeen. Within about a yearâ€™s time, it was the third attack at a Muslim religious spot, following 2006 bombing of a mosque in Malegaon and the blasts at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, this May. While authorities are engaged in investigating as to who is responsible for blast at Ajmer, the people of the area have displayed their resolute spirit of not being deterred by such incidents. It was with this message, they participated in a peace march. As expressed by Purroshottam, a cap seller with a six-decade-old shop: â€œWe held a peace march of Hindus and Muslims immediately after the explosion to instill confidence among the people. It worked, see, everything is normal and people are coming as usual.â€ With the Muslim population of Rajasthan about 8.5 per cent, though Ajmer is dominated by Muslims, more than 90 percent shops in the area are owned by Hindus and the area is surrounded by Hindu population. In context of Muslims forming a minority in Rajasthan and other parts of the country, the spirit of secularism would bear little significance without active involvement of members of Hindu community.
The blastâ€™s impact in taking some festive spirit out of the Eid celebrations at Ajmer itself cannot be ignored. For the first time, in the past 796 years, announcement of Eid on Saturday (October 13) was made without using drums. The ones who have been associated with this practice for generations decided not to play these instruments as a mark of respect for the ones who had lost their lives in the blast. â€œIt was the call of our conscience,â€ said Muzaffar Bharti, a member of this select group.
A day after the blasts, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil visited the dargah. He offered a â€œchadarâ€ there and also visited the injured being treated in hospital. Assuring them all help, Patil told the injured: â€œWe are with you in this time of sorrow. The center and the state governments will provide all help to victims.â€ Without elaborating on investigations being conducted, Patil told media persons: â€œI am fully aware of the progress of the investigations and how far it has reached. The investigation is going as far as our borders.â€ Saying that it was still premature to reveal much, Patil said: â€œIf we discuss and say much about the investigations it might benefit all those who were behind these blasts. It is better not to discuss much about it.â€ In the coming days, the central and state governments plan to take more security measures to ensure the safety of the dargah. On this Patil said: â€œPeople from all over the world come to the dargah and officials have briefed us on what should be done for security. A plan will be proposed soon after talks with the state government and the government at the center.â€
While Patilâ€™s comments suggest suspicion of probable involvement of foreign terrorist organizations in the blasts, it may be noted, people seem least likely to be satisfied by such explanations. The blast has also raised questions about the security at the dargah having been apparently ignored till now. Several militants belonging to terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, were caught along the Rajasthan border in 2003. It was revealed, during their interrogations, that Ajmer dargah was listed as their targets. Since the authorities had been aware about the probability of Ajmer dargah being targeted since 2003, the local citizens are now naturally posing the question: â€œWhy wasnâ€™t there enough security at the dargah?â€
Besides, allegations and counter-allegations are being laid on who should be blamed for the lack of security at the dargah. There is no clear report on whether the needed number of CCTV cameras were installed at the dargah or not. Differences surfaced on whether there should have been 14, 16, 17 or any other number of such cameras. It was also not clear as to how many of these cameras had been actually in working condition. Even if the cameras were working, questions prevail about there being the facility of recording. This has further enhanced apprehensions about attention being paid to security arrangements at the dargah.
Reaction following the Ajmer-blast suggests that the common Indian is now least likely to be satisfied by explanations given on who is responsible for the incident. Whether the alleged terrorist individual/group is Indian or not, question prevails on why was security at the dargah ignored?
Against the backdrop of Ajmer blast, Eid prayers were held across the country with an air of tight security (October 14). At the historic Jama Masjid in capital city, for the first time this year, security tips were announced over the microphone. No untoward incident was reported from gatherings held for Eid prayers across the country. However, two separate incidents on the same day raised questions about security arrangements at people-centered locations. Towards the end of the day, a bomb blast in Shringar cinema hall in Ludhiana (Punjab) killed seven and injured about 30. In Gujarat, a stampede on narrow path leading to Hindu temple atop Pavagadh Hill led to at least 11 deaths. Without doubt, in addition to conducting investigations on who/what is to blamed for such accidents, adequate attention needs to be paid to prevent similar ones taking place at particularly people-centered places.