By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHI/JAIPUR – Paradoxically, with Jaipur-blasts, two strikingly different characteristics of Indian society and polity have surfaced. Tragedy struck Rajasthan’s Pink City- Jaipur- last Tuesday evening (13 May), when seven blasts occurred within a span of 15 minutes- killing more than 60 people and injuring at least 100. The serial blasts took place at around 7 40 PM (IST) in densely populated areas, situated within a radius of one kilometer of each other. These included Tripolia Bazar, where a temple drew a large number of Hindu devotees with it being a Tuesday (a special day for devotees of Hindu deity Hanuman). The other areas were Johari Bazar, Manas Chowk, Badi Choupal and Choti Choupal in the walled part of the city.
With it being the first time that Jaipur was struck by such violence, the terrorists’ message was obvious. They can strike anywhere, anytime. Though the immediate impact in affected areas was that of panic, the blasts did not lead to any violence among the people. Rather, several Muslims were also killed by explosions, a fact that was noted by people and also highlighted by media reports. The wounded were ferried to nearby hospitals, including Savai Madho Singh Hospital. In immediate response to appeal made for blood donors, volunteers – both Hindus and Muslims – queued to help blast victims. Cutting across religious and regional differences, they reached out to help the injured in numerous ways. By donating blood, sharing mobile-services to inform their family members in addition to distributing food and fruit juices, along with free medicines – for those who could not afford them.
Nevertheless, as precautionary measure, curfew was imposed in the city for two days (May 14-15). Chief Minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje said that bombers might have planned “to create communal tension.” It was a well-designed conspiracy by terrorist outfits to disturb the state’s peaceful atmosphere, she said. “But there is peace in the city. The curfew was a precaution,” she said.
In their talks with Raje on telephone, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil assured her all possible help from the center.
Chaired by Prime Minister Singh, the cabinet meeting (May 15) was dominated by a detailed discussion on Jaipur-blasts and need for greater coordination among intelligence agencies to prevent such bombings. Briefing media on the meeting, a minister said: “There was unanimity on the need to take more steps to strengthen the intelligence network.”
While breakthroughs have yet to be made in the ongoing investigations, in contrast to the unity and harmony displayed among the Rajasthanis, politicians have begun blaming each other for Jaipur-blasts. With Rajasthan assembly elections scheduled for November this year and parliamentary polls in a year’s time, politicians are clearly bent on exploiting the situation to their advantage.
Blaming the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for its “soft” approach towards terrorism, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including L.K. Advani demanded immediate re-enactment of POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) to combat this menace.
Rejecting BJP’s POTA-demand, Prime Minister Singh said: “There is no co-relation between POTA and terrorist strikes.” Drawing attention to terrorist-strikes, when POTA was in action (the attacks on Parliament and Akshardham temple), he asked: “What has POTA achieved?” Asserting that there was no need of POTA, he emphasized: “There is no dearth of law in the country to deal with terrorism” (May 14).
While creation of a federal crime agency was the need of the hour, the Prime Minister said that it had not been possible for the center to implement this proposal in view of “reluctance” of several states to “surrender their powers” (May 17).
Questioning the Prime Minister’s suggestion for a federal agency to combat terrorism, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said: “It is ironical that after being in prime ministerial office for four years the Prime Minister has finally woken up to the harsh and cruel reality that prevention and investigation of terrorism in India is on the verge of collapse” (May 18).
Lest opposition leaders’ inflammatory comments ignite tension in the country, Home Minister Patil issued statement (May 17) calling on them to exercise restrain. Condemning the Jaipur blast, Patil said: “They were perpetrated to disturb the communal harmony. Very wisely, the people have behaved in a responsible manner and have not allowed the design to succeed.” “At this point of time, nothing should be done and said which would create obstacles and misunderstanding and is unhelpful in the task of investigating agencies,” Patil emphasized. “Issues which are not pertinent at this point of time need not be raised now. They were raised in the past. They can be raised in the future. At this time, they are better avoided,” he said.
Though no breakthrough has been reported as yet in ongoing investigations, several people have been held for questioning. Describing the modus operandi similar to that used in last year’s blasts in court premises in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a senior police official held this as suggestive of Bangladesh- based Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami (HUJI)’s involvement. “It was a cent per cent a terrorist attack on the pattern of blasts in the court premises in Uttar Pradesh in November last year. RDX was used in containers tagged to cycles along with timer devices,” Additional Director General of Police (Crime) A.K. Jain said.
Initial investigations have helped police identify the cycle vendor who sold nine bicycles to a man, whose sketch has been released by security forces for identification procedure.
Besides, Special Task Force (STF) of police traced the e-mail to a cyber cafe in Sahibabad town (Uttar Pradesh), which was sent on behalf of a group called “Indian Mujahideen,” claiming responsibility for Jaipur explosions. The e-mail carries sender’s address as firstname.lastname@example.org. The e-mail has given correct frame number (129489) of a bicycle, which was planted at Choti Chaupad near Kotwali in the Pink City, according to sources in central security agencies. The e-mail also warned of more such attacks if India continued supporting United States in international arena. “If you do continue then get ready to face more attacks at other important tourist places…,” the e-mail said.
The owner of this cyber-cafe and his employee are also being interrogated.