Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thirteen persons were killed in seven well-synchronised explosions near court premises in three cities of Uttar Pradesh---Lucknow,Varanasi and Faizabad---on the afternoon of November 23,2007.
2. The explosions took place within about five minutes of each other. The improvised explosive devices (IEDs), attached to bicycles, do notappear to have been of a sophisticated kind. Initial reports indicated the possible use of ammonium nitrate, which has been increasinglyused in different terrorist incidents in many parts of the world since the explosion in the New York World Trade Centre in February 1993. Butthe synchronisation of the blasts in three different cities around the same time indicate a certain sophistication in planning and execution.We have had well-synchronised multiple explosions in Mumbai in March 1993 by the mafia gang of Dawood Ibrahim and in July, 2006,allegedly by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), and in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu in February,1998 by Al Ummah. We have not had well-synchronisedmultiple blasts in different cities since 1993, when the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) carried out synchronised explosions indifferent trains. But its synchronisation was not of a high order. The Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JUM) of Bangladesh carried out nearly 400synchronised blasts all over Bangladesh in August,2005.
3. Though 13 persons, mostly lawyers, were killed, causing mass casualties does not apear to have been the objective. As in the case of the400 blasts of Bangladesh, which caused not more than 10 fatalities, the purpose seems to have been to intimidate and demonstrate thereach and capability of the perpetrators.The explosions were synchronised to take place after the Friday prayers. Jihadi terroristorganisations prefer to organised their terrorist strikes on Fridays.
4. The explosions have come in the wake of the judgements delivered recently in respect of the Mumbai serial blasts of March 1993 and theCoimbatore serial blasts of February,1998. In both the cases, a number of jihadi terrorists have been found guilty and sentenced to variousterms of imprisonment. They have also come after the arrest of three suspected members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) in UP, who werealleged to have planned to kidnap a dignitary in order to secure the release of Afzal Guru, who has been sentenced to death for his role inthe attack on the Indian Parliament in December,2001. His mercy petition is under examination by the Government of India.The arrestedJEM terrorists were alleged to have been beaten up by some lawyers when they were brought to court. The local lawyers have alsoreportedly refused to defend terrorists in future.From these circumstances, it is likely that the explosions were meant to intimidate thecriminal justice community, particularly the lawyers.
5. It has been reported that an E-mail message purported to be from "indian Mujahideen" received by some TV channels before theexplosions indicated that these explosions were about to take place. However, it referred to explosions in two and not three cities. "IndianMujahideen" does not refer to any organisation, but it refers to Indian Muslims in general and says that the Indian Muslims have decided totake the offensive and wage a jihad. In justification of this decision, it refers to the severe penalties awarded to the accused in the Mumbaiblasts of March,1993, and the lack of action against Hindu police officers, who committed atrocities on Muslims. It also refers to the Gujratriots of 2002 and the recent assault on arrested JEM suspects by some lawyers. The message is not only a warning of their intention to act,but also an explanation of why Indian Muslims have decided to act. The main point, which the sender of the message has sought to convey,is that the criminal justice system treats the Muslims severely, but is lenient to the Hindus. The language used is typically Indian, thecontext and arguments used are typically of Indian Muslims and the issues raised are those which have been agitating the minds ofsections of Indian Muslims such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992, lack of action against the Hindu police officers ofMumbai who were found guilty of excesses by the Sri Krishna Enquiry Commission, the severe penalties awarded to Muslims who hadretaliated in March,1993, and the Gujrat riots.
6.It admits that the Muslims were responsible for the explosions in Varanasi, Delhi, Mumbai and in a restaurant and park in Hyderabad, butsays they were not responsible for the blasts in Malegaon in September,2006, in the Samjauta Express and the Mecca Masjid of Hyderabadthis year. It is silent on the recent blast in the Ajmer Sharif, a Muslim holy place famous for its tolerant Sufi tradition..
7. It says that the Indian Muslims have decided to wage a jihad for Islamic rule and talks of a "war for civilisation." It warns that their nexttargets will be police officers. Keeping in view that the 15th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is just a fortnight away, weshould be alert to the possibility of more explosions in the days to come, possibly directed against the police.(23-11-07)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies,Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )