//Terrorism And The Quest For A Colour Blind Cat

Terrorism And The Quest For A Colour Blind Cat

By Jawed Naqvi, 27 February, 2007, The Dawn

Reprinted from CounterCurrents.ORG

First of all, it was not the Samjhota Express that was bombed on the night of 18/19th February but another train from Delhi, which connects with the actual cross-border train at the Indian border post of Attari that got hit. Had the Samjhota Express been the target of the suspected terrorists its implications would be far more sinister and, in the context of India-Pakistan mistrust, extremely ominous.

The actual Samjhota Express is the train agreed by the two governments in 1976, which spends time ferrying and loading passengers in both countries. We can't even begin to imagine the implications of that train being bombed. There wouldn't be a moment's delay from either Islamabad or New Delhi in telling us with rock sure determination where the bombs were loaded and who exploded them? So let's be very clear about our sacred facts as opposed to casual description by which the Delhi-Attari train has come to be called in the media.

Second, and more importantly: who carried out the bombings that killed 68 innocent men women and children, and why? It seems unlikely that the answers to any of these questions would be known by March 6, when officials of the two countries assemble in Islamabad to discuss this and similar issues under the joint anti-terror mechanism. The last report on the probe said Indian police had twice changed the identikits of the suspects, arresting people fitting both the pictures, plus the madam of a brothel in Bikaner! The suspects so far all seem to be Muslim. However, when Pakistan's foreign minister said in Delhi that it was time to catch the culprits and not to begin guessing whether they were Hindu or Muslim, he was giving a kind of tall order. In its spirit Mr. Kasuri's plea for a fair probe came like a departure from the famous aphorism of Deng Xiaoping who proclaimed that "It doesn't matter what colour the cat is as long as it catches the mice." We guess Mr Kasuri's version was: "Any cat would do be fine as long as it doesn't discriminate on the colour of the mice."

In any case there are many in India who too have expressed a well-founded fear on many occasions that the colour of the mice does unfortunately seem to blind the issue when it comes to catching or naming perpetrators of terrorism. Former judge of the Bombay High Court, Justice B.G. Kolse-Patil, was in Delhi last week to share with the media some of his findings in cases where prima facie Hindu terrorists, as he called them, were allowed to go scot-free in incidents in which they were caught red-handed. Two of these cases pertained to accidental explosions that took place in the Maharashtra town of Nanded, where rightwing Hindu groups such as the RSS and the Bajrang Dal were believed to be assembling bombs. The blasts happened in April last year and again on February 10. Justice Kolse-Patil and his team, including the tireless rights acivists Teesta Setalvad and Arvind Deshmukh, have raised disturbing questions over both.

Since the Hindu right dismisses the exhaustive research and scrupulous eye for detail as some kind of prejudice displayed by pseudo secularists of dubious intent, let's first take the report in The Hindu newspaper about the April blasts. This analysis clearly points to the compulsions of India's domestic politics and how that deters a fair investigation into acts of terror by the resurgent Hindu right.

The Maharashtra government, the newspaper says in its report on September 9 of last year, "has been reluctant to take on the Bajrang Dal for fear of providing political capital to organisations such as the Shiv Sena". The Shiv Sena, as we know is the neo-fascist arm of the Hindu right in Maharashtra and it actually managed to trounce two supposedly secular adversaries in recent municipal polls, something that was not even remotely expected by the Congress party and the splinter Nationalist Congress Party. The two parties have a shaky alliance in the state government and also at the centre. Why did the state government refuse to consider proscribing the Bajrang Dal? The answer is attempted by the newspaper itself.

"Politics underpins this paralysis. Both the Congress and the NCP have run a successful campaign of poaching directed at middle level Shiv Sena leaders, and believe that action which might be considered 'anti-Hindu' would give the religious right a new lease of life. At the same time, the decaying Hindu far right sees Islamist terrorism, and the widespread anxieties it has generated through India, as a means of stemming the secular tide."

In other words, "each mosque bombing is, in this vision, an act through which the frayed political legitimacy of groups such as the Bajrang Dal will be restored. Just how capable Hindu fundamentalist groups are of executing such a project is unclear, for already stretched police forces have paid little attention to the emerging threat. If a Hindu fundamentalist group did carry out the Malegaon attack (a separate incident to the Nanded blasts), it would demonstrate a significant increase in their capabilities."

In their report on the April blasts in Nanded, an independent fact-finding committee comprising Secular Citizen's Forum and the People's Union of Civil Liberties of Nagpur, shows how "a bomb blast has unearthed a bomb-manufacturing centre at the home of a prominent RSS activist in
Nanded".

Two youth died on the spot and three were badly injured in the April incident. The body of one of the deceased, Himanshu Panse, was blown into pieces while another, Naresh Rajkondwar, had a massive hole in his chest. Only the concrete structure of the house was left intact, everything else in the house was destroyed.

But, says the fact-finding committee's report: "To the utter disbelief of residents, the police said that one of those killed in the blast used to sell 'crackers' during Diwali, he had stored them in his bedroom, and since he was alone at home he had invited his friends overŠ One of them threw a cigarette, the 'crackers' caught fire and blasted in a single explosion without leaving a single piece of paper or other remnants of the 'crackers' at the site!"

In the meantime, according to the report, it became clear beyond any doubt that the killed and injured youth were activists of RSS-affiliated groups. "Leaders of these outfits visited the hospitals to see the injured and issued condolence statements; they said that the men were active workers of their organisations and their deaths were a great loss to them."

The next day when along with senior police officials, journalists, a few politicians and many from the general public, the police was searching the house, it found a live IED. "The same day, special inspector general of police, Suryapratap Gupta called a press conference and declared that it was really a bomb blast. The youth were trying to fabricate the pipe bomb and due to erroneous handling of a remote control device the explosion took place."

The inquiry recommends: "The central government should keep a close watch and monitor the increasing low intensity terror generating activities being conducted by political outfits that are misusing Hindu religion."

It also recommends "stringent action so that the accused in the earlier Nanded blasts — including those never arrested despite evidence — are arrested or not released on bail, as the case may be. Proceedings of these investigations must be conducted in full public glare."

In the final analysis, however, the quest for a colour blind cat would be essentially incomplete if Pakistan doesn't heed its own call to pursue mice of all hues. In that case, th
ere is this pending issue of terror camps which even the most neutral observers say do exist in the territory under Pakistan's control. It must now quickly unleash the cat there to make the March 6 meeting purposeful.