The Divisive Agenda of the Jaipur Blasts Must Not Succeed!

Yet again, terrorism has targeted Indian people. The serial blasts that rocked Jaipur on May 15 have claimed over 60 innocent lives and injured hundreds. Such heinous acts of terror, aimed at fanning up fear and divisive sentiments, and causing untold pain and destruction, deserve the strongest condemnation and their cold-blooded master-minds, the severest punishment.

As the Rajasthan state government ruled by the BJP and the Congress-UPA-led Centre trade blame for the incident, it is evident that these Governments have failed dismally to protect the people. During the regimes of both the NDA Government as well as the UPA Government, terrorist strikes have taken place unabated time and again.

The exemplary humanitarian response of the people of the Jaipur has certainly thwarted the divisive ploy of the terror attack. Reportedly, efforts of communal forces to ignite violence in several parts of Rajasthan have failed.

Investigative agencies have claimed that the blasts are likely to be the handiwork of a Bangladeshi group, the HuJI, which is also credited with serial blasts in UP. An email by another group calling itself the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ has also claimed responsibility for the Jaipur blasts. While all possible investigative steps should be taken to bring the culprits to book, there is ground to be wary of witch-hunting and targeting of innocents. In the UP blasts case, a so-called “HuJI mastermind” who was arrested from W Bengal turned out to be an innocent state government employee. The police case against two other young men, supposedly HuJI operatives, arrested from UP appears to be a flimsy fabrication, riddled with holes, and there is evidence of torture being used against the accused to force a ‘confession’ out of them. The Special Task Force of UP was especially active in these framing operations; and as Vasundhara declares that Rajasthan will soon have a special anti-terror task force, it is necessary to be alert to prevent any harassment and framing of innocents in Rajasthan, which can never help the cause of combating terrorism.

The Rajasthan Government and the BJP have, predictably, sought to make political capital out of the blasts, with communally charged hate-mongering against ‘Bangladeshi infiltrators’ on the one hand and clamouring for POTA and a Rajasthan-specific anti-terror law on the other. Voices in the mainstream media and even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court have provided grist to the BJP mill by pronouncements in favour of POTA-type laws. L K Advani has declared that the repeal of POTA was guided by “vote bank considerations”, making it clear that for BJP, POTA was primarily a tool to target the minority community and brand it as a breeder of ‘terror’. It is another matter that terror attacks never abated even when POTA was in effect, and POTA only provided the means for the suspension of civil liberties of those ‘suspected’ of terror: namely, individuals from vulnerable minority communities and nationalities. CM Vasundhara Raje has been clamouring for a MCOCA-type law in Rajasthan; but it is self-evident that MCOCA did nothing to prevent the Mumbai blasts.

The Rajasthan Government has begun the process of checking identity cards in order to weed out ‘Bangladeshi infiltrators’ whom they claim are the hub of the latest terror attack. Several people from this community have reportedly been arrested as well. This community presents a ‘soft target’ for the police and Governments: it is easier to brand and evict poor Bengali-speaking Muslim workers, be they from W Bengal or Bangladesh, as ‘terrorists’, than to seriously investigate the actual crime. There is a deliberate refusal to recognise that migrants from Bangladesh are, as a rule, poor workers, driven by their desperate search for employment and survival across the border. Further, given the fact that ordinary migrants within Indian borders too rarely have the papers to ‘prove’ their nationality (even ration cards are routinely denied); inevitably the process of ‘identifying’ Bangladeshis will degenerate into a communal witch-hunt for poor Bengali-speaking Muslim people. Vasundhara Raje has claimed that the Central Government had, even before the blasts, directed her state to round up Bangladeshi migrants and place them in ‘transit camps’ (local Guantanamo Bays, so to speak.) The spectre of poor Muslims being rounded up and placed in ‘camps’ or evicted from the country is BJP’s dream – and the UPA Government seems to be providing the rationale to make this nightmare come true.

No amount of POTA-type laws or ethnic cleansing of ‘Bangladeshis’ can wish away the fact that the only effective way to tackle terrorism is to address its actual causes and contexts: unresolved nationality issues complicated by state terror in the troubled regions; organised and state-sponsored communal violence and failure to provide effective justice for its victims; and the increasingly closer ‘strategic’ tie-up with the US ‘war on terror.’ Investigations into terror attacks in India have tended to make matters worse, by communally targeting innocent people. Investigative agencies and governments have turned a blind eye to evidence of involvement of RSS in plots to stage bomb blasts allegedly by Muslim groups (in Nanded in Maharashtra in April 2006 and Tenkasi in Tamilnadu in January this year). Even before investigation has begun, the involvement of Muslim terrorist outfits is assumed. In Rajasthan, the initial investigation followed this script: claiming that RDX had been used; that witnesses had spotted Bengali-speaking people; and that packets of Bangladeshi cigarettes had been found on the spot, pointing to the involvement of a major Bangladeshi terrorist outfit. However, the above proved to be misleading: RDX, it now transpires, was not used; sketches of ‘suspects’ have been withdrawn; and it seems other pieces of ‘evidence’ might well be a red-herring. No forces should be left out of the purview of the investigation: any presumptions and prejudices will inevitably hamper a thorough investigation.

The BJP Government of Rajasthan, beleaguered by peasant resistance and unrest over quotas, might in the election year hope that the blasts will deflect attention from the other burning issues and give the party an opportunity to highlight its ‘core’ agenda: anti-Muslim hysteria, anti-Pakistan/Bangladesh jingoism, and shrill demands for a ‘hard state’ and draconian laws. Left and democratic forces must vigilantly and effectively resist this agenda, and not allow terror to derail the people’s agenda in the state. 


Letter from Jaipur

Srilata Swaminathan

Tuesday, 13 May, 1900 hours saw the first of a series of bomb blasts in the crowded Pink City of Jaipur. In all, seven powerful blasts shook the old city, one after the other, and all within thirteen minutes and within a one kilometre area. An eighth bomb was found and diffused by the police.

From the point of view of the bombers the timing was perfect to cause the most damage and havoc. All the places targeted were in the over-crowded, shopping and commercial areas, tourist-oriented spots, mainly residential areas, and the temple areas of Chandpol, Johri Bazaar and Tripolia where, being a Tuesday, there was a good crowd of devotees plus lines of beggars and destitute who get fed by the temples. To make matters worse, it was also the rush hour, and roads were packed with a profusion of pedestrians and vehicles. The colourful confusion of Jaipur’s congested markets which is a great attraction to both foreign and Indian tourists was at its height. At the end of the day, there were 65 dead and 280 wounded. Many of the residents, survivors still complain of hearing defects from the deafening explosions.

Both the Party and AIPWA were active and helped collect one lakh rupees which was donated to the poor victims of the blasts who were hospitalised. One was struck by the reaction of people in Jaipur who, from the humble rickshawala, vendor and flower-seller to the rich trading communities, intellectuals, teachers, lawyers as, one and all, they have come forward, without being asked, to help in whatever way they could. Immediately after the blasts, people rushed into action. The wounded were immediately taken to the hospital by rickshaw pullers, on cycles, scooters and whatever was handy. Many groups of citizens immediately started collecting fruit, food and drinking water so that the patients and their families did not go thirsty or hungry. Hundreds of blood donors rushed forward. The first to donate blood were the Muslims who donated so much that they met almost the full demand. The lawyers also came forward in hundreds to donate blood as did the employees of the state roadways department, a motorcycle club and hundreds of individuals.

We are also heartened by the mood in the old city. While many are mourning the loss of loved ones, there is no communal tension. Many Hindutva forces tried to raise anti-Muslim slogans both in some residential areas in the affected city and in the hospital where the victims were being treated. They were swiftly dealt with by the local residents, both Hindu and Muslim, and speedily sent on their way.

All this is even more amazing when seen in the light of how the BJP government and Hindutva forces have been working overtime for several years to spread anti-Muslim sentiments throughout Rajasthan, saffronising textbooks to paint Muslims as traitors, encouraging ghettoisation of Muslims and taking lessons from Modi’s Gujarat. Although it is early days yet, it is remarkable that Rajasthan hasn’t burst into a communal conflagration. Forces in Jodhpur, Ajmer, Kota and elsewhere tried to light the communal fire but failed.

But the blame game between the BJP government in the state and the Congress at the Centre has begun with each holding the other responsible for lack of warning, information etc. The BJP is also desperate to find the culprits especially after their bungling the Ajmer bomb blast investigation last year where they are still to trace or arrest the culprits. They are busy harassing innocent ‘Bangladeshis’ who are very poor and work as rag pickers or unskilled labour but happen to be Muslim, in their frantic attempt to make arrests. They are also threatening them with deportation even though these ‘Bangladeshis’ have ration and voter identity cards and swear they are from West Bengal and are also wooed for their votes by every party!

Democratic forces in Jaipur are vigilant, refusing to allow the blasts to provide a pretext for the Sangh Parivar’s and BJP Government’s communal agenda. 

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