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|February 15, 1999||
TN heaves a sigh of relief as Coimbatore blasts anniversary passes off peacefully
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
The Tamil Nadu police has heaved a sigh of relief with the first anniversary of the 'Coimbatore blasts' passing off peacefully on Sunday.
Coming as it does after the 'incident-free' Coimbatore visit of Union Home Minister L K Advani on February 6, and the 'politicially-sensitive' India-Pakistan cricket Test at Madras earlier, it has boosted the morale of the force.
"The previous year was a year of shame for us, this one was a year of pride," says a top cop in the state police. "Brickbats were thrown at us when we failed, but no one, politician or others, has offered a bouquet this time." It's not fishing for compliments for doing one's duty, but the force can do with some 'morale-boosting' pat on the back, he says by way of clarification.
As he points out, Madras was chosen as the venue for the first Test between India and Pakistan 'under difficult circumstances'. Says he : "Not only did the Shiv Sena threat remain, but it had also possibly accentuated reciprocal sentiments in the Muslim militants. We were keeping our fingers crossed, but have come out creditably," he adds, also mentioning the 'Ayodhya anniversary' of December 6 last, when the state was 'incident-free'. The previous year, 'train-bombs' had killed 16 persons in three incidents.
The state police takes pride in nabbing 176 persons in connection with the 'Coimbatore blasts', which has also aborted similar attempts elsewhere, later. Conceding failure to eliminate Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the state so very completely, the official recommends simultaneous 'socio-economic improvements' in the lifestyles of their youth and communal education, for 'sustainable results' in this direction.
"Though the backbone of Islamic fundamentalism has been broken in the state, there are stray elements remaining out there, and new elements willing to be recruited," he says, referring to the killings of BJP leaders Prof Paramasivam in Madurai and Dr Sridharan in Tiruchi. "You cannot protect every individual, that too those who are not in any known 'hit-list' of individual militant groups, not necessarily known outside," he says in practical terms, while reiterating the resolve to 'eliminate them all before long'.
The official has a request for politicians: "Do not make the police pawns in their political games. Whoever is in power, we are there to protect the people, and enforce law, order and peace." If there is one reason he does not want to go on record, it's because of his reference to the Bihar dismissal of last week: "Other issues of 'constitutional failures' of the Rabri Devi government apart, it has given cause for similar demands in Tamil Nadu, too. And the state police is being sought to be painted in the black."
Both the communal and caste situations in the state are "still too sensitive for politicians and their 'well- provided' cronies to meddle with", says the official. For the past five years and more, the southern districts of the state has been in the grip of caste clashes involving the Dalits on the one side, and the "region has been 'incident- free' only for the past few months. There may now be temptations for the political opponents of the ruling party, to blow up every incident of the earlier variety out of proportion, to make out a case for the dismissal of the state government. Then again, the police force has to bear the brunt."
The police official concedes 'slackness' before the 'Coimbatore blasts', again attributable to 'inadequate political assessment and insincere advice to the government'. According to him, "The state government should consider setting up a separate, cadre-based intelligence wing with minimal 'outsider postings' at various levels, to instil quality and integrity. Intelligence-gathering will then become a continuous process without political or administrative pressures from the top."
For its part, the state government has issued a statement, rebutting the earlier charge of AIADMK chief Jayalalitha on the law and order front and dubbing Tamil Nadu as a better case than Bihar for imposing President's rule. It has quoted Union home ministry statistics to say that Madras was lesser crime-ridden than other metropolis like Delhi and Bombay.
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