Five innocent civilians are reported to have been killed and many others injured in an explosion in the historic Mecca Mosque of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh at the time of the Friday prayers on May 18. Two other explosive devices are reported to have been neutralised by the police before they could explode. One has to await the result of the forensic tests, which will determine the nature of the explosive material, detonator and timer or remote-control used. The recovered explosive devices should facilitate the forensic examination. The preliminary indications from the description of the explosions are that the devices were probably not of a sophisticated nature.
It would be premature to say anything definitively regarding the likely identity of the perpetrators, their organisational affiliation, if any, and their motive. While there have been many terrorist strikes against innocent Muslim civilians and Muslim political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir since jihadi terrorism broke out in the state in 1989, targeted attacks on Muslim civilians outside J&K in other parts of India have been a more recent phenomenon during the last two years. There have been at least four strikes in the principal mosque of Delhi two years ago, in Malegaon in Maharashtra in September last year, in the Samjauta Express train to Pakistan near Delhi in February last and in Hyderabad now.
There were grounds for suspicion that the blast in the Delhi mosque was probably due to internal rivalry among some office-bearers of the mosque. As such, it was not considered an act of terrorism. The explosions in Malegaon and in the Samjauta Express were of a terrorist nature. The involvement of elements from the Students' Islamic Movement of India was suspected in the Malegaon blasts. The Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayiba was the principal suspect in respect of the blasts in the Samjauta Express. The investigation into it has not made satisfactory progress due to non-co-operation from Pakistan.
Targeted killing of Muslims by jihadi terrorist organisations of pan-Islamic and Wahabi orientation is not a new phenomenon. One has seen many instances of such killings in Pakistan itself, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Somalia, Algeria, J&K in India, Bangladesh, and in southern Thailand. In the past, such attacks were directed at Muslims belonging to different sects (Shias vs Sunnis as in Pakistan and Iraq), Muslims, who were perceived as apostate because of their co-operation with the US and with pro-US Islamic regimes, Muslims who were suspected to be spies of the intelligence agencies and moderate Muslim political leaders, who opposed the ideology of the jihadi terrorists.
In the last one year, one has been seeing a new trend in the countries affected by jihadi terrorism. Jihadi terrorist organisations have been targeting Muslims, who are not prepared to accept Wahabism and the pan-Islamic objective of an Islamic Caliphate. Of all the countries in Asia having a large Muslim population, the maximum resistance to Wahabism and the pan-Islamic objectives has been from the Muslim community in India, which is the second largest in the world after Indonesia.
While small numbers of Indian Muslims in India as well as in the Gulf have been supporting the SIMI and organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and propagating their ideology, the preponderant majority of the Indian Muslims has thus far kept away from Wahabism and the pan-Islamic objectives. There seems to be a concerted attempt to intimidate them into supporting these pernicious ideologies. Indian Muslims should refuse to be intimidated by such elements and the government should give them all the protection they need to enable them to resist these jihadi elements.(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org )