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Surat Muslims speak up: 'It's a political conspiracy'
Syed Firdaus Ashraf and Prasanna D Zore in Surat
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August 01, 2008 16:33 IST

Have you seen Huggies, Aslam Khan asked me. You mean the diapers, I asked him, not knowing what he was driving at. "Now think of those unexploded bombs in Surat [Images], recall their pictures. Didn't they look like diapers? Everyone here feels so," Aslam Khan said, summing up a popular viewpoint, of incredulity, among the Muslim community of Surat towards the many bombs found in the diamond city.

"If terrorists wanted to explode the bombs they would have done what they did in Ahmedabad on July 26," says Hanif Shaikh, a tourist operator in Surat.

Asked who he thinks is behind the plot, he takes recourse to a song from the Rajesh Khanna [Images] film Roti, "Yaha sab shanti hai, yeh public hai sab jaanti hai (It is calm and peaceful here and the public knows everything)."

When told to elaborate, he said, "In our opinion, it was done by the opponents of (Gujarat Chief Minister) Narendra Modi [Images]. They want to make him unpopular. So far Modi has always been saying he has given security to the people of Gujarat, but these blasts have exposed him. And everyone knows who benefits if Modi is under attack."

Fear over Surat's diamond hub

Five days after 24 live bombs were found in Surat, Muslims in the diamond city are in a state of shock. They feel their city is under attack by someone who wants to create communal disturbances. They fear that the combing operations by the police will lead to the arrest of innocent Muslims.

Without naming anyone, Hanif says, "We all know there are leaders in Narendra Modi's party who want him out. You see, parliamentary elections will be held next year and if the Bharatiya Janata Party wins in a big way in Gujarat, the credit will go to Modi. And he is the most popular leader in the BJP after L K Advani [Images]. His rivals don't want him to become very powerful post the 2009 elections."

At this point Aslam intervenes, "That is why I asked you about Huggies. If any terrorist wanted to explode bombs he would have done it, not done a shoddy job like this."

Surat has not faced a disruption in its communal harmony since 1992, and there have been no major riots in the last 16 years. Even during the post-Godhra riots that killed around 1,000 people elsewhere in Gujarat, Surat was peaceful.

'I don't know what terrorism means'

Asked if he suspected local Muslims of being involved in the incident, Aziz Merchant, a tailor from Bade Kha Ka Chakla area, said, "I don't think so. Local Muslims know their city is the most peaceful city in Gujarat. Why would they want to disturb the peace? Moreover, what will they gain by such an act? Even if you consider they wanted to do it, why will they place a bomb on a tree? When I saw the images of those unexploded bombs, I felt it looked like a cake."

He agrees that this kind of job can only be done by a local Surti but he has his reservations about Muslims being involved.

"The way these bombs were placed it is sure there is local involvement. The terrorists have targeted the diamond market in particular. Out of 24 bombs, 23 were kept in the city's diamond hub. So there is definitely some big motive, but I don't think Muslims can be involved," added Merchant.

His friend, Haroon Saudagar, intervenes to say, "Some people talk of revenge for the post-Godhra by Muslims. Why will they target Surat, because there were no riots here since 1992?"

"The only possible involvement will be of Muslims affected in the 1992 riots. But I don't think they will take revenge after 16 years," he points out.

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Merchant adds, "After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, many Muslims were killed in the riots. And, I feel Muslims learnt from that incident that there is no point in fighting with each other as business suffers the most."

Imran Patel, a college-going student, says, "This is just a ploy to defame the Muslim community in Gujarat. My friends and I are worried about our future. We were just returning to normalcy after the Gujarat riots of 2002 and now this has happened. We all don't know who is behind it, but we just pray that innocent Muslims won't be rounded up."

Serial blasts rock Ahmedabad

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