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'Terrorists have sent a message that the claim of security is hollow'
Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad
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July 28, 2008 11:23 IST
Last Updated: July 28, 2008 14:05 IST

"We expected it earlier when other cities like Hyderabad and Jaipur were hit by terrorists," says poet Chinu Modi about the Ahmedabad [Images] blasts.

The surprise element was missing when Ahmedabad was rocked by 17 bomb explosions because at the back of people's mind many knew that the Gujarat riots of 2002 may lead to such a violent reaction.

Yet, the blasts of July 26 carry something more than the element of surprise. The act is shocking and incomprehensible because of the mastery of the strategic planning, the perfection of the execution and the bloody impact in terms of the political message it has left behind.

Since the blasts, Ahmedabadis are debating three issues:

1. Experts and common people are stumped to see the selection of the locations for planting the bombs.

2. The blasts were executed when a 'red alert' was declared in Ahmedabad after the blasts in Bangalore.

3. The extent of the involvement of local people and the secrecy maintained by the perpetrators of the act has shocked the residents of the city, which is still known as an 'overgrown village.'

"The blasts are part of the pan-Indian phenomenon and it is also aimed at the Bharatiya Janata Party government," believes Ghanshyam Shah, a former professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi [Images], and an authority on communal riots in Gujarat.

He argues that these blasts may not be exclusively connected to the riots of 2002 when more than 1,000 Muslims died in widespread communal riots after the Sabarmati Express was set on fire burning 59 Hindu passengers at the Godhra railway station.

Professor Shah says there was a surprise when after the violence of the majority, the minority community did not show their anger "in natural process."

He attributes it to the fact that the Muslims of Gujarat are diffident. "I see more and more diffidence in them. Muslims in Gujarat have realised that there is no solution of the issue (communal politics)."

However, he is not denying the involvement of Gujarati Muslims in the serial blasts. "The large terrorist group must have taken the support of local people. But I don't see the widespread support of Gujarati Muslims to such violence at all," he says.

To further support his argument that Gujarati Muslims by and large do not support the blasts to avenge the riots of 2002, he says, "In 1992, Surat witnessed communal riots (some Muslims were then burnt alive). Soon after, the plague spread in the city. At that time, Surti Muslims in the city were heard saying, 'Khuda e sajha kari' (God has punished them). But after the 2002 riots, I see an unusually high level of diffidence in them and we don't hear such remarks."

Professor Shah argues that when the Muslim community lives in isolation and in ghettos, it is easier for outsiders to get a handful of people to support their activity.

One of the surprises of Saturday's blasts was that except one blast in Sarkhej, all the blasts were executed in East Ahmedabad, which includes the highly communally sensitive walled city area. The accuracy of the planning suggests that a person with a complete grip on the social-political mindset of the city and its communal geography must be behind the blasts.

No one in this shaken city doubts that these blasts were planned by someone who has a thorough knowledge of the past 25 years history of communally sensitive areas and the Sangh Parivar's role in it.

The terrorists have targeted the constituencies of four veteran leaders belonging to the saffron brigade. Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images], Home Minister Amit Shah, Ashok Bhatt, one of the oldest faces of the communal friction in the city, and Dr Pravin Togadia, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader.

Four blasts occurred in Modi's constituency -- Maninagar. Sarkhej is in Shah's constituency while the Dhanvantri hospital in Bapunagar has been run by Dr Togadia for many decades. The blast in Raipur was right at the spot where Bhatt has held daily meetings with his supporters for the last 40 years.

"The planners knew where the victims would go for emergency treatment and they hit those hospitals. L G hospital was targeted because victims from the Maninagar blasts would obviously go there because it is close by. They knew the social geography very well," says Achyut Yagnik, the Ahmedabad-based socio-political thinker.

Yagnik is writing a book on Ahmedabad -- which will complete 600 years in 2011 -- along with fellow writer Suchitra Sheth. He points out that blasts were carried out in BJP-dominated areas of the working class and not in posh or middle class areas.

Secondly, the bombs were planted in places where Dalit and Muslims live side by side. Those well-versed with the communal history of Ahmedabad know how the Dalits and Muslims have been at loggerheads in these areas.

Bapunagar, Raipur, Sarangpur are areas that have seen communal tension in 1985, 1990-1992 and also during the 2002 riots.

"There is no doubt that Hindu-Muslim neighbourhoods have been targeted in these serial blasts," says Yagnik.

In Ahmedabad, the political movement to capture Hindu and Muslim minds is carried on by political parties inside these areas where Dalits and Muslims co-exist side by side. It is not difficult to decipher why these areas and hospitals have been hit by the terrorists.

"The terrorists have served twin goals. By hitting BJP-dominated areas, they have sent the message to the chief minister that his claim of security is hollow. In spite of a red alert in the city, they have shown their capacity to strike at places they want. Second, by hitting hospitals in a cruel and dastardly manner they have caused the maximum damage."

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