AMARESH MISRA writes from Bombay: The Ahmedabad blasts mark a turning point in Indian political life. Till now, whenever and wherever a blast occurred, the blame was put squarely on Muslim terrorist organizations; there was unanimity amongst all major Indian political parties, whether in power or sitting in the opposition, over the central role played by Muslim extremist outfits in planning and executing lethal bomb blasts.
The situation was such that after every blast no matter if they happened to occur in Muslim areas, Muslim youths in their hundreds were picked up by the various State Police departments of the Indian Union.
After the 11th July 2006 Bombay blasts, hundreds of Muslims youths, most of them found innocent by the Mumbai Police later, were not only arrested without warrants but tortured as well. Similar was the case after terrorist attacks in Uttar Pradesh, the Malegaon and the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blasts.
After each blast some obscure, new terrorist organization, which was never heard of before, and which was usually never heard of after as well, popped up to claim “responsibility” for the violence. After the recent Ahmedabad blasts, too, the name of never heard of before “Indian Mujahideen” group popped up; the pattern was sickeningly similar and every secular indeed Indian feared for Muslim youths in Gujarat.
But suddenly, things started changing—the familiar pattern was disturbed; the UPA Government at the Centre appeared reluctant to toe the Gujarat BJP’s Government line about the involvement of a Muslim organization executing the Ahmedabad blasts. Bombs started appearing in Surat and elsewhere in Gujarat—the police was conveniently informed about them before they could explode.
Then came the bombshell: BJP—the party which had always been the most strident about blaming “Islamic terrorism” for the blasts, the party which was in forefront of open Muslim persecution, the party which always demanded the most strict measures against not only terrorist organizations but often Muslims as a community, the party which advocated revoking draconian black acts like TADA and POTA, which suspended civil liberties and put Muslims in a dock—that party went on record to state that the Congress-UPA Government at the Centre planned and executed and blasts in order to divert attention from the “cash for votes” scandal following the confidence vote in the Indian Parliament over the Indo-US nuclear deal.
The allegation is shocking all the more since the BJP is a known Muslim baiter—in the past, it has not only refused to listen to reason that how could a new Muslim organization pop up every time after each blast, but it has also been consistent in standing firm with Indian security agencies, however absurd their version might be on the arrest and torture of Muslim youths.
In fact, in several cases, especially the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, the terrorist attack on the Red Fort, and the 11th July 2006 Bombay blasts, the BJP appeared to have advance knowledge of the events.
Then in other cases, most famously in the Nanded blasts at Bajrang Dal Headquarters, bomb attacks in Vashi and Thane, Hindu terrorist outfits were found by the police to have been involved in executing blasts. Most of these organizations were affiliated to the BJP-RSS combine.
The attack on RSS Headquarters in Nagpur turned out to be a hoax, a set-up where attacking terrorists, officially shot down by the Nagpur Police in an encounter, were found to be victims of “encounter deaths”, about which even the Nagpur police was clueless. In Tamil Nadu, members of the Hindu Munaani, affiliated to the RSS have been charge-sheeted officially by the Tamil Nadu Police for planning the terrorist attack on RSS’s Madras headquarters.
Thus, accusations that blamed the BJP for organizing both the Bangalore and the Ahmedabad blasts for political mileage after the formation of the Mayawati-Left alliance threatened their 2009 electoral fortunes, carried credibility.
In the past the BJP brushed these allegations off by blaming secular and “pro-Muslim” forces of planting “conspiracy theories”. Now in the post-Ahmedabad blast phase, the BJP itself is constructing a conspiracy theory, blaming the Congress Government for facilitating the attack! Has anyone ever heard of anything like this before?
For the first time in recent Indian history, the glare of terrorism, has shifted from Muslims; by accusing each other, both the Congress and the BJP are in a way promoting conspiracy theories; both these parties are also going out of their way to say that the attacks happened as part of a plan to shift focus away from a political objective.
Now, Left and other secular forces have been saying time and time again that a deeper enquiry has to be conducted into the nature and pattern of Indian bomb blasts; that it is insufficient to blame Muslim extremist organizations; that the angle whether Hindu fundamentalist organizations or rogue and communal elements in various State and Central agencies might be involved in the blasts, should also be probed: subtle hints have been given out about the hand of foreign agencies as well; in a country which has seen the assassinations of two Prime Ministers in which the hand of foreign agencies is still suspected; where one of those Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi) went on record blaming CIA for conducting covert-subversive activities in India; in that country the possibility that a conspiracy exists first, to carry out bomb blasts and terrorist attacks by some forces or an alliance of forces—and then make Muslims a scapegoat—at the top—both within and outside India—cannot be discounted.
But in the past, the Left and secular forces making these points have been laughed at; now, after the BJP accusations, these very forces stand vindicated.
The issue is not whether the BJP charge is true or false; the issue is that a mainstream political party, a known anti-Muslim force is blaming not Muslims but the Government of India; this is the time when all persecuted Muslims and secular elements ought to stand up and demand justice for injustices committed in the past; the fracas over the Ahmedabad blasts between two main Indian political parties reveal that there indeed is a big conspiracy—involving the BJP, Congress and even some elements of the Samajwadi Party at various levels—often in collusion but opposition as well—behind bomb blasts that keep happening in India.
If secular elements miss this moment, in which there seems to be a momentary collapse of the subtle understanding between the BJP and the Congress over the Muslim persecution issue, then another similar opportunity might not come by for some time.
(Amaresh Misra is the author of Author of Mangal Pandey: The true story of an Indian revolutionary (Rupa); Lucknow: Fire of grace (HarperCollins), and more recently War of Civilizations: India, South Asia, Europe and the World)