Saturday, September 13, 2008

Delhi Blasts - some disjointed thoughts

(Picture courtesy: Reuters)
Pardon this disjointed post.
Five serial blasts in the heart of the national capital, New Delhi, which is also my second home now, killed 18 people. One blast occured on Barakhamba Road where my office is located.

It could well have been me.
The location of blasts is what made me write this post.
There was a time when terrorists used to strike at India's security infrastructure - its army vehicles moving in single file in the Kashmir Valley or at its police camps. But the Parliament attack had changed all that. The daring attack which exposed vulnerabilities of our security system posed a chilling question.

Are we ready to intercept and halt such strikes or will we be caught off guard every single time a fringe amateur group makes up its mind to seek its 15 minutes of fame, helped undoubtedly by cross border peddlers of terror? The answer is quite clear. This is a chronology of terror strikes in India in last five years - (http://www.reuters.co.in/)

March 13, 2003 - A bomb attack on a commuter train in Mumbai kills 11 people.
Aug. 25, 2003 - Two car bombs kill about 60 in Mumbai.
Aug. 15, 2004 - A bomb explodes in the northeastern state of Assam, killing 16 people, mostly schoolchildren, and wounding dozens.
Oct. 29, 2005 - Sixty-six people are killed when three blasts rip through markets in New Delhi.
March 7, 2006 - At least 15 people are killed and 60 wounded in three blasts in the northerly Hindu pilgrimage city of Varanasi.
July 11, 2006 - More than 180 people are killed in seven bomb explosions at railway stations and on trains in Mumbai that are blamed on Islamist militants.
Sept. 8, 2006 - At least 32 people are killed in a series of explosions, including one near a mosque, in Malegaon town, 260 km (160 miles) northeast of Mumbai.
Feb. 19, 2007 - Two bombs explode aboard a train heading from India to Pakistan; at least 66 passengers, most of them Pakistanis, burn to death.
May 18, 2007 - A bomb explodes during Friday prayers at a historic mosque in the southern city of Hyderabad, killing 11 worshippers. Police later shoot dead five people in clashes with hundreds of enraged Muslims who protest against the attack.
Aug. 25, 2007 - Three coordinated explosions at an amusement park and a street stall in Hyderabad kill at least 40 people.
May 13, 2008 - Seven bombs rip through the crowded streets of the western city of Jaipur, killing at least 63 people in markets and outside Hindu temples.
July 25 - Eight small bombs hit the IT city of Bangalore, killing at least one woman and wounding at least 15.
July 26 - At least 16 small bombs explode in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, killing 45 people and wounding 161. A little-known group called the "Indian Mujahideen" claims responsibility for the attack and the May 13 attack in Jaipur.
Sept 13 - At least five bombs explode in crowded markets and streets in the heart of New Delhi, killing at least 18 people and injuring scores more. The Indian Mujahideen again claim responsibility.

In 2008 alone 127 people have died of terror strikes.

But what chills me to my bones is the change in strategy of the terrorists. Since 630 pm I have been flooded with calls from friends and family asking me just one question - "Are you all right? It's a weekend so we were worried that you might be out shopping at any of the markets or hanging out with friends..."

The blasts mostly took place in Delhi's posh and popular markets and at a park where youngsters hang out in the evening. Police found and defused a bomb near a children's park at the India Gate. Another was found inside a building housing a cinema hall. On all television channels distraught relatives wailed "he went out for an ice cream..." "he said he would pick up a pair of trouser..." "he was out with friends at his favourite restaurant..." It's a Saturday and people are busy unwinding like anywhere in the world. They were out there to make up for the fun they miss out on on weekdays.

So is this going to be the norm then? Being hit when we are least prepared and at our relaxed best? In a way this tells me that it's an open war not just against our country but particularly against our lifestyle.

Our markets, our economy, our leisure, our laid back attitude as compared to a stark fanaticism that ravishes all goodness, despises and denounces anything that gives pleasure to the senses. In short whatever is sinful. This is the email address of the group that claimed responsibility for the attacks. al_arbi_delhi@yahoo.com - a group that calls itself Indian Mujahideen.

Their message: "the Message of Death" - "In the name of Allah, Indian Mujahideen strikes back once more. ... Do whatever you can. Stop us if you can."

Minutes after the blasts, the Leader of Opposition blames the government for failing to provide security to its teeming millions. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi gloated that it was he who kept pushing for the POTA. The Congress spokesperson responded in kind saying these allegations were quite on expected lines.

The links to the disaster hangs on the testimony of a 12-year-old balloon seller who may have seen the perpetrators. The fate of a billion hangs on the bickering of a government which will make some noise for a while, let the issue die its death, and be roused again at election time when undoubtedly the BJP will raise it from its slumber.
A mother who has lost a 25-year-old son will give 13 TV and newspaper interviews, collect her 2 lakh compensation package and live the rest of her years in blankness.
I might as well say - lights out, pack up.

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