All entries for Monday 07 November 2005

November 07, 2005

Times have been Tough for India

Indian Express, 02.11.2005

Instead of showering abundant pleasures and prosperity on their faithful devotees ahead of Diwali and Eid ul-Fitr, the Gods of India sprinkled misery aplenty on the land. Terror and nature came together to weave deadly dreams for its people.

Times have been tough for India recently, with the earthquake in Jammu & Kashmir, large parts of the country flooded due to excessive rains and its Foreign Minister having earned a dubious place on the UN report on the Iraqi oil-for-food scam. The worse, however, was yet to come.

On Saturday, three serial bomb blasts capital Delhi killed at least 55 people (at the time of writing) and injured nearly 200, with more casualties feared. While a train derailment in Andhra Pradesh took the lives of 150 people. In all, it was a forgettable weekend for a nation gearing up for celebrations in the midst of the festive season.

The bomb blasts were coordinated with utmost accuracy. Within minutes of the first blast at 1740 IST in the bustling Pahargunj marketplace, others were detonated in the Sarojini Nagar Market, followed by another in Govindpuri.

It was the timely reactions of passengers on a bus that prevented further casualties, as they threw out a time bomb before it exploded from the moving vehicle. The bomb disposal squads defused another explosive at a bank in Chandini Chowk, another busy commercial area.

The targets were well selected. Ahead of major festivities, the markets were crowded and the Pahargunj market is frequented by large number of foreigners. Police Commissioner K K Paul said that the explosives were placed in a moving vehicle, possibly a motorcycle or a rickshaw.

The response from the state has been unpredictably robust. A red alert was sounded in Delhi, and all major cities had their borders sealed off. By evening, 10 arrests were already made from the railway station.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cut short his trip to the restive northeast and returned to Delhi. In a televised address, he declared, "These are dastardly acts of terrorism. We are resolute in our commitment to fighting terrorism in all forms."

The bogeyman? Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba.

According to some reports, the resignation of Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed did not go down well with some of his party cadres, who allegedly have "close links" with terrorist groups such as LeT, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jammat-e-Islami.

Foreign governments, from the United States to South Africa to Israel and the European Union expressed their deep remorse for these attacks. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "On behalf of the British government, I would like to offer the people of India my support and deepest sympathy." India and the United Kingdom have both recently witnessed the sharp canines of terror.

Quick to distant itself from the attack, Pakistan's foreign ministry criticised it as a "criminal act", adding, "Pakistan strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in Delhi, which have resulted in the loss of a number of innocent lives".

Some commentators have argued that by these attacks an attempt to dent the on going talks between India and Pakistan has been made. They also point towards the recent attacks in the Kashmir valley despite both sides co-operating in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. Others, however, would insist that the Musharraf government is simply not doing enough on its part to curb such menace originating within its borders.

"India will win the battle against terrorism," declared the Prime Minister. The victims of these attacks have no religion, no creed, and no political stance. At this testing hour, the people of India must celebrate Diwali and Eid with as much enthusiasm and elation as they can muster- to show that their way of life will not be bullied into a compromise. India must not succumb to terror.


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