Indian Secularism’s Litmus Test: Malegaon & Sadarpur

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Litmus test faced almost continuously by Indian secularism is far from over. From the legal, political and social perspective of Indian Muslims, the test shall continue till they are denied their due share politically and cease being subject to prejudice prevalent against them in the country’s law & order system. The judicial decisions pronounced recently, regarding Malegaon blasts of 2006 and Sadarpur riots (2002) give the impression that the Indian Muslims are finally being ensured a fair judicial trial. But a close analysis highlights the hard reality they have been subject to.

Seven Muslims were released on bail last month as there was lack of evidence for being responsible for Malegaon blasts. It may be recalled, these seven were among the ones picked up by Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (MTS) within a few days after the blast. Despite their being no constructive proof of their being the guilty party, legally they are still viewed as suspects. They have been released on bail, paid on their behalf by an organization. If the bail had not been paid and had certain secular Indians as well as organizations not been pursuing action on their behalf, they may still have remained arrested.

Ironically, it did not take long for MTS to pick the seven individuals along with several others as responsible for Malegaon (2006)-blasts. Equally perplexing is the fact that the legal procedure has taken several years to accept that they were arrested without substantial proof convicting them of having committed the crime. Now, does that imply that they were picked up, without any proof, but only because they happened to be Muslims? Also, if it became clear that there was practically no evidence against them, why were they kept in prisons for several years? Who and/or what should be held responsible for not paying due respect to law and order that is meant to take action against law breakers and not hold innocent persons as the guilty?

Incidentally, whenever blast incidents take place, usually Muslims are picked up almost instantly as suspect “terrorists.” Little importance is given to conducting appropriate investigation and collecting substantial evidence to arrest the actual culprits. In blast cases, unless the criminals are suicide bombers, there remains the strong possibility of there being little or no proof at the affected site. This also limits the prospects of almost immediately rounding up the suspect persons. In other words, the Indian secularism is still affected by a certain bias which instantly prompts concerned authorities to arrest Muslims, even if there is no evidence of their being responsible for the blast incidents.

Against the Malegaon-backdrop, Sadarpur-case presents a different picture from several aspects but one. The aggrieved party in this case too were the Muslims. Last month was witness to sentence given to 31 people for rioting in Sadarpur village, Gujarat in 2002. They have been held guilty for rioting in which 33 Muslims were burnt alive in Sadarpur, one of the many cases during which Muslims were brutally targeted in the Gujarat-carnage. Undeniably, the Sadarpur-sentence is hardly reflective of those guilty of rioting against Muslims during Gujarat-carnage being behind bars. It is an open secret that a significant percentage of rioters and those responsible for provoking the same may never even have any case filed against them. Regarding Sadarpur, it may also be noted that charges were framed in 2009, around seven years after the Gujarat-carnage, against 73 for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and arson. On these grounds, 21 persons were arrested. Besides, nearly a decade has passed since the Gujarat-carnage and also for a judicial decision announcing punishment against 31 held guilty of Sadarpur riots.

When riots take place, particularly if they are of the nature of Gujarat-carnage, with rioters present at the site, those responsible for security of the people and ensuring law and order are naturally expected not to spend too much time in picking up the guilty persons. In fact, if this action had been taken, brutal rioting could have been checked and Muslims may not have fallen victim to the Gujarat-carnage. But as is well known, due to certain political pressure, the concerned officers turned a blind eye to the carnage. In other words, they let the rioters target the Muslims. The hard fact that ten years have been spend in taking action against a few of the guilty is also reflective of a certain bias against Muslims being responsible for this delay.

Without doubt, whether it is the case of Malegaon or Sadarpur, Muslims have fallen victim to a bias entertained against them at certain levels. In Malegaon, it led to their being framed as suspect terrorists and in Sadarpur, it led the rioters target Muslims and remain free for several years till recently when a few of them received sentences. Undeniably, had secular organizations and activists not pursued these cases, neither Malegaon nor Sadarpur may have witnessed what seems to be “fair” and “just” trials. Certainly, the judicial decisions in both cases have led many people heave a sigh of relief that at least the judicial system has not displayed a bias against the Muslims. But this also indicates that till a bias prevails against Muslims at several levels, Indian secularism as well as judicial system shall continue facing a litmus test on whether Muslims have been denied justice or not.

13-49

The UN Report on Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s Death, and the Current Situation

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

The Pakistan People’s Party blames the government of that time for the death of Ms. Bhutto. They claim that the Police could have done much more than they did. Because the PPP knew proper security was not going to be provided that is why they had their own security team.

However things get very hazy when getting into the report as to the whereabouts of the security provided by PPP as well.

Here are some parts of the reports to summaries what the report says and later what is being done after this report has come out.

Parts of Executive Summary of the UN Report:

The Commission was mystified by the efforts of certain high-ranking Pakistani government authorities to obstruct access to military and intelligence sources, as revealed in their public declarations. The extension of the mandate until 31 March enabled the Commission to pursue further this matter and eventually meet with some past and present members of the Pakistani military and intelligence services.

Ms. Bhutto faced threats from a number of sources; these included Al-Qaida, the Taliban, local jihadi groups and potentially from elements in the Pakistani Establishment. Yet the Commission found that the investigation focused on pursuing lower level operatives and placed little to no focus on investigating those further up the hierarchy in the planning, financing and execution of the assassination.

The investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies and other government officials, which impeded an unfettered search for the truth. More significantly, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) conducted parallel investigations, gathering evidence and detaining suspects. Evidence gathered from such parallel investigations was selectively shared with the police.

UN Report Blames the military for all Ms. Bhutto’s dismissals:

Her first government ended after just 20 months, and her second lasted less than three years. Both times, she was dismissed by the sitting president, Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari, respectively, based on allegations of corruption and nepotism. While both men were civilians, each had close ties to the military. Ms Bhutto and the PPP believed that it was the military, or more broadly, the Establishment, that forced her out.

Who does the Report Blame?

Contrary to the police assertion, there was no police-provided box formation around Ms Bhutto as she arrived at the rally, and the Elite Force unit did not execute their duties as specified in the security deployment. Furthermore, the Commission does not believe that the full escort as described by the police was ever present.

According to the report a bullet proof Mercedez-Benz was supposed to be riding right behind Ms. Bhutto’s vehicle which sped off before the gunshots and the bomb blast. Riding in the black Mercedes-Benz car were the driver, PPP official Mr Faratullah Babar in the front passenger seat and, in the rear passenger seat from left to right, two PPP officials Mr Babar Awan and Mr Rehman Malik and General (ret) Tauqir Zia.

UN Report Findings on the Mercedes Benz:

96. The black bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz car was the first to leave the parking area. It is not clear how much distance there was between this vehicle and the rest of Ms Bhutto’s convoy at the moment of the blast. Credible reports range from 100 meters to 250 meters. Some of those in the car said that they were close enough to Ms Bhutto’s vehicle to feel the impact of the blast. Others at the site of the blast have said that the Mercedes-Benz left Liaquat Bagh so quickly that it was nowhere to be seen when the blast occurred. Indeed, the Commission has not seen this vehicle in the many video images of the exit area it reviewed. Despite the acknowledgement of some occupants of the vehicle that they felt the impact of the blast, the Commission finds it incredible that they drove all the way to Zardari House, a drive of about 20 minutes, before they became aware that Ms Bhutto had been injured in the blast.

They should have stopped at a safe distance when they felt the blast so as to check on Ms Bhutto’s condition, the condition of her vehicle and whether the back-up vehicle was required. Indeed, as the back-up vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz car would have been an essential element of Ms Bhutto’s convoy on the return trip even if the occupants of that car had confirmed that Ms Bhutto had been unscathed in the attack.

The nature of the crowd was not determined because it was slowing the cars down considerably. The crowd was riled up to the point where it started to worry the people inside as to why the crowd was this way and the cars were slowing down. There was a dispute on the route that was taken as well. Neither the PPP nor the Police side of this story has been confirmed.

The protective box that was promised was never formed. The police claims they were about to form the box right when the blast took place but there is no evidence of that event taking place in the videos. The video clearly shows that there were not enough Policemen to push back the crowds to form the box.

Also PPP blames the police for not giving permission for an autopsy on Ms. Bhutto’s body. The police say that that was because they wanted consent from the family which is legally not necessary. The PPP claim that situations were created which made the autopsy harder even when the body was handed over to the relatives. How strong an argument this is for PPP is doubtful since President Zardari, the husband himself refused an autopsy.

The crime scene was completely hosed off right after the event took place. The police say it was because the crowds around it were restless and they needed to be put at ease. Once the scene was cleaned off people started to leave. Also the police claim people were rubbing blood from the scene on their faces thinking its Ms. Bhutto’s blood. However later on it was confirmed that only one person was seen doing such a thing. Hosing down a crime scene is not standard practice in Pakistan.

UN Report on the Crime Scene:

127. Video footage immediately following the blast shows shock, fear and confusion among the people at the scene and little police control. The crime scene was not immediately cordoned off. The police did collect some evidence. Officers from intelligence agencies, including the ISI, the IB and MI, were present and also collected evidence, using, as one Rawalpindi police officer noted, better evidence collection equipment than the police. Within one hour and forty minutes of the blast, however, SP Khurram ordered the fire and rescue officials present to wash the crime scene down with fire hoses. He told the Commission that the police had collected all the available evidence by then. Police records show that only 23 pieces of evidence were collected, in a case where one would normally have expected thousands. The evidence included mostly human body parts, two pistols, spent cartridges and Ms Bhutto’s damaged vehicle.

The report also states that many times people were scared to speak openly. If that is the case then the question arises that if people are not speaking openly then how did the commission get any facts and how did the commission differentiate between facts and comments made out of fear?

UN Report on the Press Conference:

156. At about 1700 hours on the day following the assassination the government held a televised press conference, conducted by Brigadier Cheema, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior at which he announced that: a. Ms Bhutto died from a head injury sustained when from the force of the blast she hit her head on the lever of the escape hatch; and, b. Mr Baitullah Mehsud linked with Al-Qaida was responsible, presenting an intercepted telephone conversation between Mr Mehsud and one Mr Maulvi Sahib in which Mr Mehsud was heard congratulating Mr Maulvi on a job well-done

Un Report Says the Joint Investigation Team was not given access to the crime scene in due time:

166. Once at the scene, the investigators could see that it had been hosed down.

Despite the late hour, they spent seven hours there. They followed the water current, including wading through the drainage sewer and collected evidence from the debris.

They were able to recover one bullet casing from the drainage sewer, later established through forensic examination to have been fired from the pistol bearing the bomber’s DNA. The JIT members left the scene around midnight. The Rawalpindi police provided security for them, and the road was cordoned off during the entire time. The next day, the team returned to continue the search. Upon their request, the scene remained cordoned off and the road closed. They eventually recovered other evidence in the course of their crime scene examination, including the partial skull of the suicide bomber from atop one of the buildings near the site.

The UN Report on The Bomber:

168. The scientific analysis of the suicide bomber’s remains by the Scotland Yard team established that he was a teenage male, no more than 16 years old. According to the JIT’s investigations, this young man was named Bilal also known as Saeed from South Waziristan. This was established through the links that the accused persons admitted having had with the bomber and the ISI telephone intercept of Baitullah Mehsud’s conversation with Maulvi Sahib.

According to the report Ms. Bhutto considered (i) Brigadier (ret) Ejaz Shah, Director General of the IB at the time of the assassination, (ii) General (ret) Hamid Gul, a former Director General of the ISI, and (iii) Mr Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Chief Minister of Punjab until 22 November 2007 to be a threat to her life but these people were not questioned in the investigation. Most of key persons who were in the car with Ms.Bhutto at the time of her death refused to speak to JIT when asked. They however, deny being contacted by the police.

The UN Report’s Statemen on The Sottland Yard Report finding:   

a. although not possible to “categorically…exclude” the possibility of a gunshot wound, the available evidence suggested there was no gunshot wound; b. Ms Bhutto died of a severe head injury caused by impact in the area of the escape hatch lip as a result of the blast; and c. the same individual both fired the shots and detonated the explosives.

That report was not trustworthy for the PPP leadership since they took a lot of the information given to them by the police on ‘good faith’.

The UN Report also says that she had threats from Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations. She was also under threat they say from the establishment of the time.

Other hypothesis were her family and people close to her wanting her dead however the report states that there are no basis for these allegations.

Part of Important Findings of the UN Report:

iii. Responsibility for Ms Bhutto’s security on the day of her assassination rested with the federal Government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi District Police. None of these entities took necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced.

vii. The additional security arrangements of the PPP lacked leadership and were inadequate and poorly executed. The Commission recognizes the heroism of individual PPP supporters, many of whom sacrificed them selves to protect Ms Bhutto. However, Ms Bhutto was left vulnerable in a severely damaged vehicle that was unable to transport her to the hospital by the irresponsible and hasty departure of the bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz which, as the back-up vehicle, was an essential part of her convoy.

xviii. The Commission believes that the failures of the police and other officials to react effectively to Ms Bhutto’s assassination were, in most cases, deliberate. In other cases, the failures were driven by uncertainty in the minds of many officials as to the extent of the involvement of intelligence agencies.

After the Report:

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP “Eight officials have been relieved of their duties while the service contract of a retired brigadier has been terminated. “Their names have been placed on the government’s exit control list. The Pakistan People’s Party has already asked the prime minister to take action against all those involved including Musharraf.”

Even though this seems to have satisfied many people and the government seems to be taking action against people who are mentioned in the report all does not seem to add up. There are many little things that are amiss still. It seems that there are key people in the PPP who need to be questioned and investigated on some decisions they made on that day as well.

The report mentions all of those incidents and persons but puts no blame or responsibility on them. The same is with the government. The police is being questioned for not providing boxed protection however, the Back up Mercedes-Benz sped up ahead leaving the vehicle with Ms. Bhutto behind; who is going to questions those people as to why they did that?

It is one of the common known facts that the police did not allow an autopsy after Ms.Bhutto’s death. However they cannot be held responsible when her husband refused to get it done as well. The situation goes against both parties however only one seem to be questioned.

The people of Pakistan get behind anything that gets them closer to the conclusion of any problem. However, this report brings out more problems and questions than solutions.

No one really knows who is saying what any more and who can be trusted. Everything that is presented to the people of Pakistan is wrapped in lies and confusion and in my opinion this is no different.

12-17

Lahore Shakes, with 7 Blasts in One Day

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS

On March 12th 2010 the people of Lahore paid a heavy price for the decisions made by the leaders of the country. It was a day unlike any other. People of Lahore will never forget the events of that day. One bomb blast or even two the city and even the country is used to, but 7 blasts in one day are unheard of.

The first blast took place in R.A Market just before Friday Prayers and just a few moments after that a bigger blast shook the city. Since it is a cantonment area, the market is near sensitive military offices and installations which most likely were the targets of the attacks. There is confusion about the exact time distance between the 2 blasts. The reports were that they were only 15 seconds apart but then eyewitnesses claimed they were close to 2 minutes apart.

The reason given for the 2 blasts back to back was that after the first blast people started to gather to look at the damage and help the wounded. Another blast at this point would ensure much more casualties and it did.

According to reports around 57 people died and close to 120 were injured. However unofficial sources claim that the number of dead is up to 70.

The public was still trying to make sense of what had happened and were still trying to understand their circumstances when in the evening back to back 5, small fire cracker like, explosions took place in moon market at different times in the evening.

There were no casualties there but the scare was enough to put the whole city in extreme fear, anger and frustration. The public of Lahore could not comprehend what had happened and locked themselves in their homes for that evening.

Cantonment SP Investigation Umer Saeed said the bombers apparently came from the Northern Areas or Afghanistan, he also said that the suicide bomber’s fair complexion suggested that he was probably from South Waziristan. He said fingerprints of bombers would be obtained to verify them with NADRA record.

In a connected effort to hunt down people attached to these bombings 40 people from the same areas were arrested for not having ID Cards.

Even though many people did not come out on the streets that night as Lahoris do on a Friday night the roads were still filled with cars and people.

Seeing that many of the people did not stay at home and were out and about the very next day the media claimed that the people of Pakistan are brave and are not letting terrorists win by canceling their plans.

However, the area around R.A bazaar was closed on Saturday and people were in fear and grief along with shock.

All of the leaders of Pakistan condemned these attacks and said that the people of Lahore and Pakistan were brave and were crushing the plans of the enemy by resuming normal life right after the fact.

However when we spoke to people of Lahore there was a different view point. Shahbaz a father of 2 who works in a government office said that he has no choice but to get out because of work. He fears for his life but at the same time he cannot lose his job by staying at home.

Samina who works at a maid 50 minutes away from her house says the same thing. She told us that she works in Model Town, which is the area that was hit with the previous blast. However she has no choice but to leave the house and go there every day. Her children worry about her she says while she is gone but what can she do. Wiping her tears with her shawl she says, “I hate leaving my children behind because I don’t know what catastrophe might befall them that I cannot save them from”, but there are no other options for her.

So, it would be wrong to say that people of Lahore are coming out and ignoring these events because they are resilient. Of course the fact that the people of Pakistan have become immune to guns and bombs most are getting out of their homes because of necessity rather then courage.

Again I repeat that this is not to claim that people are not courageous in these parts of the worlds because to live here every day and to move on from events like these requires a lot of strength which the people of Pakistan have.

However, with that said it is important to keep in mind that this courage comes from the need to survive as well. If getting out in these situations where there are more than one bombs exploding all over town is dangerous, staying in and losing one’s job is even more dangerous for these people.

In short the people of Pakistan are stuck between bomb and striving to fill their stomachs.

12-12

Bomb Blast near FIA Building in Lahore

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

A bomb blast near the FIA building in Model Town Lahore on March 8th 2010 shook the entire city. “Eleven people have been killed and several others injured in the suicide car bombing. The target was the FIA building and the Special Intelligence Agency which also had a building in the vicinity.

Reports state that 14 people were killed in this blast and 61 are injured and out of those 29 are in critical condition. Out of those 9 were policemen and the rest were women and children. Seven of the constables killed in the explosion were identified, their names are: Naveed, Habib Ullah, Arif, Manzar Alam, Abdul Aziz, Muhammad Afzal and Aziz Ahmed. The bodies were later shifted to the city morgue.

The DCO of Lahore and the Inspector General of Punjab, Tariq Azeem both confirmed that an explosive laden vehicle rammed into the Investigation Agency’s building.

Around 600 kilograms of explosives were used in this attack. The police said that the massive explosion has managed to create an 8 foot deep crater. The bomb even killed a woman who lived 300 meters away from where the bomb originally exploded. Many buildings, including houses, were damaged and a considerable number of cars were also damaged and destroyed because of the blast. Security has been placed on high alert across the entire city.

Witnesses say that they saw two people step out of the van which means the suicide bomber had accomplices.However, a case under Sections 302 and 324 of the PPC, 7 of ATA and 3/4 of Explosives Act was registered against the unknown suicide bomber and “his two accomplices” on the complaint of an assistant director of the SIA.

Witnesses have told the media that the FIA building completely collapse people were buried under it. Khusro Pervez, the top administration official in Lahore said on Monday, “I fear the death toll may rise. We believe there are still people trapped under the rubble.”

This statement came out to be true since on Monday the death toll was 11 and by the next day I had risen to 14; if there are anymore bodies under the ruble that is still to be discovered.

“The blast also severely damaged a nearby religious school and houses. All schools have been closed in the area in order to avoid further losses or to prevent the possibility of another attack,” said Mr. Parvez Rathore who is Lahore City Police Chief.

Police said 30 to 50 people were in the building, used by police and intelligence agents, at the time of attack.

Interior Minister Mr. Rahman Malik stated while talking to the media that people who are carrying out these acts are not Muslim and these people are agents from outside who are committed these crimes. He also added that Muslims cannot kill other innocent Muslims so brutally. Mr. Malik also added that in his opinion the target was the Special Investigation Agency and not the FIA building.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan took responsibility for these acts soon after the fact, “We claim responsibility for the Lahore blast. We will continue such attacks in future,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Azam Tariq told AFP reporters in telephone calls from an undisclosed location.

“The attack was to avenge (US) drone attacks and (Pakistani) military operations in the tribal areas. We will carry on such attacks as long as drone strikes and operations continue.”

The concern by the public that has been raised in the past has become a more prominent voice in the wake of Monday’s attack. This concern is that official government and police institutions in the middle of a residential area are a bad idea.

The public of Lahore are too familiar with this drill, where there is a police building or some kind of army, police or intelligence building suicide bombers are sure to follow. As much as this situation saddens the public just as much they hope to be far away form it. The residents of Model Town claim that they had brought this issue to the notice of the government because they knew this was a disaster waiting to happen-which it actually was.

We are left to wonder whether this is going to start a string of attacks as the attackers claimed that this was one of the many attacks that they plan on carrying out against the government. If this is a first of many the question now is what is the government going to do to protect the public now? As we speak the drone attacks in the northern area keep killing more people. It is obvious that there is no negotiating or stopping of the war against terror and war against Al-Qaida.

This question of how the public of Pakistan should be protected is on the minds of every body who is living and beathing in this country even if they didn’t feel the physical shock this attack. Even though they haven’t felt this one many people in Pakistan have heard other bomb blast from close up, many have lost someone they loved or knew in these attacks, many of them are not with us today to ask the same question we are asking-how will our leaders protect us now.

12-11

Delhi Rocked By Multiple Blasts

September 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

 

2008-09-14T064742Z_01_DEL211_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA-ATTACK

The relative of a bomb blast victim mourns in New Delhi September 14, 2008. Police officers trawled slums and criminal hideouts in India’s capital on Sunday rounding up  suspects, after serial bombings in the city a day earlier killed at least 20 people and wounded nearly 100.    

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI: Multiple blasts rocked Delhi Saturday evening within 45 minutes leaving at least 20 dead and more than 90 injured (September 13). The first explosion occurred at Gaffar Market in Karol Bagh, North Delhi. This blast took place in a CNG (compressed natural gas) auto-rickshaw and was followed by a blast in the gas-cylinder kept on a scooter right behind it. The impact of the blast was such that the auto rickshaw (three-wheeler) was tossed up in the air by at least 12 feet and got entangled in the overhead electrical wires, according to eyewitnesses. Within minutes, blasts on Barakhambha road went off near Metro Station in Connaught Place (CP), Central Delhi. These were followed by twin blasts in Greater Kailash (GK)’s M-Block market (South Delhi), which was immediately shut down. While one bomb in GK was said to be placed in a dustbin, the other in a scooter.

A high alert was sounded in Delhi, neighboring areas and all major cities of the country. “An alert has been sounded in the wake of the series of blasts in Delhi caused by bombs,” a Delhi police spokesman said.

At least ten shops were damaged in GK. In Karol Bagh, parked cars and motorbikes were badly damaged. The worst affected was Karol Bagh with bloodstains on roadsides, abandoned shoes together with personal belongings and badly damaged cars as well as mangled motorbikes telling the gruesome details.

Ambulances were immediately rushed to affected areas and injured shifted to nearby hospitals.Bomb disposal squads were rushed to all affected sites, which were cordoned off and the traffic diverted. Security was beefed up at sensitive points, including Metro and railway stations with metal detectors being placed at major market areas.

Though a terrorist group – called Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for bomb blasts, Delhi police refrained from confirming this. “The Indian Mujahideen has claimed something but we are not very sure about it,” Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Karnail Singh said. “Whether it is Indian Mujahideen or anyone else, we want to arrest those behind it,” he said. Asserting that there was “no lapse in security,” Singh said: “We had no intelligence about the blasts.”

“A special team has been formed to probe the blasts,” Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal said.

The police claimed to have defused four live bombs, one near India Gate, another near Regal cinema and two at central park in CP.

Minutes ahead of serial blasts, an e-mail was sent to media organiztions stating: “Indian Mujahideen strikes back once more. Within 5 minutes from now… This time with the Message of Death, dreadfully terrorizing you for your sins.” The message from email id, al_arbi_delhi@yahoo.com, also said: “Do whatever you want and stop us if you can.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly condemned the serial blasts and expressed grief over loss of lives. He appealed to the people to remain calm. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi described blasts as “dastardly” and an act of “cowardice”. Those behind the blasts will not spared and they have place in civilized society, she said.

President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Home Minister Shivraj Patil also condemned the blasts and appealed to the people not to panic. Condemning the blasts, Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit said: “We must keep calm and peace at this moment of hour otherwise those behind this sinister attack will get the impression that they have succeeded in their aim.”

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi claimed that he had alerted the Prime Minister more than a week ago about a possible terror strike in Delhi. Condemning the blasts, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Modi blamed the government for not having heeded the “warning.”

Stating that “no words can suffice condemnation” of the blasts, former primer minister, senior BJP leader, Atal Behari Vajpayee said: “The explosions that rocked the city are part of the conspiracy to spread terror and unrest in the country which reflects frustration of the perpetrators of the dastardly act.”

A day after serial blasts, the toll of which increased to 21, uneasy calm prevailed in Delhi. Home Minister Patil chaired a high-level meeting to assess the security situation. National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekar, Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, Director Intelligence P.C. Haldar and Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal, among others, attended the 90-minute meeting.

“The meeting was held to review Saturday’s incidents on basis of whatever information is available,” Gupta said. Without elaborating on specific measures that may have delved on at the meeting, Gupta said: “We have discussed various measures that may be needed not only in Delhi but other major cities… After each incident you gain experience.” The government will work on measures needed in a time-bound manner and try to develop some do’s and dont’s as precautionary steps on which the ministry would advise all states, Gupta said. The union home ministry is taking all measures to “fill up any kind of gap, strengthening the machinery, the system and processes,” he said. “All matters would be put at the highest level, wherever necessary, with respect to any particular decision,” Gupta said.

Refraining from giving any direct reply on who could be responsible for serial blasts in several cities within a short span of time, Gupta said at this point of time focus should be on the investigations going on. “Neither you (media) or anybody should say or do anything which creates unnecessary apprehensions or whips up any kind of panic,” he said.

While addressing another gathering, Patil said that the government was taking all possible measures to check terrorist incidents. “The terrorists are trying to spread fear and terror among people through their evil designs. We will not allow them to succeed in it,” he said. “A thorough probe will be conducted and those guilty will be punished according to the law,” he said.

It is noteworthy that authorities are exercising caution in not blaming any particular religious or organization for the Delhi blasts. Earlier in the week (September 10), a delegation led by Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Maulauna Ahmed Bukhari met Prime Minister Singh questioning “double standards” exercised by Indian administration against terrorism, with Muslims being the main victims.

They demanded setting up of a judicial commission to probe into arrest of many Muslims as suspected terrorists, despite their being no substantial evidence against them. The judicial commission, they suggested, should have a proper representation of minorities to look into cases of those arrested from minority community in various terrorism-related cases, prior to judicial proceedings.

Besides, they blamed right-winged extremist groups, linked with saffron brigade- the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal for playing a major role in organizing terrorist attacks in India. The Muslim delegation pressed on the Prime Minister the need for a high level inquiry into role of VHP and Bajrang Dal in recent blasts in the country.

Bukhari also drew Singh’s attention to only either “poor” or rising young, Muslims being dubbed as terrorists. “While the poor cannot afford to approach courts, for the educated youth an arrest as a terrorist spells end of his career and misfortune for his whole family,” Bukhari told this correspondent. “We also urged the Prime Minister to look into arrests of Muslims as alleged terrorists, who have been in jail for more than two years, without any charges having been proved against them,” Bukhari said.

Blaming administration for following double standards, Bukhari said: “Muslims are being harassed and arrested in the name of being masterminds in terror acts that occur in the country or for having relations with a banned organization without any evidence on one hand without any proof. On the other, no action is taken against activities of VHP and Bajrang Dal.”

Bukhari met the Prime Minister in continuation of a drive he has begun recently questioning indiscriminate arrest of Muslim youths as suspected terrorists despite there being no evidence to substantiate these charges. A few days ago, Bukhari sent a one-page letter to prominent Muslim organizations and institutions suggesting a nation-wide all-party meeting to form a consensus and strategy on the steps that should be taken when innocent Muslims are arrested in the name of war against terrorism.

Among those who have supported Bukhari’s proposal are rector of Darul Uloom Deoband Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, rector of Madrasa Mazahirul Uloom (wakf) Maulana Mohammad Saidi, and president of Tanzeem Ulama-e-Hind Maulana Ahmad Khizr. Maulana Arshad Madani and Maulana Mehmood Madani (a legislator) linked with Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) have also responded positively to the proposal. It is to be pursued actively after the month of Ramadan, sources said.

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