Terror Strikes Varanasi: Plus ca change ...
"Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together"
- American author Mark Twain.
uesday's terror attacks in Varanasi
(Benaras), one of Hinduism's holiest cities has happened just a week ahead of the Indian Spring festival of Holi
. It was well-timed
) timed to explode during the peak hour when pilgrims usually throng the Sankat Mochan
temple with Tuesday being a particularly auspicious day for the Hindu deity Hanuman
The attack has come just two days after President Bush's trip to India and Pakistan. Coincidentally, President Clinton's visit to India in 2000 was precluded by the gruesome
murder of 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora in
Jammu & Kashmir. Since then there have been several attacks targetting Indian civilians starting from the December 2001 Parliament attack
, the October 2002 Akshardham temple attack
, the August 2003 Mumbai blasts
, the October 2005 Ayodhya temple attack
, October 2005 suicide bombing in Hyderabad Police Commissioner's Office
, the October 2005 Delhi market attacks
and the December 2005 IISc Bangalore attack
One can't help observe the coincidence with President Bush's visit to Pakistan turning out to be a rather disappointing
one for Gen. Musharraf and the country's elites
. The United States's refusal
to mediate on the Kashmir issue and the de-hyphenation
of its relations with India and Pakistan has clearly rattled
them. The motive to order the attack from one their Dirty Tricks Departments
is clearly to cause communal violence and tarnish India's image abroad.
This time again, Pakistan-based global
terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba
's name has appeared
- they are well-present in India even outside Jammu & Kashmir with a history
against civilians. Per this
report dated Jan. 18th, 2006, a Lashkar
captive managed to escape near Varanasi. This report
from The Calcutta Telegraph
dated Feb. 2nd, 2006, reveals the arrest of Lashkar
operatives in Calcutta, Jamshedpur and Varanasi
. Another report
again from The Telegraph
shows one of the arrested Tariq Akhtar's role as a terrorist recruiter in Varanasi after having undergone training in Pakistan and Bangladesh with contacts in several Middle Eastern countries. This is shockingly similar
to a Jaish-e-Mohammed
operative Mohammed Ibrahim arrested in Hyderabad. Akhtar's arrest goes on to show a familiar pattern:
- Indian Muslim from a middle-class background
- A few years of job stint in a Middle Eastern country
- Trained in Pakistan or Bangladesh or both
Even after knowing the source of terror as before
, there is no point in escalating tensions along the Pakistan border accusing them of sending terrorists when they will conveniently deny any involvement. This will play nicely into the hands of the likes of Michael Krepon
who has been screaming
about Kashmir becoming a nuclear flash point. In any case, the problem of has to be attended in our own backyard by going after the home-grown terrorists.
Worse, following the fatal
anti-American protests, specific intelligence sent by the Central Ministry of Home Affairs about this attack has been ignored
by the Uttar Pradesh State Police. In any country taking terrorist threat seriously, heads should roll in the Uttar Pradesh security services after such blatant intelligence errors (by negligence or otherwise). Alas, we have seen such blunders gone unnoticed
before - so why bother this time.
Obviously such people cannot thrive without support from their local communities. Uttar Pradesh is a hotbed for criminals masquerading
as politicians, hate-mongers
as Ministers of State and tons of illiterate people with skewed
priorities in life. It is also the home of the notorious Islamist sect Darul Uloom Deoband
. We think that Indian Muslim organizations should take this opportunity to strongly condemn such violence and carry out protest marches against the same. If they can protest against United States 'imperialist' policies in faraway Afghanistan and Iraq, they sure can protest against the killing of fellow citizens in their holy site of worship. This will not only remove the needless finger-pointing and suspicions from common folks but also sends out a strong message to the world at large and particularly to terrorist groups wanting to recruit amongst them.
At this point, the Indian Government should at the minimum
- Massively deploy security and riot-control forces in traditional communal flash points viz Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai and Hyderabad
- Reprimand the negligent state police authorities and create a National Counter Terrorism Agency for some direct action
- Insist that Muslim organizations denounce such attacks and co-operate with law enforcement agencies
- Not amass troops along the Pakistani border like before
- Start supporting freedom fighters here and elsewhere in the enemy territory since we have already been accused of doing so
Well, coming back to the real world, we are not expecting much
from the clueless
GoI. After all, life goes on for average Indian citizen and we've been there and done that several times already. When it comes to handling terrorism in India, plus ça change, plus c' est la même chose.
Related post: Anatomy of a Terror Attack.