On 15 April 2013 an explosion greeted the finish line of the Marathon race at Boston, a prestigious annual feature, wherein runners from about 90 countries were participating. Three persons including an eight year old boy were killed and nearly 183 injured. The terror unleashed through IED placed in pressure cooker yet again presented the sinister face of terrorism, which does not consider anything somber, leave alone a sporting event.
The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama lost no time in addressing his nation, beamed all over the country and the world. He assuaged and convinced his countrymen that the perpetrators would soon be identified, tracked and liquidated. The American flag, on his orders, were put to half-staff on all federal buildings till 20 April as "a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence”.
Offering full support in the investigations into the attack, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was prompt enough in issuing a statement to extend his sympathy and sorrow to the American people. He wrote: “The people of India join me in condemning the attack in the strongest terms. We stand in solidarity and sympathy with the bereaved families, the injured and the people of the United States.”
Only a few hours later, terror visited Bengaluru in Manmohan Singh’s country, India. A bomb exploded at 10.30 am near the BJP Karanataka office. Sixteen people including 8 policemen were injured. Several vehicles parked in the vicinity were destroyed. Speculations were rife. Politics began to manipulate terror.
A former union minister was first to respond with a tweet that the blast will benefit BJP in the forthcoming Karnataka elections. Indian television channels were on an overdrive, probably based on some government advisory, that the blast was of ‘low-intensity’ and could have been caused by a cooking cylinder. The canard of ‘low-intensity blast’ was being feverously propagated even as visuals of destroyed vehicles and bytes of witnesses, who claimed to have heard the deafening explosion more than four kilometers away.
As usual, on television channels there were animated debates. Politicians across the spectrum traded accusations. The hackneyed refrain was that “let us not jump to conclusions”, as if Bengaluru had many precedence with regard to various ideological terror attacks.
The underlying propensity was therefore the desperate search for ‘Hindu terror’. Sadly, and in total disregard to professionalism, some retired DGPs displayed their political side by harping on the same “let us not jump to conclusions” theme even as they lambasted the politicians of politicizing terror. They ignored the fact that Bengaluru has emerged as one of the major hubs of jihadi terrorism.
Beginning with the attack at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in December 2005, they ignored the fact that the city has been targeted in 2008, 2010, and that fateful day 17 April 2013 happened to be the anniversary of the attack in Chinnaswamy Stadium 2010. They chose to ignore a recent pan-Indian phenomenon wherein jihadi terror spread from Rakhine state in Myanmar to Bangladesh, to Kokrajhar in Assam, having its reverberations serially in Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and finally to Bengaluru causing massive exodus of Indian citizens from India’s Northeast.
Finally, they appeared blind to the fact that there were any number of intelligence warnings from Central Intelligence Agencies about the near-certain policy of Bengaluru being targeted during the period.
The blast in Bengaluru, therefore, was of course politicized in criminal consideration of ‘vote-bank politics’. The media too was equally culpable in questioning the timing of the blast in the backdrop of the forthcoming elections in Karnataka. In India, every year there are elections somewhere or the other, and if this be our attitude to terror then nothing can prevent us from descending into anarchy.
Unfortunately, the prime minister, Mr Manmohan Singh also displayed his ugly political side. He did not spare a word of sympathy for the victims of the blast just as he had done for the victims in Boston. He was probably still weighing political gains and loss.
Contrast this to the US wherein the security apparatus in keeping with Obama’s promise to the nation identified and hunted the perpetrators, the Zokhar Tsarnev (19) and Tamerlan Tsarnev (26), both brothers. The larger phenomenal of global jihad that made terrorists out of the brothers has been unraveled. They had roots in Dagestan, near Chechnya, known for its vicious Islamic insurgency that spilled over from Chechnya. The jihadi indoctrination of the brothers continued even after they have migrated to the US through various means, predominantly cyber networks.
The near simultaneity of the Boston and Bengaluru blasts, and the similarity in the modus-operandi cannot be dismissed as mere coincidence given the global nature of the jihadi network.
Now, also compare the reaction and response of the internal security apparatus of the US and India. The entire world was fed with the images of the US internal security machine tracking the perpetrators in all its dimensions. The man in-charge of the operations displayed a sense of determination and purpose.
On the other hand following the Bengaluru blast, as per the script National Investigating Agency (NIA) was flown in to investigate as if it was not an ‘internal security problem’ but of ‘law and order’. Very little can be expected of this organization, as it has been overwhelmingly preoccupied with creating ‘Hindu terror’ in order to balance the ‘jihadi terror’ for political purposes.
Till today, NIA has not clarified as to why, as per confessions of David Headley and Abu Jundal, did the ISI and LeT wanted to portray 26/11 as an act of ‘Hindu terror’. Working backwards from then 2008 to 2006, the attempt of NIA to label all terrorist attacks where Muslims have been causalities as a handwork of ‘Hindu terrorists’, has hit major obstacles with regards to Samjhauta blasts in 2007 and Malegaon blasts in 2006.
In the former blast, the US agencies (US State Treasury Department) steadfastly maintain that it was perpetrated by LeT and so has David Headley’s wife. If indeed ‘Hindu terrorists’ were involved in Malegaon blasts in 2006, then the NIA must initiate legal action against the then Maharastra DGP and the ATS Chief for holding press conferences and giving out details about the involvement of Indian Mujahideen (IM) and LeT in the blasts.
They should be legally made to pay for illegal detention of nine IM suspects for more than five years. The NIA also needs to explain that 30 kg of RDX and 10 AK-47 and 3,200 bullets that was seized in an Indica car being driven by Abu Jundal was meant for whose consumption. This was just three months before Malegaon blast in 2006.
When the leader of the country does not look into the eyes of his people and talk to them in such hours of crisis, speculations and rumours are bound to overtake the truth. A leader leads public opinion and does not pander to it.
You can defeat terrorism only by confronting the truth. If you conceal the real perpetrators of terror or manipulate it, it is bound to recoil with even greater force. Till the 80s, when nationalism and patriotism were still sentiments not to be trifled with, there was large degree of unanimity with regard to ideologies that were violent and subversive.
The only intelligence check that was carried out for successful UPSC candidates, joining the civil services and the armed forces was whether the individuals had any communist leanings or not. Receiving any postage from the Communist world attracted tremendous suspicion. This was, even as India was a close ally of the Soviet Union.
Tragedies are not comparable. Nevertheless, it was disgraceful for some of our TV channels to give continuous coverage to the tragedy in Boston and its aftermath, while displaying a perfunctory sensitivity to the Bengaluru blast. The same was the case with print media – headlines and pages devoted to Boston, and grudging columns catering to Bengaluru.
The irony is best illustrated by a cartoon, wherein Mr. Manmohan Singh is shown extending his sympathy to President Obama over the Boston tragedy and when the latter similarly reciprocates for the Bengaluru tragedy, the Indian Prime Minister nonchalantly remarks that such incidents keep happening in India.
Shame on us!
Also by R S N Singh:
Army Chief's age: Personal matter or conspiracy?
Is India turning into a banana republic?
'Hindu terror': India the sole loser
RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW. He is the author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan.