At the site of a bomb blast in Ahmedabad.
MORE than anyone else, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should know there would be attempts to avenge the post-Godhra riots. Yet, a day after the Bangalore blasts, he boasted at a public meeting in Chetpur, Saurashtra, that while Jaipur and Bangalore may be attacked, terrorists dare not step into Gujarat. That evening, 21 bombs exploded in various parts of Ahmedabad, four of them in Modi’s Assembly constituency. The next day, July 27, as many as 17 bombs were found in Surat. In the following days, 11 more devices were discovered in the city. The Surat bombs were placed in highly congested areas of the city and could have caused heavy damage. None of them exploded owing to faulty wiring of the integrated circuit chips.
That the intention of the bombers in Ahmedabad was to destabilise, cause terror and seek revenge is obvious. An extract from “The Rise of Jihad”, a 14-page manifesto of the Indian Mujahideen (I.M.), which was e-mailed to a television channel minutes before the bombs exploded in Ahmedabad on July 26, said the outfit was “raising the illustrious banner of jehad against the Hindus and all those who fight and resist us, and here we begin our revenge with the help and Permission of Allah – a terrifying revenge of our blood, our lives and our honour that will Inshah-Allah terminate your survival on this land.”
The I.M., a loose coalition of members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, claimed responsibility for the Ahmedabad blasts. It has explained in its manifesto why it wants to strike. “In the light of the injustice and wrongs on the Muslims of Gujarat, we advance our jehad and call all our brethren under it to unite and answer these irresolute kafireen (infidels) of India,” the manifesto says. The I.M. warns of future attacks, saying the police “disturbed us by arresting, imprisoning, and torturing our brothers in the name of SIMI”.
It is becoming increasingly evident that the I.M. means business and that an elaborate plan is in place. The place of the next target will be revealed either when the next bomb explodes or when the police crack the militant groups’ hydra-like network, which seems to grow across the country. A seemingly tough task, given that the attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated with every strike.
Data collected from the Gujarat Police reveal that the State is short of manpower. So even if Modi wanted to be prepared, there was only that much he could do. According to the Home Ministry’s norms, Gujarat requires 2.49 lakh police personnel. The State has a contingent of 52,432. The last police recruitment took place in 2000. For instance, Ahmedabad needs a 10,000-strong police force, but its current strength is 7,500.
Two weeks after the Gujarat blasts, forensic experts concluded that the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in Ahmedabad and Surat were identical in design to those used in the May 2008 serial bombings in Jaipur; the November 2007 attacks on trial-court buildings in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad; the August 2007 bombings at Gokul Chat Bhandra in Hyderabad; and the March 2006 attack on the Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi. Furthermore, the I.M. sent e-mails to these cities, in much the same way it did before the Ahmedabad blasts.
The Gujarat Police said: “Evidence suggests that either the same bomb-makers built the IEDs or the people who made them were trained by the same experts.”
Ever since the February 2002 communal pogrom in Gujarat, there have been several attempts to seek revenge. However, this was the first operation to be executed successfully, that too on such a major scale. The planning and details of the bombs planted in Ahmedabad send out a clear message that this is pay-back time for the killing of more than 2,000 Muslims in the 2002 riots, says Achyut Yagnik of the Centre for Social Knowledge and Action, Ahmedabad. “All the bombs went off in BJP-held constituencies. They seemed to know the geography of the city. They have definitely targeted the BJP and its leaders,” says Yagnik.
Nineteen bombs exploded in the eastern part of the old city of Ahmedabad. Four exploded in Narendra Modi’s constituency. One of them, a car bomb, was parked in a hospital compound. Four others were placed in Bapunagar, better known as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togdia’s backyard. One bomb was placed in Sarkej, the constituency of Amit Shah, Minister of State for Home and Modi’s wingman.
The areas where bombs exploded were Hatkeshwar, Sadar Patel diamond market in Bapunagar, Narol, Maninagar, Ishanpur, Saraspur, Sarangpur, Raipur, the Civil Hospital, Sarkej, and Juhaapura. Most of the bombs were placed at traffic circles and bus stops. One device was placed on a moving bus and another near a Hanuman temple, which hundreds of devotees throng on Saturdays. The areas chosen were both residential and commercial and were definitely the most congested parts of Ahmedabad.
The maximum death toll was at Civil Hospital, where a car bomb exploded 40 minutes after the first bomb went off. It is speculated that the bombers timed it in such a way because they expected the hospital to be crowded with people bringing in the victims from other blast sites.
Initial reports say the bombs were composed of ammonium nitrate and fuel. Liquefied petroleum gas cylinders were used in the car bombs to increase their intensity. The other explosives were packed into tiffin boxes and strapped to bicycles. Some bombs were triggered by using alarm clocks. Others were fitted to the IED with a Thai-manufactured integrated circuit that is used for remote control toys. The police believe cellphones were then used to trigger the bombs.
The police say Surat may have been targeted because it is a commercial hub.Varacha Road, where most of the bombs were found, is in the heart of the diamond-cutting district. Many local people believe that the bombs were a hoax and a tactic adopted by Modi to divert attention from the controversy involving him over the Babu Asaram Ashram incident. Two five-year-old boys from the ashram have been missing for a month. Local people believe the Asaram cult used them in some ritual. Ahmedabad observed a bandh against the mysterious disappearances, but Modi has not taken any action. The Bharatiya Janata Party is reportedly closely connected to the ashram.