People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 44

November 09, 2008



The Thursday Terror In Assam

Isfaqur Rahman

IN the worst ever terror attack in the state on October 30, 2008, nine well-planned and high intensity blasts in a span of 20 minutes killed at least 88 people and wounded more than 350 in Guwahati, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Barpeta Road. Senior officials claim, there are striking similarities between the Assam serial blasts and those in Ahmedabad and Bangalore. Guwahati bore the brunt with at least 51 killed and 250 wounded in three explosions in the crowded Ganeshguri area, Fancy Bazar-Panbazar and the compound of the chief judicial magistrate's (CJM's) court. Ganeshguri has become the most bombed centre of the country. With this blast, Ganeshguri bled for the 19th time in the past six years. Even the policemen on duty are constantly haunted by fear in this area which is barely 200 meters away from the state secretariat.

People's Protest and Explosive Anger

A deadly combination of impatience, anger and pain exploded in the streets of Ganeshguri, minutes after serial blasts rocked the city forcing the administration to clamp a curfew. The apparent trigger for the mob wrath was delay in the arrival of police and fire brigades. While spontaneous protests were mounting, the BJP and their allies tried to exploit the popular sentiments and indulged in vandalism. The BJP's national vice-president and former union minister Bijaya Chakrovorty, along with other leaders of the saffron brigade, were seen on TV screen instigating the people to create chaos and anarchy. They also started a high voltage campaign with a design to whip up tension on communal lines.

Collapse of Intelligence

Though the Assam government has denied intelligence failure in the wake of the serial blasts, the fact remains that it was essentially an intelligence failure. It was a series of synchronised blasts at several places, which was well planned and well executed. The terrorists had all the scope to operate and succeed in their designs.
The Assam police suspect that Islamic terrorist outfits carried out the explosions with ULFA playing a possible role. There have been reports of the Bangladeshi based Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami (HUJI) group sneaking into the state in recent times. The ULFA, however, promptly denied its hand in the blasts. The ULFA denial notwithstanding, Assam government spokesman Himanta Biswa Sarma stated that it was the handiwork of the outfit and clubbed the ULFA together with the Jehadis. While Assam police continue to be clueless about the identity of the outfit behind the terror strike, a little known organisation called the Islamic Security Force-Indian Mujahideen (ISF-IM) has claimed responsibility for the serial bombings. In an SMS sent to a local television channel, the ISF-IM warned of more terrorist attacks in Assam.

After two days of the serial blasts, chief minister Tarun Gogoi stated, "fundamentalist and divisive forces working from foreign land want to destabilise Assam". While refusing to make a distinction between the ULFA and the jehadi elements, the chief minister added, "right now I do not rule out the involvement of either in the blasts”.
Union Home minister Shivraj Patil arrived in Assam on the next day to take stock of the situation and review the security measures in the wake of the blasts. Prime minister Manmohan Singh, along with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, also visited the blast sites in Guwahati on November 1, 2008 and met the injured in the hospitals.
The BJP leader LK Advani came to Assam on October 31, 2008. Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, Advani said, "The problem of terrorism has been aggravated by unabated infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals. The centre must put pressure on Bangladesh to co-operate on the issue of infiltration and to prevent it from allowing its land to be used by jehadi elements backed by the ISI for anti-India activities." However, while visiting the blast site at the premises of the CJM's court in Guwahati, Advani had to face the wrath of a large number of people, including the anguished lawyers, for ‘politicising the tragedy’ in Assam. He had to leave the spot when slogans like 'Advani, Go Back' were shouted by the people. The regional party AGP and the organisations like the AASU, AJYCP etc., have organised a series of protest actions and unleashed an orchestrated campaign against the jehadi elements. The BJP-VHP called ‘Assam Bandh’ on November 1, 2008 while the AASU observed ‘Bandh' on November 3. The AGP and the BJP demanded dismissal of the Tarun Gogoi government and imposition of president's rule in the state.

CPI(M) Demands Stern Action against culprits

Immediately after the serial blasts, the Assam state committee of the CPI(M) issued a  statement condemning the dastardly acts of terror and mayhem perpetrated by terrorist outfits. While expressing shock and consternation at the serial blasts and act of savagery by ‘anti-national forces’, the Party held the state administration responsible for its failure to protect the life and property of the people despite advanced warning from various intelligence sources. The CPI(M) also demanded to immediately nab the culprits responsible for the heinous crime and to ensure security to the people. The Party appealed to all the peace-loving and patriotic sections of the people to rise to the occasion and take up their cudgels against these anti-national forces.
Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat and leader of the CPI(M) party in Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia visited the blast sites in Guwahati on October 31, 2008. The two-member parliamentary team of the Party was accompanied by state secretary Uddhab Barman, Central Committee member, Hemen Das, Ananta Deka, MLA and other state leaders.

After interacting with the people at the blast sites in Fancy Bazar-Panbazar area and CJM's court, Karat and Acharia rushed to MMC Hospital and Guwahati Medical College and Hospital where the injured were admitted. The city was still reeling under worst nightmare and the CPI(M) leaders heard the experience and agony of the injured. “When the horror broke loose, lumps of charred flesh clung to walls and houses or lay smouldering in the road. The bodies that were left intact were burnt beyond recognition”, they were told by witnesses of the horror. Some of the injured were too dazed to even moan. Others moaned in agony.

Speaking to journalists after visiting the blast sites and the injured at hospitals, the two leaders condemned the deadliest terror strike in the history of Assam and said that the entire nation was standing solidly behind the people of Assam in this hour of distress and grief. Brinda Karat urged all political parties to rise above narrow political considerations and stand united in the fight against terrorism. She also stressed the need for strengthening of the intelligence agencies and more coordination between the centre and the states to fight terrorism. Karat also criticised the UPA government for repeatedly adjourning the parliament session for which issues like terrorism could not be discussed in the highest democratic institution. Refusing to speculate on the perpetrators of the blasts, she said, some forces had been spreading communal hatred in Assam and elsewhere on the basis of mere speculation. Basudev Acharia also cautioned against the communal campaign and conspiracy hatched by certain forces.

The CPI(M) in Assam has been organising various protest actions throughout the state against the dastardly acts of terror after the serial blasts. Meetings and processions were held at Guwahati, Tezpur, Barpeta, Nagaon, Silchar, Sorbhag, Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Jorhat etc., condemning the blasts and appealing for peace, harmony and united fight against terrorism. The Party also observed bandh and took out processions on October 31, 2008 at Barpeta Road town where more than 15 persons were killed. The CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP, Tarini Roy and Lok Sabha member Sunil Khan also visited affected places at Barpeta Road, Bongaigaon and Kokrajher along with the state leaders of the Party on November 4-5, 2008. They met the residents of the blast sites, visited the families of the victims and injured persons at the hospitals. Various mass organisations of the Party also have been organising protest actions. The activists of the SFI, DYFI, AIDWA and CITU have organised a massive demonstration and procession in Guwahati. Many people, including voluntary organisations, made a bee-line for Guwahati Medical College and Hospital and other hospitals to donate blood for the injured victims.