People's Democracy

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


No. 46

November 23, 2008


Bomb Versus Bomb

Teesta Setalvad

WITH the much debated investigation trends in the recent Malegaon and Modasa blasts of 2008, that reveal the conspiracy by extremist outfits who claim to represent and fight for the Hindu cause to manufacture and place bombs, a trend that was apparent after the first Nanded blasts of early 2006 can be concealed from public visibility no longer.

Ironically, the investigations into the first Nanded blasts conducted by ATS Maharashtra were tracked by us zealously but it found reluctant takers --- not just among the political class but the omnipresent Indian media. In June 2006, we had interviewed the then ATS chief of the state who admitted to the fact that now the authorities had to deal with the Hindu bomb as much as the Muslim bomb.

Three months ago, we exclusively analysed the three different chargesheets filed in the case (two by the ATS and one by the CBI); the sinister role of the central investigation agency, CBI, in ignoring major conclusions found by the ATS investigation and in actually exonerating the accused not only became clear. The media too ignored this exposure until the recent Malegaon revelations.

The politicisation of our investigation agencies, our law and order agencies has been the subject of much national debate and lofty sermonising. But, strangely, such opinions are absent in the current coverage of the Malegaon and Modasa blasts. The logical comparison to the Malegaon incidents and the investigated conclusions of the ATS in the Nanded 2006 blast need to be re-visited.

Investigations have so far revealed dangerous trends. Through the present rigorous efforts of the Maharashtra ATS, we are informed of the influence of a Sadhvi, with connections to the ABVP (student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party) and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). There is also evidence of a thickly veiled but clear operational nexus between all these organisations, financial and ideological support for their actions, a cheeky brazenness that comes with the knowledge that impunity from prosecution and sentence is their birthright and more.

Two most dangerous trends, revealed by the Nanded investigations and reconfirmed now with the Malegaon probe, are regarding the involvement of both serving and retired officers of Indian intelligence and the army in training outfits that are ideologically opposed to the Indian constitution, in the making of bombs, in generating terror and in spreading bitter communal poison.

In law, these acts amount to sedition and war against the Indian state. If it is proven that this war is being waged from the inside, from a section, however small, of our army, and this fact has escaped the attention of the top echelons of the armed forces so far, it is logical to assume and conclude that the infiltration into our forces runs close and deep. Just as an ideologically fanatic ISI of Pakistan will have to shoulder more than a fair share of the responsibility, and blame for the disintegration of that country into violence and chaos, the trends that both Nanded and Malegaon reveal have the potential, if allowed to pass casually and unchecked, of driving India to serious disintegration, if not destruction. For years now, many of us have spoken of how perpetrated communal violence and festering wounds caused by absence of reparation and justice are eating into the body politic of the nation. The political class, the media and the judiciary are together responsible for the total impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of mass violence. As communal violence pinnacles into a more sinister form, bomb versus bomb, let it not be said that even the Indian army and intelligence had a role to play in the disintegration.

Malegaon investigations reveal yet another rather frightening trend. The leakage and consequent availability of highly controlled and dangerous substances like the RDX into the market place for easy use by any outfits that wish to make a career out of bomb making.

RDX is available only with the Indian army. There have been reported cases of RDX leakages in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana which have been treated casually by the state police. Gelatine sticks and ammonium nitrate, volatile substances used in the making of bombs in many instances, are carefully controlled in law, and leakages from either the industrial or retail users should be very easy to trace. The fact that this has not been done, be it related to the blasts on the Samjhauta Express, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Thane or Panvel, establishes the laxity in our probing agencies but worse, a cynically low premium on life itself by a political class, across party hues that has grown to using communalism of all shades to further electoral gains.

Neither the availability of RDX nor poverty or unemployment by itself could, should and would generate bomb makers among our midst. The mix is just not potent enough. But spice this reality with the ever present, never debated and increasingly vicious use of hate speech as a weapon of communal cleavage that helps turn a mind towards violence against the hate object, and you have a heady potion. Investigations into Nanded reveal not just that anti-Muslim poison was the stuff that indoctrination was made off, but that both Praveen Togadia and Giriraj Kishore had been the indoctrinators.

Similarly, the Sadhvi Pragnya, arrested for her role in the Malegaon blasts, was well known and popularly used on the campaign trail. She was popular for her poisonous use of words.

Though hate speech is not simply a crime under Indian criminal law but also an ingredient to define a terror act, and terrorism under the Unlawful Practices (Prevention) Act, the authorities rarely give the sanction to prosecute these offenders. This is yet another example of the non-existence of the rule of law.

There is an urgent need for the appointment of a three-member tribunal consisting of sitting judges of the apex court to permanently and consistently monitor all terror investigations. This is imperative.

Such a judicial scrutiny, with a strictly time-bound mandate and accountability, could go a long way in arresting the tendency in all blast investigations that allow the guilty to go scot free.

The world's largest democracy is a nation of mixed people, different languages and religions and is also, some would argue, defined and torn apart by caste. The political manipulation of religion for political ends has cost us dear since the mid-'eighties.

The battle against the menace of bomb terror, the Hindu bomb v/s the Muslim bomb challenges each one of us, especially our leaders and our institutions of governance.

The challenge is to be able to rise above the politics of them and us. Justice must be seen to be done regardless of who the criminal mastermind is and what position he or she occupies.

(Teesta Setalvad is co-editor, Communalism Combat, and secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace.)