With floods in the south east and a train crash killing over 200, the three bombs in Delhi this afternoon topped off a truly depressing day for India.
I have only ever called two cities home, Delhi and London. Only months apart, both have been hit by organised, synchronised bomb attacks. Both the London bombings and the Delhi bombings targetted innocents with cold precision. The London bombs took out commuters, today’s three explosions killed unsuspecting shoppers, eagerly preparing for the festive season of Diwali and Eid in crowded shopping areas.
The BBC and other agencies currently put the death toll at 50-55 and rising and Star News (an Indian channel) estimates over 200 are seriously injured.
It really is eerily similar to the events of 7/7 and indeed, had the Indian police not defused a fourth bomb, the two terrorist attacks would have been even more alike. The shell-shocked walking wounded roam the streets and the city’s hospitals struggle to cope. Delhi, as so many times through its recent history (2001 parliament attack, the Red Fort attack and serial theatre blasts in May this year), once again feels fear return to its streets.
I hesitate to say too much at this juncture, as it is mere speculation. Manmohan Singh has confirmed that the government are investigating some clues, but would not comment further at this stage. Unconfirmed reports in The Hindu claim two Kashmiris have been detained, but other sources simply confirm that at least ten people have been detained by New Delhi police. However a few thoughts have come to mind with regard to the possible motives for this attack.
Of course the proximity to Eid and Diwali seems significant – most probably so that the group behind this could inflict the most amount of injuries and garner more publicity. They wished to strike whilst their target’s guard was down.
The other seemingly obvious clue as to the timing of the bombs are the current unprecedented peace talks between India and Pakistan. We can only hope these aren’t derailed by this unfortunate tragedy. One of the talks’ main objectives was to discuss and agree upon a policy of opening up the Line of Control (LoC) to facilitate relief efforts in the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake.
Yet another possible motive would be to coincide with the verdict of the Red Fort attack case, which was due on Saturday but has now been postponed to Monday. Two jawans and a civilian were killed by Lashkar militants on December 22nd, 2000. Mohammad Ashfaq, a Pakistani, along with his Indian conspirators Nazir Ahmed Qasid, Farooq Ahmad Qasid, Rehmana Yousuf Farooqi (Ashfaq’s wife), Babar Mohsin Baghwala, Sadaqat Ali and Matloob Alam are standing trial, with some calling for Ashfaq to face the death sentence.
Chief suspects, at this stage, would seem to be the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiyaba group, responsible for not only the Red Fort attack, but also the 2001 Parliament attack and the Ram Temple assault in Ayodhya, when they used Delhi as a base. Indian officials are probing a Kashmir connection – yet another coincidence of note is the recent resignation of the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Large amounts of RDX have been found in Delhi in recent months, so it almost seems as though it was simply a matter of time before some was used – although the exact nature of the explosives has not been confirmed.
We should not lose sight of the fact that, at this stage, natural disasters have killed more than all three of these bombs, on both sides of the border. I not only hope this does not adversely affect the border discussions (I don’t believe it will) and just as importantly, I hope that attention is not diverted from where it is needed most.
Update: A previously unknown group calling itself Islami Inquilabi Mahaz (revolution) has claimed responsibility in calls to reporters in Srinagar, Kashmir.
“Such attacks will continue until India pulls out all its troops from the state [of Kashmir]“
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Filed in: Current affairs,South Asia,The World