For a country notorious for the extremely low attention span of its authorities, Saturday’s revelations by the Gujarat Police is a welcome surprise. What has triggered genuine hope for a sea change in the way the State deals with terrorism — both after an attack as well as before so as to prevent any — is that, ‘uncharacteristically’, there was coordination between the police in different states to crack the July 26 Ahmedabad bomb blasts case. As usual, there are many things that will need to be followed up, most importantly that of gathering evidence. But the fact that ten people ascribed with the bomb blasts have been arrested less than a month after the dastardly attacks, instead of the authorities still engaged in the practice of ‘rounding up the usual suspects’, is commendable.
There was a fear that the trail would be lost in some sort of politicised digression or the other. After all, it was only a few weeks ago that the issue of the judicial efficacy of the ban imposed on the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (Simi) — of which all ten arrested are reported to be members — was being debated. After the Gujarat Police’s announcement, Opposition leader L.K. Advani couldn’t help but slip in a line on the lines of “Look what a firm state (read: BJP) government can do”. But even that hasn’t hijacked the real nitty-gritty business of a commendable investigation that has shown results in record time. It is important to note that unlike the way police authorities in different states have behaved in the past — holding back information, reluctant to cooperate with their colleagues from other states, jumping in to take credit, shrinking when there is blame — this time, we have witnessed what seems like a synchronised investigation. Forensics in Gujarat, for instance, made the state police alert the police in Uttar Pradesh to look out for a key suspect.
Does Saturday’s revelations announce a new turn in the way terrorist investigations are conducted in the country? We certainly hope so. But now comes the real part. Laying out the evidence so that the arrests firmly stand up in court and that the killers of July 26 — and who knows, perhaps other perpetrators — are punished by the laws of the land.