THERE COULD have been several factors that made Malegaon the ideal target of terrorists on Friday. It had a history of communal violence, a huge bank of jobless youths and a short fuse.
The blasts were meant to take advantage of these failings. Maharashtra Director General of Police P.S. Pasricha said, "It was an attempt to disrupt communal harmony in the country." In Delhi, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil appealed to the country to stay calm. He said the "bigger design" of those behind the blasts was to see different sections of society clash.
Economic interests once bound the Hindus in this textile town to the Muslims. Hindus were suppliers of raw material and Muslims were merchants. But this bond was not enough to keep Malegaon out of the communal cauldron -- it was declared a sensitive area in 1932. The administration had made considerable efforts since 2001 when the town last witnessed riots. Harmony had been restored -- although not in the best way.
Hindus had moved out of Muslim pockets and vice versa, both communities settling on either side of the main road. Although the town remained infamous -- the first arrest in the Aurangabad arms haul case earlier this year was made in Malegaon -- it did not see any communal violence.
A grocery shop owner, Pandurang, name changed, said, “There have been no provocation or attacks in the past few years. But the blasts could change things.”
He said those who carried out the blasts knew Malegaon has always been a tinderbox. “I hope the administration handles the situation properly so that things do not go out of control,” he said. DGP Pasricha said there could be no surmises about the identity of the groups involved in the blasts until the forensic report on the nature of explosives used was received.