The twin blasts that rocked the Jama Masjid of Delhi on Friday marks a new twist in the terrorist campaign to destabilise India. That they were clearly aimed at the Muslim community is the clearest indication that for terrorists, things like religion are a secondary matter. The reason the blasts did not kill but merely injure people was probably due to the vagaries of its acid timer that delayed the explosion. As a result the bulk of the namazis had moved into the main courtyard and only some stragglers were left near the water tank used for the pre-prayer ritual ablutions where the bombs were placed. The aim of the blasts seem to be to create mayhem as well as provoke the community to do something that would invite retaliation or repression. Having failed to provoke in Benares, the terrorist masterminds may have decided to up the ante by a direct attack in India’s premier mosque.
The blasts in the old Delhi area seem to be a replication of those that occurred in 1997 in the Delhi region. Through the year there were several blasts, with a significant number of them concentrated in Old Delhi — Subzi Mandi, Chandni Chowk, Sadar Bazar and the Red Fort. The common pattern in all of these was the use of acid timers and low-grade explosives that killed a few people and injured many more. In early 1998, the police managed to arrest two key terrorists and then roll up a larger gang. They discovered that the mastermind — Abdul Karim Tunda — had escaped to Bangladesh. Some years ago there were reports that Tunda had been killed in inter-gang warfare. Clearly, reports of his death are exaggerated — or he has spawned new successors. Whatever be the case, the footprints of this case, as well as that of the Benares blasts seem to be leading back to our eastern neighbour, Bangladesh.
As in the case of Benares, the people of Delhi, too, have refused to be provoked by the blasts. But that should not mean that we can depend on their equanimity to hold for ever. New Delhi and the international community have to sharply crank up their pressure on Dhaka to crack down on the activity of fundamentalist groups in Bangladesh.