Bombers For A Cause?
Bombs always make news - even when they do not explode.
Terrorists of various stripes as well as criminals know it very well. And they time their actions accordingly.
Bombs - even if they do not explode - or even when they cause symbolic damage have an added traction for the politicos of the right. They pay rich dividends.
It is one of the easiest thing to stigmatise, terrorise a community, a people. In an ambience where all such anti-human acts are projected as handiwork of the 'other' it takes very less time to polarise the 'us'. It is common knowledge that the vitiation of atmosphere is so immediate and complete that all talk of harmony and composite heritage can just evaporate in a fraction of a second and the saner elements within can suddenly find themselves on the margins.
Kagal, a town in Kolhapur district, was witness to such an incident, where the police discovered a bomb making factory in the Lakshmi Hill near MIDC area. The culprits involved in this action could be nabbed before they could 'operationalise their bomb'.
The gravity of the situation could be understood by the fact that police could bust this criminal module on the eve of Narendra Modi's proposed rally in that area. It has arrested four youths who were involved in the operation. While Ajinkya Manohar Bhopade(22) and Aniket Bhivaji Mali(22) belong to Chokak village in Hatkananagale, Nilesh Babanrao Patil (20) is from Male Mudshingi, in Hatkanangale and Anil Popat Kharase (26) hail from Kabnur-Ichalkaranji in Hatkanangale. Patil and Kharase supplied material for bomb making and Bhopade - who has a diploma in electronics and Mali - who works as wireman have been arrested for making bombs.
Apart from diagram notes police have confiscated material including gelatin sticks, remotely handled switches, remote control devices, five screw drivers, steel clips, wire-cutters, hacksaws, scissors, hammers, buzzers, door bells, six battery cells, power control equipment, energy circuit wiring, switch cord and paper pieces with diagram notes, among others. It has also confiscated four live bombs and equipment worth Rs 25,69,575. The bombs confiscated were ones that could be detonated with a remote control.
According to newspaper reports the police has 'refuted '[a]ny political or extremist hand behind the bombs the four made.Kolhapur district superintendent of police Manojkumar Sharma said that the youths were "trying to make easy money". (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolhapur/Four-arrested-in-Kagal-for-making-bombs/articleshow/33350186.cms). The FIR registered by the police states that
"[i]t had received a tip-off that some persons were going to bring bombs in the MIDC area. Acting on the tip-off, a trap was laid on the Kagal town and the four accused persons were nabbed on the Saturday night. The arrested were carrying the four bombs and other explosive materials on two bikes."
It is possible that the police - with good intentions - is in a hurry to individualise the incident and localise the act and does not want to aggravate further tension in an already surcharged atmosphere.
But it's claim that no political or extremist hand was visible behind these bombers and they were 'trying to make easy money' sounds unconvincing.
One can look at the enormous amount of money involved - the equipment cost itself was more than Rs. 25 lakhs - and it is difficult to comprehend how a group of these four people, one a wireman, one a diploma holder and other two doing similar odd jobs could raise so much mony on their own to ‘start this business’.
Police's claim that all the four had no previous background of 'criminal activities' is an added reason to think that they were not acting on their own but were merely cogs in some wider conspiracy. It is important to find out the real masterminds, the real planners, financers behind their act. And there have been many such incidents where activists associated with rightwing fanatic groups – most of them without any previous criminal record - have been found to be involved in making bombs, storing explosives and chalking out plans to put it at crowded places to cause maximum damage to the 'other'.
One can also recall that neighbouring state Goa witnessed two terror incidents in October 2009 which involved activists of Sanatan Sanstha. And when investigations were taken up, police had nabbed one student from this particular area itself with similar technical background for his alleged role in the act. In one particular case two activists of the Sanstha who were carrying explosives died on the spot when the scooter on which they were travelling met with an accident. And in another case explosive put in a truck carrying people could be spotted early and a major tragedy was averted.
Kagal, lies at the border of Karnataka and Maharashtra and has enough presence of Hindutva supremacist organisations there.
And Karnataka itself has been witness to activities of rightwing Hindutva groups who are found to be keen to make the state an experimental lab for furthering their politics and establish its anti-secular agenda. In fact, Karnataka witnessed bomb blasts prior to elections twice in last 5-6 years.
Let us take the case of Malleswaram bomb blast (17 th April 2013) which occurred just two weeks before elections to the present assembly in a lane near the BJP office which left 16 people injured, where the explosives were placed on a motorcycle. Thirteen people were arrested in connection with the blast, including Al-Ummah operative Kichan Buhari, who according to the police, is the mastermind. According to a story in Deccan Chronicle (27 th May 2013) :
“The city police have not yet questioned the RSS activist whose allegedly stolen SIM card was used to trigger the April 17 bomb blast in Malleswaram. It is reliably learnt that even though the cellphone and the SIM belonging to the RSS activist, who is said to be an influential leader, were said to be stolen a day prior to the bomb blast, no police complaint was ever registered about the theft, a senior police officer confirmed.
The RSS leader, whose identity the police have chosen to keep secret, wields considerable influence in the region bordering Kerala and Karnataka. Police are yet to ascertain how this man ‘lost’ his phone and how the alleged plotters came to be in possession of his SIM. Had the matter been reported and the SIM card been cancelled, the perpetrators could not have used it for their nefarious purpose.”
The Malleswaram bomb blast, where the police could immediately find the ‘mastermind’ reminds one of another bomb blast which occurred during last elections in Hubli court. (May 2008) In this case also many innocents belonging to minority community were illegally detained and quite a few among them also were booked for their ’role’ in the blasts. The police had promptly claimed that ’sleeper cells belonging to LeT and SIMI’ had executed the blasts.
And when the BJP government was firmly in the saddle and the accused in the bomb blasts case had already spent months together behind jails, had come the news which was definitely not soothing to the ears of the saffron commanders. The IGP of North Karnataka Ragavendera Auradhkar addressed a press conference telling the media that the mysterious bomb blasts which had struck the Hubli courts were the handiwork of a criminal gang led by one Nagraj Jambagi .
Hindutva terror has struck Karnataka. The Karnataka police arrested nine persons with Sangh Parivar links for allegedly setting off a bomb in the court of the junior first class magistrate in Hubli May 2008. They were also accused of planting a live bomb on the Dharwad-Belgaum road. This points to the presence of Hindutva terror suspects in the state.The police had initially blamed SIMI for both the Hubli court blast and the planting ofthe live bomb.
According to the IGP it was the same team which had planted a bomb on the Belgaum-Hubli highway in the year 2008.However, this bomb failed to explode as it was raining heavily. After high drama, the bomb squad had finally retrieved the bomb. In fact Nagraj had led the gang which was also involved in seven murder cases in North Karnataka and several cases of abduction also. Interestingly the police had stumbled upon this gang while investigating the murder of a Bagalkot businessman.
It is difficult to say what will happen next? Whether Maharashtra police – which has done a commendable job in averting a great human tragedy – would try to unearth the wider conspiracy behind this so called business of bomb making and reach the real masterminds behind this criminal-terrorist plot on the eve of elections or would leave the matter at that level itself .
Subhash Gatade is the author of Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi (2010) Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India,(2011) and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India(2011). He is also the Convener of New Socialist Initiative (NSI)