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Lessons from terror attack in Bodh Gaya

Lessons from terror attack in Bodh Gaya
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Terror struck again, this time in Bodhgaya, and the usual scurrying for clues to tease out the source of mischief has followed. It again is a sad...

Terror struck again, this time in Bodhgaya, and the usual scurrying for clues to tease out the source of mischief has followed. It again is a sad narrative of failure on the part of investigating agencies to preempt and prevent recurrence of the terrorist acts on the Indian soil in the face of prior information.

However, the attack on the world famous, holiest of holy Buddhist place of worship adds a new twist to the tale. As it is, the prime suspect is the Indian Mujahiddin (IM); the IM has owned this up on Twitter sourced in Pakistan. Yet, in this case the needle of suspicion has turned on other possibilities: A revenge attack for the plight of the Rohingia Muslims in Burma, handiwork of a saffron Hindu outfit or the Naxals. Whatever it may be, this has provided a free-for-all opportunity to political pundits of different hues to indulge in blame-game.

There has been no fatal casualty, mercifully, even though some injuries have been reported due to the ill-functioning timers. The police did make some initial enquires but without any result and the persons arrested thereafter were let off after questioning. The NIA has now been entrusted with investigations following a request from the Bihar Government to the Centre to this effect.

The VIPs and VVIPs visited the shrine as a token of sympathy, but the question why the police failed to take timely preventive action despite inputs from the IB and the Delhi police remains unanswered. The NIA swung into action announcing a cash sum of Rs 10 lakh as reward for vital leads. The CCTV cameras zeroed in on two persons who are believed to have planted the bombs. A breakthrough is yet to be made in the investigation; the NIA is examining a wide range of possibilities; the hand of IM, the Burma angle, Naxal designs or the work of communalist terrorists inside.

However, two vital points emerge from the attack: One, that this time a Buddhist temple has been made a target in this country instead of the usual target of the marketplace, masjid or mandir. Bodhgaya is of a highly emotive significance not only for millions and millions of Buddhists spread all over the world but also for all standing by peace and human values; two, if the attack really turns out to be a handiwork which links it to the Rohangiya killings in Burma, then it opens up a new and more reprehensible chapter in the terror history of this country.

If the theory turns out to be true or a mere rumour, then we are up against a new brand of mischief which is fraught with dangerous potential, both ways. So far no other case of the type has come to light which reeks of anti-Buddhist bias; moreover, Buddhists constitute an important minority group of the country.

No-holds-barred political wranglings in an election-loaded ambience are normal, but not so in this context. The incident has occurred in the wake of the JD-U's break with the NDA and the BJP which is thus a source of major embarrassment to the chief minister, Nitish Kumar. The BJP has lost no time in blaming him for inaction in the face of prior intelligence inputs. It has also charged the entire State administration with ineptitude notwithstanding the fact that the BJP itself was sharing power with it till a few weeks back.

Thus the BJP has a convenient scapegoat in Nitish Kumar as the poll campaign picks up for 2014. The Congress has readily joined in the fray, its general secretary Digvijay Singh using his armoury of pointing the accusing finger at Hindu outfits recalling their role in the blasts in Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Malegaon. He has also not failed to link up the Bodhgaya incident with the recent visit of the BJPs star campaigner Narendra Modi to the State. Politics indeed could not be murkier.

It is easier to be wise after the event, as has been the case so far, but the vital question at stake as to how to prevent repetitive and regular happenings after uneasy intervals remains. Therein lies the challenge for the Centre and the intelligence paraphernalia as well as the policing and investigating machinery in the States.

The setting up of NIA has proved to be a positive step since it came out with useful correctives when the State agencies have erred. The IM role in the terror attacks cannot be denied but investigations have revealed the hand of other outfits too behind such occurrences. There is no denying that Muslim youths have been made prime targets, albeit on many occasions erroneously so. Years of incarceration of those later to prove innocent reduce them to the status of pariahs within their own community and the stigma lasting for the rest of their lives.

The exact character of IM and its modules within the country has yet to be spelt out. Union Minister for Minorities K Rahman, according to a report, has suggested a special task force to handle cases involving innocent Muslim youth to ensure them justice. However, the Minister's good-intentions notwithstanding, these can only have a meaning if they are followed up with concrete action on the ground.

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