India: Uttar Pradesh terror —against shadow of Gujarat pogroms

Near-simultaneous bombs exploded at courthouses in the northern Indian cities of Lucknow, Varanasi, and Faizabad Nov. 23, killing at least 13 lawyers (nine in Varanasi; four in Faizabad), and leaving over 50 injured. All three cities are in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where lawyers declared earlier this year they will not defend terrorist suspects. The explosives were apparently packed on parked bicycles at the court complexes. Authorities say they suspect militant groups trying to spark violence between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority. Varanasi, Hinduism’s holiest city, was the site of terror attacks on a Hindu temple and a train station last year. Faizabad is near the site of the attack on the Babri Mosque in 1992, which sparked widespread Hindu-Muslim riots. (Jurist, NDTV, Nov. 23)

The Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held the government’s “soft attitude” towards terrorism directly responsible for the attacks, and pledges to press the issue on the floor of Parliament on Monday. “Terrorists are striking at will,” said party chief Rajnath Singh. “They are getting bolder and it is a challenge to the rule of law.” (Times of India, Nov. 23)

The Uttar Pradesh terror comes amid a national scandal following a “sting operation” by the left-leaning newsweekly Tehelka, in which their undercover reporters secured quotes from leading BJP members proudly describing their role in the massacres of Muslims that shook Gujarat state, where the party holds power, in 2002. India’s lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, was paralyzed earlier this month by heated arguments between BJP lawmakers and members from the Muslim-supported Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) when the RJD’s Devendra Prasad Yadav demanded charges and official investigations be brought against Gujarat BJP leaders. (IndianMuslims, Nov. 24; The Hindu, Oct. 28)

The Nov. 3 Tehelka exposé, “The Truth: Gujarat 2002,” found that the BJP-allied Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal—ostensibly civic organizations advocating “Hindutva” or Hindu nationalism—”manufactured and distributed lethal weapons across the state, often with the connivance of the police” in the prelude of the Gujarat violence. The exposé has finally brought the issue to the forefront of Indian politics, although there has long been steadily growing evidence of official and BJP complicity in Gujarat pogroms.

As after last year’s terror attacks in Mumbai, moderate clerics are calling for co-existence in defiance of the deadly provocation. Syed Azmathullah Quadri, founding chairman of the International Muslim Awakening Network (ImanNet), appealed to all communities in India to strengthen inter-communal bonds, and for Indians living abroad to support pro-co-existence efforts such as the Coalition Against Genocide. (IndianMuslims, Nov. 24)

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