, by INAMUL HAQ
Two near-simultaneous bomb blasts at crowded places in Hyderabad in the evening of August 25 snuffed out lives of 40 innocent people and injured 50 others, shattering many a dream.
The unsuspecting people including three children and six women enjoying a weekend outing at a park and having a bite at a famous eatery became victims of the dastardly act.
Majority of those killed were students including seven engineering students from Maharashtra, who were on a study tour to the city.
The first blast took place at an open air auditorium at Lumbini Park abutting the picturesque Hussain Sagar Lake, a stone’s throw away from state secretariat, which houses the offices of the chief minister and ministers. Nine people were killed in the powerful blast. So powerful was the blast that the bodies flung into air. Some chairs fixed to a concrete structure were fell 30 feet away.
Minutes later the second blast at Gokul Chat, a famous food joint in the busy Koti area, proved even more disastrous. As many as 31 people were killed in the blast in the small eatery. So intense was the blast that heads of some victims were severed while the bodies of many others were badly mutilated.
The city stood shocked and it took some time for people to understand what was happening. No particular community was targeted as half of those killed were Muslims. An entire Muslim family of four members including two children aged 6 and 8 was killed. Equally tragic was the case of three women members of a Hindu family who became victims. These women were having snacks at the eatery after buying ‘rakhis’ to tie to their brothers.
Two young cousins, both students of 12th standard, lost their lives. A youth, who had gone in to fetch some eatable, was killed while his sisters waiting in an autorickshaw outside survived. The students who were having crispy snacks after buying books in the area also became innocent victims.
This was the worst bomb attacks in the history of Andhra Pradesh and also in the history of four centuries old Hyderabad. However, this was not the first blast in the city. The twin blasts occurred about 100 days after the blast during Friday prayers at the historic Makkah Masjid in the Muslim-majority old city in which nine people had been killed. Minutes later police had opened fire on a group of protestors near the mosque to kill five more people. A particular community was targeted in the May 18 blast.
The twin blasts of August 25 came as a rude shock and exposed the inefficiency of intelligence and security agencies. The blasts proved that the perpetrators of the mosque blast were still at large and could hit at will while police continued to arrest innocent people. Just two days before the August 25 blasts, the local Urdu newspapers carried stories showing how police picked up two Muslim youths and brutally tortured them by blaming them for the Makkah Masjid blast.
Police have not learnt any lessons. Once again, hours after the blast and without even the preliminary investigations some police officials blamed Harkatul Jihad Islami (HUJI) for the blast. Innocent Muslim youths were picked up in the name of investigations and none of them were produced in court which is mandatory under the law.
As in the case of Makkah Masjid blast, alleged HUJI activist Shahid alias Bilal, a resident of Hyderabad, was branded as mastermind of the blast. Bilal’s whereabouts are not known for last few years. His father denied police claims that Bilal was the mind behind all terror attacks in south India during last couple of years.
This time Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy himself blamed Bangladesh and Pakistan based terror groups for the blasts. Refusing to admit this as the failure of intelligence and police, he argued that it was an international conspiracy to target Hyderabad, which is witnessing rapid economic progress and growth of information technology sector.
Parties like BJP were quick to interpret the incident in its own way. It called for state-wide bandh on August 27, evoking criticism from different sections of people. Shouting slogans of ‘vande mataram’ and ‘Bharat mata ki jai’, the BJP workers set afire effigies of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Demands were also made for reviving the draconian legislation POTA to tackle the threat of terrorism.
The other opposition parties, secular groups and concerned citizens made a more rationale argument while condemning the blasts. "Had the police conducted a proper probe into Makkah Masjid blast, these blasts could have been prevented," they said pointing out not a single culprit was arrested for May 18 blast though the investigations were handed over to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
"We had said after Makkah Masjid blast that the city is no longer safe. We wanted an impartial probe with an open mind but the police were conducting an inquiry with pre-conceived notion. They were keen to take investigations into a particular direction," said Hyderabad MP and leader of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) Asaduddin Owaisi.
"Terrorism has no religion. Such acts only kill innocent people but the question is why our police are failing to prevent such incidents," he said.
Eminent religious scholar Moulana Hamiduddin Auqil Hussami said if the government and police were sincere in maintaining peace, they should bring the real culprits to book. "In the name of investigations the Muslims are always branded as suspects. The police have to give up this habit of looking towards Muslims as suspects," he said.
Strongly condemning the blasts, Jamaat-e-Islami sent its delegation to visit the blast scenes. The delegation called on families of victims and expressed sympathy.
Malik Motasim Khan, amir-e-halqa, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, said the blasts were a deep rooted conspiracy to disturb peace in the city. "Whoever had carried out the blasts are not human beings but are beasts. It is an insult to humanity if they are called human beings. They are enemies of peace and humanity," he said regretting that neither places of worship nor parks were safe.
"Had police taken proper measures, these blasts could have been prevented," said president Movement for Peace and Justice Moulana Abdul Azeez. He demanded that the culprits should be brought to book and punished severely.
After the blasts, people in the city are feeling more insecure. With the holy month of Ramadhan starting next month and the 10-day Ganesh festival beginning around the same time, the citizens are demanding that police take all measures to provide security for common man.