CALAMITY BECOMES OPPORTUNITY
Mumbai has been a favourite target of Jehadi terrorists. After all, it is the commercial capital of the country. Two years back, they shifted their attention to Bangalore rapidly developing into the principal I.T. hub of India.
In July, 2008, a series of bomb blasts took place in the city. I remember visiting the city soon after, going to all the spots where bombs had been hurled, and finally visiting the Hospital where scores of blast victims were being treated.
Police investigation have indicated that the Bangalore operation was masterminded by Abdul Nasser Madani of Kerala and executed by a protÃ©gÃ© of his by name T. Nasseer.
Madani is the Chairman of Keralaâs Peopleâs Democratic Party, a Muslim extremist Party that is being assiduously wooed by both the Congress and the Leftists. When earlier Madani was in jail, the Kerala assembly passed a unanimous resolution demanding his release. The Court trying the 2008 bomb blast case had issued warrants of arrest against Madani which have been executed only last week by the Karnataka Police. Madani therefore has been very much in the news last week.
It is this name that reminds me of an unforgettable episode of my own life.
Conscientious newsmen can be very tenacious. For political persons, this is sometimes very annoying. But I cannot forget an occasion when such tenacity on the part of ETV, a TV news channel based in Hyderabad, proved a boon for me, and actually saved my life.
This happened in February 1998, when I had gone to Tamilnadu to campaign for the Lok Sabha election held that year. In Tamilnadu we had a poll alliance with the AIADMK.
I was in Chennai on February 13. On February 14, I was to address two rallies, one during the day at Coimbatore and the second in the evening at Tiruchi where AIADMK Chief Dr. Jayalalitha also was to address the gathering.
A short while before I was to depart for Coimbatore an ETV correspondent confronted me at the Hotel where I was putting up and told me that my Delhi office had assured the channel that while in Chennai I would give them a full-length interview. I was unaware of any such assurance. The schedule as drawn up by the State unit did not seem to give scope for much flexibility, particularly because the timing of my reaching Tiruchi had to be coordinated with the AIADMK leaders programme.
But the ETVâs perseverance made me yield.
But this so upset my schedule, that the special aircraft which took me to Coimbatore reached its destination more than two hours late.
At the Coimbatore airport I was surprised to see a large posse of policemen. An eerie silence prevailed while a few officials could be seen huddled together in one corner. A senior official met me and informed me that a series of blasts had taken place at the venue of my rally, as also in other parts of the city. He said that Sec. 144 had been clamped on the whole city, and that I would not be allowed to go into the city.
I insisted on meeting party colleagues who were outside the airport. They told me that around 50 persons had died in the blasts, and some 200 persons were injured. They also told me that a person who was obviously a human bomb had blown himself up when chased by the police. I told the D.M. that the 200 persons injured must have come for my rally, and so felt it was my duty to visit the Hospital where they were being treated.
There was initial resistance to my request, but ultimately it was acceded to. I did visit the Hospital and met many patients.
It would be appropriate to reproduce a report carried in May, 1998 by FRONTLINE a fortnightly magazine published by The Hindu, Chennai. Dated May 09-22, 1998, this report bearing the caption âHuman bombs and human errorâ says :
âWere human bombs kept ready to kill L.K. Advani on February 14 at R.S. Puram, Coimbatore, where he was to address a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) election meeting ? This question had generated a controversy after the serial blasts in the city with Advani asserting that he was the target of a human bomb at the venue of the meeting that day.
Now, after more than two months of investigation by the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) of the Tamil Nadu Police, a definitive answer is available: there were three human bombs targeting Advani that day.
Informed police sources identified them as Amjad Ali (19) of Melapalayam, near Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu; Mohammed Jameshah (22) of N.H. Road, Coimbatore; and Amanullah (22), also of Melapalayam. All of them belong to Al-Umma, a Muslim fundamentalist organization. According to the police, the bomb blasts in Coimbatore on February 14 âwere planned and executedâ by Al-Umma and âmasterminded by its leader S.A. Basha as a retaliation for the killing of 19 Muslims in Coimbatore on November 30/December 1, 1997.âWhile Amjad Ali and Mohammed Jameshah have been arrested, Amanullah is absconding. Sources in the police said that the three wore belt bombs that contained the explosive PETN. The bombs were designed by Basit, also of Melapalayam. Basit, who is absconding, is an associate of Basha. The belt bomb, according to the police, was âfixedâ by M. Mohammed Ansari, the second-in-command of Basha. They believe that the explosives were supplied by âKarateâ Raju who belongs to Kerala. A deserter from the Assam Rifles, Raju could have got the PETN from the insurgency-affected northeastern region of the country, the sources said.
According to the sources, Amjad Ali was specifically detailed to target Advani, and Mohammed Jameshah and Amanullah were stand-bys. One source said: They were seated at the meeting place but were not able to go near the dais because of the police cordon. They were about 400 metres from the dais. There were others meant for back-up.
The plan to target Advani failed because his aircraft landed late in Coimbatore. Meanwhile, the bombs placed by Al-Umma in cars, two-wheelers and fruit carts went off around the venue of the meeting and at different places in the city, killing about 50 persons. There was rank confusion around the venue and Amjad Ali fled.
In a meticulous investigation, the CB-CID, headed by Inspector-General of Police Param Vir Singh, cracked the conspiracy behind the bomb blasts. Out of 167 persons identified as involved in the conspiracy, 110 were arrested. They included S.A. Basha (48), Al-Ummaâs acting president Tajuddin (38) and leader of the Islamic Defence Force (IDF) Ali Abdulla.
Tajuddin (38) had taken over as the acting president of Al-Umma in place of Basha in October 1997. According to the police, Tajuddin had met the chairman of the Peopleâs Democratic Party, Abdul Nasser Madani, in Kerala, and through him, Raju. Madani was arrested by the Kerala Police on March 31 at Kochi.â
In 2001 Assembly elections, the DMK lost and AIADMK returned to power. Charges were framed against the accused in the Coimbatore case in October 2001. The SITâs chargesheet ran into a whopping 17000 pages. More than 1300 witnesses were examined.
The judgement was finally delivered in August, 2007. The court convicted Syed Ahmed Basha, leader of banned Al Umma, and 71 of his associates. However, the principal accused in this case, Abdul Nasser Madani was acquitted on the ground that the evidence was inadequate.
The country will now be watching with keenness what happens in the Karnataka trial.
August 22, 2010
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