Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What if the terrorists made a mistake?

The investigation into the Samjhauta Express inferno may not conclude any time soon. And till it's done, which takes a long time in our country, you will see reports about thousands of 'leads'. Investigators will drop names of all terrorist outfits and their cousins. At the time of writing this, suspects include Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Inter-Services Intelligence agency of Pakistan, some Kashmiri outfits and their offshoots. Detentions, arrests and declaration of proclaimed offenders follow. There's a pattern in our investigations that is as disturbing as the pattern in acts of terror. Keep the mind boggled with names till it's occupied by other bothers or a bigger terror strike. We still do not know who were behind the 2005 Diwali bombings in Delhi. No definite clue about the Varanasi blasts. The Mumbai train blasts.

Is Mein Kasuri Ka Kya Kasoor
So what's wrong? "You know we live in South Asia, we know what our police and security agencies (are), you know the moment the leaders start saying something, you are supposed to produce results in consonance with what the leaders are saying," Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri told Times Now's Arnab Goswami in an interview. Pretty much admitting that investigations get coloured in his country. It's true for some of our own investigations. Take Godhra. The conclusions of the state police, under a BJP government, were entirely different from the conclusions of Justice U.C. Banerjee, appointed by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad. The truth lies charred somewhere in between.

Conspiracy Theories: I too have one
When truth is charred, we hang on to theories. Today's most popular theory is that the Samjhauta terrorists wanted to destroy the peace process between India and Pakistan. Since human life is cheap in the subcontinent, we need to attach some 'larger than life' purpose to even mindless terrorist acts, as if killing innocents was not heinous enough. What if Samjhauta wasn't the target? What if the terrorists wanted to incinerate Gujarati businessmen travelling by Ahmedabad Mail? The suspects argued with railway police and said they wanted to go to Ahmedabad. The railway police and a TTE (presumed dead) were telling the suspects they had boarded the wrong train. They told the two suspects to get off when the train slowed down. "The eyewitness ... saw the suspects having a heated argument with RPF personnel. They were arguing about the destination of the train. The men were carrying suspicious luggage," Rohtak Range IG Sharad Kumar is on record saying this. "The argument went on for 20-25 minutes. Finally the RPF told them they could get off the train when it slowed. The two suspects got off around 11.30 pm, 15 minutes before the blasts. On the basis of this eyewitness account we have made sketches of the suspects." What if they wanted to repeat Godhra and trigger another Gujarat? After all in the 7/7 blasts of Mumbai, Gujarati businessmen were the primary targets, according to one theory. Ahmedabad Mail leaves Old Delhi railway station at the same time (10:50) as Samjhauta Express. The two trains wait at the platform next to each other. If one misses the entry gate opposite Novelty cinema (the gate specially meant for Platform no. 18), he or she will end up on Platform no. 15/16, where Ahmedabad Mail waits. It's easy to make mistakes, when you have suitcases full of explosive material. Besides, the carriers were not seasoned terrorists. Else all five timers would have gone off. The explosives were not really meant to blow up the train. They were meant to just ignite the petrol, which would then explode and spread the fire. And finally, why would ISI or other so-called Pakistan-backed Islamic Terror Modules target Pakistani Muslims, even if they wanted to derail the peace process? Another Gujarat would be more effective to derail the peace process. The blasts united the two countries, at least in grief. It made them make statements of strengthening the dialogue, just not what the terror masters ordered. Just a caveat: this is just a theory, like the theories that police and government have dished out since after the train fire. It could be wrong. What if...?

Riding the Tiger
Great expectations breed great disappointments. Disappointments fuel anger. Tragedies like the Samjhauta fire also create a facade of India-Pakistan bonhomie. But behind the scenes, the bickering gets bitter. India expects Pakistan to take on the terror network. Can Islamabad do it? No, not in its lifetime. Terror is the tiger the generals have been riding for decades now. If you can imagine someone riding a tiger, you know the rein is an illusion. Islamabad can do nothing, if it gets off the tiger, the tiger will maul it or even finish it off. Can any leadership, military or otherwise, risk getting off that tiger? It's easy to go say things like people on both sides love each other; if given a chance, they would hold each other in an endless embrace. But people don't dictate the embraces or even the handshakes. Governments do. One of them is the government of Pakistan.