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The Malegaon test

Terror probe calls for more engaging politics. Can BJP rise to the challenge?

Written by Theindianexpress |
October 24, 2008 1:05:20 am

The Maharashtra police may just have taken a crucial step to reassure citizens after the pathology of terror seemed to have stumped the Union government. These columns have repeatedly pointed out that the Centre’s response to terror was grossly inadequate and that it couldn’t go on blaming faulty Centre-state coordination. Centre and states have shown signs of working together since, albeit problematically, especially in cracking the Delhi blasts. Now, the Maharashtra police appear to have a lead on those responsible for the September 29 blasts in Malegaon and Modasa. That the culprits in this case are reportedly Hindu extremists is of little technical import as far as nabbing them is concerned. The sleuths must zero in on those responsible and bring them to book. The courts can handle the rest.

However, there is a larger and yet more immediate, and localised, political battle to be fought. And here the identity of the terrorists cannot be ignored. Police investigations suggest that the suspects in the Malegaon and Modasa blasts belong to the Indore-based Hindu Jagran Manch, which in turn is reportedly linked to the ABVP, the BJP’s student wing. This newspaper has argued all along that the state of denial that moderate Indian politicians have on the local roots of terrorist incidents and networks is extremely dangerous. The unfolding investigations into the Malegaon and Modasa blasts show, once again, that the range of terror cannot be explained by the identification of any single community. The BJP has been strident on the need for tough counter-terror mechanisms. The Malegaon-Modasa investigations will test the party. Can it create distance from its lunatic fringe and shed the anti-minority overtones of its emphasis on security? On the ground, both the Congress and the BJP, as well as other major players on the national and local political scenes, must reassure citizens and preclude any communal fallout of the “sensitive” police claims. India cannot afford terror, far less tit-for-tat terror.

For the moment, the amorphous and obfuscated picture has cleared a bit. We seem finally to be getting leads on terror cells. It’s also clear that investigators are capable of doing a good job, as the Maharashtra police have done in this case. There must now be full political backing for their efforts and strong and rational oarsmanship through the troubled waters ahead. Politicians must keep talking to us, and they must talk sense.

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