There may be bigger design behind attacks on mosques

Another bigger design behind these attacks could be Hindutva fascist organizations trying their hands in terrorism after graduating from Gujarat 2002. — Editor

By Murali Krishnan, IANS

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Security experts believe that there may be a definite pattern behind the string of terror attacks on Islamic places of worship across India.

What seemed to be an isolated case initially has become a source of worry for New Delhi and state authorities as they pore over what is clearly a design in the string of terror strikes on mosques and Sufi shrines.

India is home to over 140 million Muslims, who form its largest religious minority. Although it is the world’s second largest Muslim population, it has largely remained aloof from global jehadi politics.

But officials say Islamic fundamentalists who have successfully created disorder in Muslim majority countries like Algeria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Pakistan, posing a challenge to the Muslim rulers of these countries, might be seeking new pastures.

It began with a low intensity blast at Delhi’s imposing Jama Masjid last year that killed none. But what followed has proved ghastly.

A powerful bomb went off near a cemetery close to a mosque in Maharashtra’s Malegaon town, a communal tinderbox, last year killing 37 people and injuring at least 100. Fortunately, it did not trigger a communal clash.

In May this year, a massive bomb blast killed nine people in Hyderabad’s historic Mecca Masjid. As angry crowds took to the streets, the police fired and killed five more people.

On Thursday, a bomb went off at the highly venerated shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, killing two people.

Sufi shrines have also been attacked in Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian officials are mystified. As the attacks become more frequent and brazen, they are asking several probing questions.

Why attack mosques? Why pick on historic mosques such as Jama Masjid in Delhi and Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad? Why branch off to a small town like Malegaon? Who are the attackers? And what is the motive? Could the attackers also be planning to blame Hindus for these attacks?

Security experts and intelligence agencies believe there is a hidden message in the attacks besides the obvious motive of creating Hindu-Muslim polarization.

“I think the blasts have an implicit meaning. The puritans of Islam are announcing their presence and telling Indian Muslims that what they are practising is a deviation of Islam,” says Ajay Sahni, who edits the South Asia Intelligence Review and is an authority on sub-continental terrorism.

“What is also implied in these attacks is they (Islamists) are opening up for recruitment. In short, the signals sent out are intimidation and mobilization,” Sahni told IANS.

B. Raman, formerly of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external intelligence agency, warned in a paper last year that young Indian Muslims could be on the radar of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF).

He had said that while the number of Indian Muslims involved in anti-US activities and in support of the pan-Islamic objectives of Al Qaeda and IIF was estimated to be still small, it was growing.

Intelligence agencies are trying to get answers to some critical questions, especially the extent and the reasons for the radicalisation of Indian Muslims, even if only some, and if there is a larger message in the recent attacks.

“If they (terrorists) wanted to create communal riots, they could have targeted temples, especially now when Hindus are observing Navratri. But that has not happened,” wondered an intelligence official who did not want to be identified.

Almost all the strikes at mosques in India have been on auspicious occasions too.

The Jama Masjid blast took place on a Friday, considered holy by the Muslims as well as on the first Friday after Milad un Nabi, Prophet Mohammad’s birthday.

In Malegaon, the explosions took place after Friday prayers on the Shab-e- Bara’at holy day. In Hyderabad, the blast occurred during the Friday prayers. In Ajmer, devotees were preparing to break their Ramadan fast when the bomb went off.

Vikram Sood, former RAW chief, agrees that the blasts could be an effort to radicalise Muslims.

“Yes, that could be a distinct possibility but I feel that most Muslims by and large would not fall prey to this ploy except for the fringe elements,” Sood told IANS.

Another strategic expert, R. Upadhyay, thinks the so-called puritans of Islam were anxious to wheel back the contemporary world order to the old concept of their faith and create a pan-Islamic world polity.

“Those who take a vow to accomplish this mission through violent jehad have now become the cult figures for the Muslim community,” he said.

Said one officer: “Till now the Indian Muslim youth, whether in India or in the Gulf or the West, was not subject to the same close surveillance by Western intelligence agencies as the Arabs and the Pakistanis were. This might change.”