By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHI/NAGPURâ€” An attempt by three heavily armed terrorists to strike at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sanghâ€™s (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur (Maharashtra), once again put the secularism of India to the test. The attempt failed because of the alacrity displayed by police.
What is equally commendable is that it did not provoke communal tension in any part of the country. Last week (June 1), dressed as police sub-inspectors, traveling in a white ambassador car with a red beacon light, the three terrorists tried passing through a barricade close to the RSS building, but were stopped by the police. When they broke through the first barrier, about 200 meters from the RSS headquarters, the police gave their car a chase. When they opened fire from their AK-56 rifles, the police fired back. The three, in their early twenties, were killed in retaliatory fire. The encounter took place at around 4 am (IST), about 100 meters away from the RSS office. Police recovered three AK-56 rifles, a huge quantity of RDX, and 12 hand grenades from their possession.
While police have been rightly complimented for foiling the terroristsâ€™ attempt, credit must also be given to Indian people for not having over-reacted to the incident. In the view of RSS being a right-winged, extremist Hindu organization, the incident provoked apprehension about rising communal tensions. It was not without reason that while condemning the incident and complimenting the police, various leaders called on people to remain calm. â€œSuch attacks are condemnable outright and the nation has to fight the menace of terrorism,â€ President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said.
He also complimented Maharashtra police for having foiled the terroristsâ€™ designs. Condemning the incident, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: â€œThe entire nation is united against terrorism. All communities should live in amity and peace.â€
Describing the incident as â€œan act of cowardice aimed at destroying peace and unity in the country,â€ Congress President Sonia Gandhi said that her party strongly condemned it. â€œThe people of India will never allow the evil designs of terrorists to spread disturbances and will do every thing in their power to defeat the evil plans of terrorists,â€ she said.
While former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called on people to remain alert against such activities, the leader of the opposition, L.K. Advani, questioned governmentâ€™s â€œsoftâ€ approach towards terrorism. Criticizing the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance for repeal of POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and recent talks with Pakistan over demilitarization of Siachen, Advani said: â€œRepealing an anti-terror law, talks about demilitarization, scaling down troops in Doda and other such measures send out a message of soft policy on terrorism. Terrorists should not feel the government is getting soft toward them.â€
Home Minister Shivraj Patil condemned the attack and also asserted that the government is doing all that is required to defeat such designs. Patil said: â€œI am relieved that the bid has been foiled by alert security personnel.â€
Describing RSS as â€œindisputably an aggressively patriotic organization,â€ BJP President Rajnath Singh said: â€œThe terrorist bid is an attempt to attack the symbol of nationalism in the countryâ€™s social life. It is also aimed at frightening the countryÃs majority community, which is condemnable.â€
As police had prior â€œinformationâ€ about this attack, RSS authorities had been informed about it and security at the headquarters had been increased, former RSS spokesman Ram Madhav said. RSS Chief K.S. Sudharshan was not at the site when the encounter took place.
Appreciating the role of police, Madhav said: â€œWe are happy that the police took firm action.â€ RSS chief Sudarshan commended state administration and police for foiling the attack. He described the Nagpur attempt as a part of the series of attacks on establishments and religious places, including Parliament, Akshardham in Gujarat, Varanasi, the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Congress camp in Srinagar, and Doda during the last four years. He appealed to RSS members not to get provoked by such incidents and maintain peace.
Despite the RSS organizationâ€™s being known to entertain an anti-Muslim bias, dozens of Muslims took to the streets criticizing the incident. In a statement, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) President Syed Shahabuddin condemned incident and also criticized the police for linking it with Islam.â€ Nagpur Police Commissioner had said that the terrorists were â€œIslamic militants.â€
The AIMMM statement said: â€œThe AIMMM deplores the terrorist attempt to attack the RSS headquarter in Nagpur but it also deplores the impatient and uncalled for statement of the Nagpur Police maligning Islam.â€
The police also suspected militants to be Pakistanis, linked with Lashkar-e-Taiba, though no details of their identities were given. Crediting the police for having foiled terroristsâ€™ attempts, three state governments (Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh) separately announced awards of Rs 1 million for the Nagpur police.
While the incident is viewed as terroristsâ€™ possible attempt to provoke communal violence in the country, the reaction of certain leaders is also suggestive of the same. The latter point is further supported by RSS, BJP and like-minded parties hoping to revive their political standing among the Hindus by playing on anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim cards. That the incident and the comments failed to provoke communal tension in any part of the country, credit must be given to the patience displayed by Indian Hindus and Muslims.