ISSN 2330-717X

Samjauta Express: Unwarranted Linkage – OpEd


The five acts of reprisal terrorism carried out by some angry members of the Hindu community against their Muslim fellow-citizens since 2006 need to be strongly condemned and those responsible arrested and prosecuted.

We owe the strong action against the guilty to ourselves and to the relatives of the targeted Muslims.

These deplorable acts were the outcome of anger among some members of the Hindu community over what they perceived as the ineffective response of the Government of India towards jihadi terrorism directed against our soft targets. These jihadi attacks were being orchestrated and co-ordinated by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

All of us were angry over these acts and over the perceived failure of the Government to deal with them effectively. International law and UN resolutions on State-sponsored terrorism gave us the right to retaliate not only against the Pakistan-based organisations which were carrying out these strikes, but also against the State of Pakistan, which was repeatedly sponsoring such acts.

But the Government of India lacked the will to retaliate and the competence to stop the recurring terrorist strikes.It is under these circumstances that some members of the Hindu community decided to act on their own and retaliate.

Initially, they attacked our own fellow Muslim citizens and then the Pakistani nationals visiting their relatives in India when they allegedly carried out an explosion on board the Samjauta Express train in February 2007.

The history of terrorism has instances of such acts of reprisal by individual citizens dissatisfied with the official counter-terrorism response. We had seen it in Northern Ireland when some angry members of the Protestant community took the law into their own hands against their Catholic fellow-citizens.

Fortunately, better sense has prevailed and such reprisal attacks by individual members of the Hindu community against fellow-Muslims have stopped. The Government’s focus now should be on getting these five incidents investigated and prosecuted professionally.

There are two disturbing aspects to the follow-up action by the Government of India. The first is the seeming lack of a professional investigation, which has remained superficial and politically directed without any satisfactory evidence against organisations such as the RSS. To blame the RSS just because some of those arrested had an association with it would be as unfair as it would be to blame the Army just because some of those arrested were serving in the Army.

One has an impression that the investigation is being used as a political stick to beat the RSS with. The objective has become not the successful prosecution of the suspects, but the discrediting of the RSS. This would prove counter-productive.

The second disturbing aspect is our allowing Pakistan to project a linkage between the ISI-sponsored 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the explosion in the Samjauta Express. Our over-anxiety to show extra sensitivity to Pakistan’s psychological pressure on the Samjauta Express incident is unwarranted. This over-anxiety was evident in the way our National Investigation Agency (NIA) hastened with the filing of the charge-sheet against the Hindus arrested on the eve of the talks between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries in Islamabad.

Our investigation into the Samjauta Express incident is a stand-alone case unrelated to 26/11 in any manner. The Hindus who allegedly carried out the explosion were not sponsored by the Indian State. They had no ideological agenda. To see a moral and legal equivalence between what happened on board the Samjauta Express in February 2007 and what happened in Mumbai for almost three days in November, 2008 is a total distortion of the facts relating to Pakistan’s use of terrorism as a weapon against India.

Pakistan wants to project the terrorism sponsored by it against India since 1981 as part of an action-reaction syndrome. We are walking into that trap by relaxing the pressure on Pakistan to arrest and prosecute successfully all those involved in the 26/11 strikes and by succumbing to Pakistani pressure on the Samjauta Express incident.

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B. Raman

B. Raman (August 14, 1936 – June 16, 2013) was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies.

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