Saturday, September 09, 2006

India's religious war claims more lives

BOMBERS targetting Muslims have killed 37 people and injured as many as 200 in Maleagaon, north east of Mumbai. The attack took place on Friday near a cemetery outside the Nurani mosque in the centre of the city.

Four blasts killed people who had come from Friday prayers to gather and honour their dead, as is traditional on the festival of Shab-e-baraat. The first two, hidden in paniers on bicycles, were near the mosque entrance,the others hiden among flowers by the graveyard. Two more unexploded bombs were found later. Many of the victims were children taking part in a religious procession, and beggars near the mosque entrance. Several people were injured, trampled as crowds fled in panic.

Later a crowd surrounding a police station, relatives asking for information about their loved ones, grew and turned into a riot as police fired shots in the air to disperse them. While vounteers rushed to the hospital to donate blood, elsewhere in the town police vehicles were stoned and torched. The Maharashtra state government rushed reinforcements to Maleagon and imposed a curfew. Mumbai police's Anti-Terrorist Squad and Rapid Action Force units also arrived.

Maleagaon,a Muslim majority town has been the scene of inter-communal violence before, and protests against the invasion of Afghanistan, but the bombing attacks were most likely carried out by organised Hindu extremists as a "reprisal" for the July train bombings in Mumbai which were blamed on Muslim terrorists.

The rise of Hindu supremacist organisations in India, with links to parties in government, has led to worsening religious intolerance and violence in what had previously been seen as a secular republic. Christian organisations have expressed ooncern in a statement condemning the Maleagaon bombings. The All India Christian Union, the All India Catholic Union, and the United Christian Action say:

"Who are these people who will kill the young and the old, men
and women collected at a graveyard to remember their dead parents on Shab -e-baraat?

Who are these people who will plant bombs in train compartments so that strangers they have never met will die a terrible death, on the spot, or as anonymous injured bleeding to death from their wounds in a hospital.

In the death and mayhem it generates, terrorism in India is the same as anywhere else in the world. But if the violence is perhaps directed towards the State elsewhere, in India, non-combatant communities are targetted to foment confrontation and aggravate mutual distrust.
Patently, every community is a target in this vicious binary of death where one act of violence has in it the seeds of the next one.

No single sub-text can explain or justify the motives, or defend the bloodletting.

Governments, the one in New Delhi and those in the States, do well in calling for peace between communities, but they also cannot absolve themselves of their responsibility. Modern intelligence techniques help, but more important are winning and retaining confidence of all communities, specially the minorities. There must be no religious profiling, but similarly, people must see that government agencies will not be swayed by extraneous circumstances or political vested interest.

The Christian community, itself the victims of a sustained hate
campaign and violence against its people, institutions and holy
symbols, condemns such gruesome acts of wanton violence.

We call for peace as we call on the authorities to work actively in restoring the faith of all communities in the rule of law and equity in administration.

Our sympathies and our prayers are with the kin of the dead, and with those recovering from injuries sustained in today's explosions in Malegaon in Maharashtra.

Dr. John Dayal

Member: National Integration Council
Government of India

National President: All India Catholic Union (Founded 1919)
Secretary General: All India Christian Council (Founded 1999)
President: United Christian Action, Delhi (Founded 1992)
Member, Justice and Peace Commision
Archdiocese of Delhi

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