India Insight

Sophistication and savagery in Ahmedabad

One of the most striking things about the weekend’s bomb attacks in Gujarat was the mixture of savagery and sophistication.

Security personnel search for evidence near a bomb blast site in Ahmedabad July 27, 2008. REUTERS/Amit DaveSavagery because of the way a second wave of bombs were detonated at a hospital, apparently to target the crowds of concerned relatives who had gathered there. Had they been watching Contract, a recently released Bollywood film with a similar plotline?

Sophistication because of the way the coordinated attack was planned and executed without the intelligence agencies getting a sniff of it, even though dozens of people must have been involved.

It also looks as though the IP address of an American living in Mumbai was hacked to send an email just before the first blasts. Perhaps the perpetrators remembered how Daniel Pearl’s kidnappers were traced in 2002 from a email sent from a cybercafe in Karachi. This time the sender of the email will be harder to trace.

The bombers also stayed one step ahead of the police by not using mobile phones to detonate Saturday’s blast. That allowed the bombers to detonate the second set of bombs without having to worry about the mobile phone network being closed down (as police in Bangalore did on Friday). It could also will rob the police of some potentially valuable leads.

Time to train India’s police in riot control

Time and time again, India’s police react to riots by using live ammunition and protesters are killed. Occasionally there is a public outcry, as there was after deaths in Kalinganagar and Nandigram, yet seldom can I remember officers being dismissed or prosecuted.Ethnic Gujjars sit near the bodies of those who died during clashes with the police at Bayana village, in Bharatpur district in India’s desert state of Rajasthan May 24, 2008. Thousands of agitators from the Gujjar community organised a stoppage of train services to press for their demand for Scheduled Tribe status, which will entitle them to government jobs and college seats. REUTERS/Vinay Joshi (INDIA)In Rajasthan over the past few days, the police appear to have shot and killed more than 30 rioting Gujjars . True, their provocation may have been extreme — one policeman lynched, another police station attacked.

But was the death of so many, apparently unarmed, people really necessary?

A judicial inquiry has been ordered and I look forward to its conclusions.

In the meantime, I wonder if it is time the Indian government spent some time and some money in training its own police in how to quell unruly mobs without having to kill people.

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