Gujarat Muslims targeted in blast aftermath, say rights activists

August 4th, 2008 - 7:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) Claiming that around 400 Muslim youths were rounded up for questioning in connection with the serial bombings in Gujarat’s largest city Ahmedabad last week, human rights activists have criticised the singling out of members of a community without first probing their role in the terrorist attack. “Around 400 innocent Muslim youths have been picked up by the police for interrogation with regard to the recent serial blasts in Ahmedabad. We condemn the terrorist act, but demonizing of a particular community without investigations does not augur well,” Dinesh Oza, a journalist and human rights activist working in Gujarat, told reporters here.

The human rights activists gathered sought an independent and objective inquiry into the Ahmedabad blasts and the subsequent recovery of more than 25 live bombs in Gujarat’s diamond city, Surat.

On July 26, 21 synchronized blasts ripped through Ahmedabad city killing 53 people and injuring 200 others.

“It is beyond anybody’s comprehension that all the live bombs in Surat did not explode, while in Ahmedabad most of them did. The bomb disposal squad defused the explosives without any safety gear and with smiling faces, even the bystanders showed no fear as they watched the bombs being defused,” Asghar Ali Engineer of All India Secular Forum said.

“The unexploded bombs in Surat were planted as high as on hoardings and tree tops and had to be brought down with the help of a crane. Shall we believe that terrorists were planting bombs with the help of cranes, about which Surat police were unaware,” said Shabnam Hashmi from ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy) voluntary group.

The activists also sought answers from the Gujarat government on why the vacancies of five superintendent of police, nine inspectors and 40 percent posts of lower level staffers in the intelligence branch were not filled up.

“This has resulted in non-availability of intelligence reports from bordering districts like Kutch and Banaskantha. Why did the CCTV cameras installed at the state border and in Ahmedabad hospitals fail on July 26 when the blasts took place, yet no action seems to have been taken against those responsible for the failure,” added Hashmi, who has been working for rehabilitation of the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The activists vehemently opposed re-enactment of the Prevention of Terrorist (Activities) Act (POTA), saying it provides a tool in the hands of the government to “punish people of their choice”.

“POTA only had provisions that confession made to police will be admissible in the court and the arrested person will not be granted bail. But if the police have evidence that a person has committed a terrorist act, then even ordinary laws are sufficient enough,” noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan said.

“In 2002, people of a particular community were raped and killed, their houses were burnt and they were never allowed to return. If you do so much injustice on people, then there can be a reaction of people to become terrorists. So, such injustice should end,” Bhushan added.

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