Terrorists wanted to disrupt communal harmony: former Jaipur royal

May 19th, 2008 - 10:53 am ICT by admin  

By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
Jaipur, May 19 (IANS) The terror attack on Jaipur was “planned” to trigger riots between Hindus and Muslims in the city who have been living here for centuries in perfect harmony, said Jai Singh, a former prince and city businessman. “Jaipur is a soft target. Also, terrorists wanted to trigger communal disharmony and cause riots. It was deliberate, planned, and no coincidence. The government did a good job in clamping curfew on the city; otherwise there could have been some tension,” said Singh, who is director of Rambagh Palace Hotel, one of the country’s elite hotels.

“For centuries Hindus and Muslims have lived here together. There have been small incidents, which were due to politicians who want to use the situation for their own ends,” Singh, who belongs to the Jaipur royal family, told IANS.

Singh, who is also chairman of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Rajasthan State Council, said another heartening feature was that a number of tourists did not pack up and leave in the aftermath of the terror bombings - rather many of them stayed on to help, either donating blood or nursing the injured, said Singh.

The May 13 mayhem that saw 61 killed and over 200 injured as serial blasts ripped through the Pink City was not new to the Western tourist particularly. They had the experience of such attacks in New York, London, Madrid and other places in recent years, said Singh.

“Most of the tourists stayed in their hotels but did not leave the city. Many have experienced terror attacks either in their own country, or have seen the Twin Tower or the London bomb blasts,” he said.

“Now, their reaction is to come forward and help. I heard so many foreigners came either to donate blood or nurse the injured. They believe in getting things back to normal as soon as possible,” Singh said in an interview with IANS at Rambagh Palace Hotel, one of the first palaces to be converted into a hotel.

Foreigners have “accepted” such attacks and are able to “cope” with them, he felt.

“Those planning to come to Jaipur have not cancelled their plans even after learning about the attack,” said Singh.

Though May is an off-tourist season in the desert state due to the intense heat, there has been “no large-scale cancellations”.

Singh said the 2005 London train bombings took place when he was going to the city, but it didn’t deter him. “People take such acts in their stride. They don’t panic.”

He said Jaipur, considered as one of the hot spots for tourists to India, was a “soft” target for terrorists in comparison to metros like Delhi or Mumbai.

“We can’t blame intelligence agencies as terrorists pick their own time and place to target. The state cannot be on high alert all the time. We cannot be a police state. Rajasthan is a known destination on the tourist international map.”

Apart from the government, the citizens and civil society now have to come forward to create awareness about how to thwart such actions again, he added.

In the midst of the devastation and destruction, he said, what stood out was the spirit of Jaipur.

Singh is keen on a memorial for those who lost their lives. “This would ensure that people never forget the black day. It will also serve as a reminder that such things could also happen again.”

He agreed that the city had suffered, not just in the deaths and the injuries, but also financially. “But people geared back to life. I know it’s the pavement seller who has suffered.”

Singh said industry would soon hold a meeting with the government and ask how they could reach out to the injured or to the families of those who have lost their kin.

“We have not decided what kind of help we could provide. It could be either financial or we could just rehabilitate the families that have suffered. We could also honour those who volunteered to help, like the British girl,” he said, referring to Esther Shaylor, who had come to work with an NGO here but pitched in to provide help to the injured at a state-run hospital.

(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at kavita.b@ians.in)

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