Mon Apr 01 16:05:32 2002.


Delhi: The Most Terrorised City on the Planet
by Sreeram Chaulia

Kaun jaaye Zauq par ab Dilli ki galiyan chhod kar? (Who, o poet, would ever want to forsake the lanes of Delhi and leave?) -Ibrahim Zauq

Tum shehr-e-mohabbat kehte ho, ham jaan bachaakar aaye hain (You call this city an epitome of love, I just saved my skin and escaped it) -Sudarshan Faakir

Popular Times of India reporter and author, Chidanand Rajghatta, wrote after November’s American Airlines plane crash that New York was "the most endangered city on the planet." I beg to differ. New York has borne the brunt of one major terrorist strike, a few minor/aborted bomb blasts and some cases of alleged suicide attack attempts. The plane crash was due to mechanical failure. Hillary Clinton may be right in claiming, "New York is America", and Mr.Rajghatta may be given the allowance of the fact that he is stationed specially in America to cover news and allowed the surroundings to get the better of his judgement. But in verity, with all due respect to American ethnocentrism, the city that has suffered the maximum brushes with death, militancy and lethal terrorism for nearly one decade is New Delhi. The city where maximum number of plots of blowing up national monuments, crowded traffic, busy bazaars and places of worship have been conjured and implemented is New Delhi. The city where the ashen shadow of lurching cataclysm and the gory imagery of numbing explosions haunt citizens whenever they step out of their dwellings into public space is New Delhi. The city where one perpetually watches over the shoulder for ‘suspicious-looking characters’ and ‘unidentified objects’ is New Delhi. The city where paranoia, tension and vulnerability to the world’s biggest multinational enterprise, jihad, reign supreme, more than Jerusalem and certainly more than New York, is India’s besieged capital.

The latest diabolical raid on the most sacred structure of post-independence India and the pride of Lutyens’ Delhi, Parliament House, comes on the heels of several hundred major and minor incidents that have set upon this once peaceful city like a black plague. A selected litany of murderous terrorist acts in the last three years attests my argument:

* Jan. 9, 1998 - Explosion near intersection where income tax office and police station are located, kills one, injures 55

* June 27, 1998 – Terrorists fighting for Kashmir’s cession from India throw bomb from a jeep outside injuring two.

* July 26, 1998 - High intensity explosive in bus parked at Kashmiri Gate, Interstate Bus Terminal, kills two, injures three.

* Aug. 31, 1998 - Bomb at crowded Turkman Gate kills one, injures 17.

* Dec. 19, 1998 - Crude bomb explodes in Bhajanpura Hindu temple at night, injuring many.

* April 16, 1999 - Powerful bomb in train at Holambi Kalan railway station kills two.

* Jun 3, 1999 - Explosion near Fountain Chowk in the Chandni Chowk area in front of Red Fort, injures 27.

* Jan. 6, 2000 - Bomb in passenger train car at Old Delhi railway station injures 20.

* Feb. 27, 2000 - High intensity bomb explodes in guesthouse in Paharganj bazaar area, opposite New Delhi railway station, injuring eight.

* March 16, 2000 - Three days before arrival of U.S. President Bill Clinton, low intensity bomb injures seven at Sadar Bazar market, crowded with people shopping for major Muslim and Hindu festivals.

* June 18, 2000 - Bomb near bus terminal and open-air market opposite Red Fort kills two, injures 11.

* June 18, 2000 - Second bomb five minutes later, placed under hawker stall at parade ground near first explosion site, injures two.

* December 22, 2000- Fidayeen sneak into historic Red Fort premises. 3 killed

* May 19, 2001- Twin blasts near Army Headquarters and Dalhousie Road. 2 killed.

* August 10-15, 2001- Low intensity bombs all over the city on the eve of Independence Day. Several dozen injured.

* December 13, 2001- Daredevil blasts and suicide attacks on Parliament. 7 killed, 25 injured

These snippets do not include infinite foiled attacks or successful terrorist activity before 1998 and are meant to just educe an imagery of the dance of death that has overtaken Delhi. Poet Javed Akhtar’s line- maut chhupi jhaadi jhaadi re (death hiding behind every cranny) - fits contemporary New Delhi’s description to a T.

A common thread, binding all these aforementioned foul deeds, is the provenance of the attackers: Pakistan and POK. Syed Salahuddin, Masood Azhar, Majid Dar, Farooq Khalil, Mast Gul, Mohammad Salah, Dawood Ibrahim, Memon Brothers, Osama bin Laden and the rest of the rogue’s gallery have all, at one point or the other, armed, operated and sheltered across the border and pursued the obnoxious cabal of ‘planting the Islamic flag in New Delhi.’ The result of their demonic "freedom struggle", abetted by Pakistani intelligence, is the human and emotional toll being absorbed everyday by residents of Delhi, not to mention the daily bloodbath in Kashmir to which the eyes of Indian politicians have become shamelessly inured.

If Delhi is to survive and see saner times and Kashmir is to return to normalcy, armchair hectoring about ‘pro-active’ policies and ‘hot pursuit’ will have to give way to forthright and courageous ripostes to state-sponsored terrorism and barbarism. Delhi today is a far cry from what a genius from the walled city, Mirza Ghalib wrote in the mid-19th century: "The world is the body, Delhi is its soul"

As a Delhiite and a historian, is my yearning for a return to this idyllic condition asking for too much? Can India and the world not fight for the safety and serenity of their ‘soul’?


Other articles by Sreeram Chaulia

Nuclear safety & theft : Skeletons in Pakistan's cupboard


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