With investigators finding tell-tale signs of a terror plot having gone awry, post Sunday’s predawn car blast near a temple in communally-fragile Coimbatore, the incident, unless tackled professionally with sensitivity, holds the potential of escalating existing tensions on the law and order and political fronts.
Information that the car’s driver and suspected mastermind, who was charred, Jameesha Mubin, was briefly under the National Investigation Agency (NIA) radar, would certainly call into question the capabilities of the intelligence apparatus in sensing and forestalling a terror plot.
It is sheer providence that an LPG cylinder in the car exploded, as preliminary investigation suggests, before Mubin could strike terror.
What cannot be overlooked is that the incident came against the backdrop of serial Molotov cocktail attacks last month, targeting properties of right-wing outfits and their office-bearers in the wake of the nationwide ban on the Popular Front of India.
To the credit of the police force, the larger design was unravelled and the suspected plotters unmasked in less than 24 hours.
That half a dozen suspects have been arrested bears testimony to their investigation skills. Despite the police’s commendable post-blast action, realising the gravity and political ramifications of the issue at hand, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin did the right thing in recommending that the NIA take over the probe.
Governor R.N. Ravi, a former IPS officer, has questioned the four-day delay in calling the NIA. However, that is a matter of perspective and individual assessment of the ground situation.
Politically, this has thrown up some challenges for Mr. Stalin. He has to delicately balance the duty of taking along the minorities and the administrative need to uncompromisingly deal with fundamentalists, who propagate violence as an answer to political problems.
In this he would require the support of constituent parties of the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance, which should acknowledge the need for such balance. The DMK, as such, faces criticism of being soft on terror, due to the 1998 Coimbatore serial blasts, though Tamil Nadu has seen the fangs of terror during the AIADMK regime too (1993 RSS office blast).
He also has to combat attempts trying to stoke communal passions and driving religious polarisation using this incident as a springboard. The BJP has seized upon the issue with a section of its leaders calling for a Coimbatore bandh on October 31 to put the heat on the government and consolidate itself politically.
What is needed, though, is for the NIA and the government to deal with the plotters firmly while not providing scope for communalising and politicising terrorism.
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