Cry Coimbatore

Thirteen bomb blasts ripped through Coimbatore in mid-February, claiming innocent lives two and a half months after an anti-Muslim pogrom


It was 30 minutes before BJP president, L.K. Advani was scheduled to address an election rally at Coimbatore, at 3.50 p.m. on February 14. A mere 250 metres away from the rostrum put up at T.V. Samy Road — D.B.Road Junction, the first of 13 bombs exploded killing 46 persons and injuring more than 200.

In the days that followed 10 more were killed. Six were killed during a pre-dawn swoop by policemen at a multi-storeyed residential premise on Thirumal Street at 2.50 a.m. on Sunday, the day after, allegedly at a hide-out. According to the official version, the bomb attempted to be hurled at the raiding policemen actually killed the seven accused. Local civil liberties groups are investigating this particular case as the police version seems to have many loop-holes. Four teenaged Muslim boys died in a stray blast three days later.

Advani cancelled the meeting scheduled to be held in Coimbatore. He issued a statement backed by other party colleagues claiming that he was the target of the bombs — a part of an ISI conspiracy acting in tandem with terrorist Muslim groups. The BJP accused the ruling DMK government of being soft on Islamic extremists despite persistent demand for action against them by the BJP and its affiliate, the Hindu Munnani. Incidentally, the Hindu Munnani has been indicted, by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) along with sections of the local police for its direct participation in the anti-minority pogrom last November (see CC, February 1998). Policemen in uniform had aided Hindu communal elements in converting the government hospital at Coimbatore into a macabre war theatre, thrashing and stabbing Muslim victims brought there for treatment. Even innocent rickshawallahs who transported them were not spared. The seventh of the 13 bomb blasts that ripped Coimbatore on February 14 was placed at the same Coimbatore Medical College hospital, killing two innocent nurses. Not surprisingly, the acute communal polarisation caused by the bomb blasts led to a resounding victory for the BJP candidate in Coimbatore.

To tackle the emerging situation, The Federation of All Muslim Organisations in Coimbatore (formed in the aftermath of the November 1997 violence) observed an Anti-Terrorism week between March 7 to March 14. The campaign involved wall writings, wall posters and street corner meetings and culminated in a public meeting on Match 14. The Federation has also been assisting the police in apprehending known activists of some communal organisations and also detecting bombs. The Federation has also entered into a dialogue with non-communal Hindu organisations in an effort at creating lasting communal peace and unity in Coimbatore.

Hindu organisations in an effort at creating lasting communal peace and unity in Coimbatore.This action of the Federation assumes significance given the reaction of the Coimbatore public and police machinery once the bombs went off. Soon after the first explosion, Muslim commercial establishments and houses in the city in Hindu-dominated areas were attacked, looted and set on fire.On the night of the blasts, the government banned two organisations, the Al-Umma and the All-India Jihad Committee. Al-Umma leader S.A. Basha and 12 others, some from the Jihad Committee, were arrested.

The next day a highly sophisticated 80 kg car bomb was found and defused before it could go off. Arrests began immediately thereafter. Over 800 people have been arrested from the city, adjoining areas and districts as well as elsewhere in the state, besides nine others from Trissur in Kerala state.According to official reports, about 550 pipe bombs, 200 gelatin sticks, 1200 detonators and 1000 petrol bombs have been recovered.

Large-scale exodus of people, especially Muslims from many parts of Coimbatore, some of whom have left for adjacent Kerala, has been evident. Muslim families have also been forced to vacate houses rented by the landlords, many of whom were operating in abject fear and some facing threats., Some of these evacuees are staying elsewhere in the city, many with Hindu friends.

During combing operations the police have been responsible for many indiscriminate arrests without adequate proof, of innocent Muslims. A maulana, suffering from a mental illness, under treatment for the last four years (he had last been to the doctor on February 24 ) was arrested. under the same crime number.

Archived from Communalism Combat, March  1998, Year 5  No. 41, Cover Story,



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