We are all the more committed to peace in South Asia

We are all the more committed to peace in South Asia

It is unfortunate to report the train bombing that killed at least 66 people. Train was none other than the oldest train link between India and Pakistan – Samjhauta Express. Despite of piercing ache in our hearts, we feel all the more committed to make the voices of the majority heard – majority of us don't want violence and hatred between people of India and Pakistan, there is a small minority of people indulging in acts of violence and terror, and they don't represent us. Let us break our silence and be vocal about the train bombings today – we are crying, undoubtedly, and are more resolved to continue our struggle to establish peace between the two nations.

People of India and Pakistan, including young people, have tried their utmost to restore normalcy between the two nations, but for the few people in minority who resort to such brutal ways to invoke undue hatred and anguish, and undoubtedly cause an irrevocable loss of human life. I don't know who the perpetrators of violence are, but for sure I know that it not one of the millions of people on both sides of the border who earnestly want to co-exist in peace and harmony.

We need to break-the-silence, because there are few power mongers who want to wrongly claim that they represent us – they don't, and let us for once put this on record. We – the majority of people of India and Pakistan, want to co-exist in harmony and live our lives full of love and mutual understanding and respect. We want sustainable development, on both sides of the borders. We want social justice become a norm on both sides of the border. And having said that, our hearts weep to hear of this unprecedented attack of the peace-train between two nations.

We also believe that our response in this grim and sad hour of grief should not be of hatred and revenge - rather our commitments to peace and non-violence be as determined as possible. The perpetrators of violence want to invoke hatred, we must be resolute to not yield to their demands. This is the time to test our steely resolve - to peace, love and communal harmonious co-existence. This is the time to denounce all kinds of violence and oppression, because in those 66 innocent dead declared so far - you or I could have been one too. This is the time to break the silence.

We are reproducing few news items, courtesy BBC and Rediff News, for factual details. These are reproduced below:

INDEX of NEWS-reproduced:

1) Leaders condemn India train blast (BBC)


3) India blast victims' security questions (BBC)

4) 'There will always be disgruntled people' (Rediff News)

5) 67 killed as blasts rock Indo-Pak special train (Rediff News)

1) Leaders condemn India train blast
February 19, 2007

The "Friendship Express" restarted in 2004 after a two-year gap India and Pakistan have condemned a train bombing that killed at least 66 people as an act of terrorism aimed at disrupting their peace process.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf vowed the attack would stiffen their resolve to reach a sustainable peace. The train, running from Delhi to Lahore in Pakistan, was hit by two blasts at about midnight (1830 GMT Sunday) near Panipat, 80km (50 miles) from Delhi. The ensuing fire swept through two carriages of the "Friendship Express". It is thought three-quarters of the 750 people on the train were Pakistanis, as were most of the dead. President Musharraf said the attack was a heinous crime. "Such wanton acts of terrorism will only serve to further strengthen our resolve to attain the mutually desire objective of sustainable peace," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed "anguish and grief" and vowed the culprits would be caught. The blasts happened a day before Pakistan's foreign minister was due in Delhi for talks with Indian leaders. The minister, Khurshid Kasuri, said the explosion was a "horrendous act of terrorism" but it would not change his plans to visit India from 20-23 February.

The reaction from both governments suggests the prime suspects might be groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad - the main Islamic militant groups who have been blamed for many high-profile bombings, says the BBC's Jill McGivering.

Recent attacks on Delhi, Mumbai and Varanasi, for example, seemed designed to damage India's image abroad and stoke anti-Pakistan feeling inside India. But the fact that so many of the dead on the train were Pakistani Muslims may indicate that the devices were intended for a different target, or exploded prematurely, she says.

Initial investigations suggest explosives in suitcases ignited bottles of paraffin to start a blaze. Witnesses said they saw people screaming and struggling to get out of the fire-stricken carriages. The BBC's Soutik Biswas, reporting from the scene, said the heat of the flames had peeled the blue paint off the coaches, and oil and cinders covered the tracks. Shiv Ram, a police railway constable, was one of the first officials on the scene. "The coaches were totally engulfed in flames. I brought out three charred women - I could only recognise them as women because they were wearing bangles," he said.

Many train windows in India are barred for security reasons. A rescuer, Rajinder Prasad, said: "We couldn't save anyone. They were screaming inside but no-one could get out." A doctor in Panipat, Ved Gupta, said: "It's very difficult to say who the victims were. Most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition." Relatives who gathered at Delhi station were given only a list of 13 injured and one identified body. The burnt-out carriages were moved to a railway siding a couple of kilometres away for forensic examination.

2) SAMJHAUTA EXPRESS: BBC, February 19, 2007

The rest of the train continued on its journey to the border station of Attari where passengers switched to another train to travel on to Lahore. The Indian High Commission in Islamabad said arrangements were being made to process visas immediately for Pakistanis who had relatives on the train and wished to go to India. The twice-weekly service from the Indian capital to Lahore was restarted in 2004 after a two-year gap as part of the peace process between the two countries.

3) India blast victims' security questions
By Soutik Biswas BBC News,

Sixty-year-old Kamruddin, a milkman from Multan in Pakistan, lies wheezing in the only bed in a curious "VIP emergency room" in the chaotic government hospital in Panipat, India. He does not remember any security person checking him when he boarded the crowded unreserved carriage of the Samjhauta (Friendship) Express at Old Delhi railway station on Sunday night. A little over an hour after the train rolled out, an explosion rocked Kamruddin's carriage and knocked him out. "Nobody checked us before we boarded. Nobody at all," gasps Kamruddin. He is luckier than most of his co-passengers - doctors say he has suffered minor burns, mostly on his hands, but his asthma is worrying them. "Whoever was behind this, the incident will give a very bad name to India," says Kamruddin. Outside, Mohammed Saif, a mechanic from Old Delhi, is looking for his aunt and niece who were on the train on their journey back home to Karachi.

The stench of the dead is strong inside the gutted carriages.

He also remembers seeing off Aftab Banu, 55, and her daughter, Arfa, 20, to the railway station and coming away surprised that nobody had frisked them or checked their belongings. "It was a crowded platform, it was a crowded train. We came and left unchecked too," he says.

This raises the question of how seriously India takes security on trains even after a series of blasts over the years. Especially on a train which is easily a prime target for any group trying to wreck the fragile India-Pakistan peace process. Clearly, lax or no security seems to have contributed to the explosions in the two blue-coloured carriages, "built in 2003" and "painted and disinfected" last in December, according to the markings. After the blasts comes the usual routine of a frenzied media scrum and politicians' visits to the railway where the incident happened - disregarding trains hurling up and down the adjoining tracks - followed by "VIP" visits to the hurriedly disinfected local hospital with neatly-gowned doctors.

All this seems to undermine the human tragedy unravelling at the hospital, where tearful people arrive to try to find or identify their friends and relatives on the train. Her visa was not extended, and she had to take the train on Sunday night

"My sister was on the train. Can I please go in and have a look?" says a man outside a ward for convalescing mothers which has been converted into a makeshift mortuary. Inside lie 65 charred, plastic-covered bodies of the passengers bound for Atari on the India-Pakistan border.

Even 12 hours after the incident, doctors at the hospital were saying only one body had been identified. The doctor in charge reads out the identification record - Yasmin Akhtar, 50, a resident of Amta Chowk, Srinagar, identified from her passport and visa. "So she was a resident of India, right?" I ask her. "No, no, she is Muslim. She must be from Pakistan," the doctor says.

Most of the bodies are charred beyond recognition, but procedures move slowly and look chaotic, making it more agonising for relatives and friends of passengers.

Mr Saif says he heard the news of the explosion from a relative who saw it on television early on Monday morning. Twelve hours later, after visiting the hospital and the blast site, he and his friends are clueless about the whereabouts of Aftab and Arfa Banu. The two women had come to visit Mr Saif and their family in Old Delhi for a month - it was Mrs Banu's first visit to India in 16 years. "She didn't want to leave after a month, she was feeling unwell. But her visa was not extended, and she had to take the train on Sunday night," says Mr Saif.

Panipat may be a fairly prosperous district of Haryana state hugging a national highway dotted with pickle and property - real estate-sellers, faux resorts and billboards announcing an "international city" are rife - but the local hospital does not even have a burns unit.
So about a dozen grievously-wounded passengers have been taken to a hospital in Delhi, some 120km (80 miles) away, for treatment.

This leaves Kamruddin the only passenger on the train who survived the blast in the hospital to recount his memories. He says he had finished a smoke and nearly dozed off in the train when he heard an explosion. "There was a blast, there was smoke. People scrambled all over, the train didn't stop, people started pulling the emergency chain. Then I passed out."

On the railway near Dewana, where the train halted with its two carriages on fire, the track is strewn with diesel oil, cinder, surgical gloves, bent window grilles, all pointing to the harrowing rescue operations during the night. The stench of the dead is strong inside the gutted carriages.

The floors - and the scorched skeletons of seats - are strewn with burnt clothes, hair, shoes, food. And then there is the detritus of what looks like small gifts people were taking home or to their friends and relatives across the border - half-burnt packets of Indian snacks, poppadom, a huge pile of betel leaf, packets of betel nuts, spices, even some noodles. Outside, a forlorn railway security man Shiv Ram says he has seen nothing like this in his three decades of work. When he arrived after midnight, the fire had been doused, but the rescue work had begun.

"I pulled out a few bodies. I think they were women. They were all black. But I think I saw a few bangles on them."


4) 'There will always be disgruntled people'
Sheela Bhatt and Nikhil Lakshman
Rediff News, http://www.rediffmail.com/
February 19, 2007

Last month, in an exclusive interview to rediff.com, National Security Advisor M K Narayanan spoke to Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt and Editor-in-Chief Nikhil Lakshman on wide-ranging issues including China and terrorism. In the aftermath of the bomb blasts on the Samjhauta Express on Sunday night, we publish Narayanan's views on terrorism, a subject he has dealt with for many decades.

Sitting in this office, what is your assessment of India's national security scenario? What do you think of the spread of terrorism in India's hinterland?

I think this is a phenomenon not peculiar to India. Terrorism has now come to become, I think, one of the world's greatest scourges. There is no part of the world which is not affected. Yes, to some extent we are bigger victims than many other parts of the world but I think there is a certain amount of understanding across the world that this is an international phenomenon.

The Indian experience is being used to a great extent now but it took the world a very, very long time, what we have been talking of for some time that you need to look at terrorism not in a selective manner but as a comprehensive global phenomenon. Yes, it's a problem.

My concern, if the terrorism persists, is the aftermath of terrorism.

Will it create a division of Indian society? I think that is the point. I think of all the nations affected by terrorism we have the most composite population. We have people of different shades, different levels of progress, different levels of development etc. I think what would be a localised phenomenon can then be transferred into a much bigger issue. I think that would be, as National Security Adviser working in the Prime Minister's Office, to me the biggest problem.

An individual act of terrorism is possible... to drive a car in a crowded place and blow it up or use a suicide bomber. The incident takes place when the case is not detected but there are 15 incidents that have been aborted.

Nevertheless, every time an incident of terrorism happens it is a problem. But it is really, what I will call as a lack of faith in people that follows when terror comes in. We have seen after the Mumbai blasts. Immediately the suspicion is cast on certain sections of certain communities. That creates the divide. A country like India cannot afford that. India's basic strength is unity in diversity that we have.

The most worrisome aspect is that after the government's statement that no Indian is a part of the global campaign of terror, that may no longer be true...

No Indian has gone out and participated in it. What is happening is that it is possible to infect people. Most of the people (involved in terrorism) have gone out of the country and coming back and inciting people.

No Indian has participated in Al Qaeda. No Indian has been mercenary in that sense of the term. Yes, sometimes they have been used as it happened in the Mumbai bomb blasts. There are some Indians who have participated in providing logistic support and helping out and all that.
But, the fallout (of terror incidents) is still worrying. Because it creates suspicion among neighbours, suspicion among communities, that could be a major blow to India's otherwise widely hailed and widely recognised society.

You don't see it as a group of people so disgruntled with the system that they will take to terror? For instance, some Mumbai police officers believe the 11/7 blasts in the city could be a turning point in the battle against terror. They believe that the blasts could not have occurred without the large scale participation of local people.

I don't think anybody in (the) Mumbai (police) has said 'large scale'. You can always find disgruntled elements in any community to participate... you can always rationalise it by some incidents that have taken place. Having dealt with it, I can always say that the basic point is to prevent (incidents of terror).

The basic issue we really need is to create a composite community. There will always be disgruntled people. Is it not true of the United Kingdom? Is it not true of many other parts of world? There will always be disgruntled people who are unhappy with the state of affairs.
What we need, at the level of security agency, is to ensure that the numbers (of terror incidents) are kept at the absolute minimum. I am sorry to say the media plays quite an unsavoury role when we alert the community to be vigilant. I must say that outside mega cities we get a lot of support from people. It reduces the chances of success of terrorists.

At the political level there is a need to keep a certain balance. If one side goes overboard you will find a reaction, a backlash on the other side. We need to maintain a balance while recognising that there always are disgruntled elements but ensure that the community leaders play a constructive role.

Then, there is a money trail (behind terrorist attacks). I think, 98 per cent of this is run on the basis of money. It is a kind of a new route for employment. We have to nab the money trail.
Much depends on the state of play in the country. There we are far, far, far better than most countries in the world. Even (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair seemed very concerned with the fact of homegrown British fundamentalism. They have no communication to the community. We have great inroads into the community.

Many Muslims come here and meet me. We talk to them. They are saying what needs to be done. There is communication. There is a kind of interaction going on. Nevertheless, we have some people who for some thousand rupees have used hand grenades.

In our interactions we find there is a kind of resentment against the entire system that might be difficult to address...

The system means what?

Like, the Sachar Committee on Muslims showed that there is a lack of employment opportunity.
That is all right. The Sachar Committee has highlighted the fact. But you also have several communities in this country who have the same kind of problem.

It is true that you have a system where the premium is on education. Some communities may be the beneficiaries of education but the rest of them may not have been. The question is, how do you reduce grievances. Resentment is a very strong word.

There can be an element of resentment. The question is, are you going to transform that into violence in a country of one billion people with a limited number of what you called attractive opportunities? You are always bound to have a sizeable number of people who always feel a sense of grievance.

Now you can have resentment against the system. What does the Sachar Committee say? But there are enough communities in India, outside even the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes and Muslims who have the same problem. The question that we are really looking at is, how do you bring them all into the mainstream? How do you generate enough for all? How do you generate enough opportunities?

There will always be people against the system. You know, it is like you go to the North East you have the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and people say it should be abolished. The AFSPA is there for a special, particular purpose. If there is no violence or violence is at a minimal level, then you don't require the armed forces and you don't require the AFSPA. There is a balance that you have to maintain.

So when you talked of resentment, it has to be in a particular paradigm of thinking and action.
So that is quite a slow process when they (the affected) can get justice. On the other hand this terrorism is...

Terrorism is really like a bird on a tree! It depends on people, how they want to view a bird.
Organised crime is of the same kind. The rules are the same. You have people who are willing, seeing great opportunities and becoming rich quickly. So they turn to crime.

Organised crime and communal syndicates have now become a way of life. Similarly, terrorism is another kind of phenomenon. Here, of course, sometimes, ideology plays a role. Sometimes, other considerations play a role

5) 67 killed as blasts rock Indo-Pak special train
Rediff News,http://www.rediffmail.com/
February 19, 2007

In a suspected terror attack, 67 people, including some Pakistani nationals, were killed in explosions believed to have been set off by improvised explosive devices in two coaches of the Delhi-Attari special train for Lahore at Deewana near Panipat, about 100 km from Delhi.
Several people were also injured in the incident, which the Northern Railway said was a clear case of sabotage.

The two coaches, where all the deaths took place, were completely gutted and only the charred remains were visible.

The explosions in the train took place at 11.55 pm on Sunday night. The bi-weekly train left the Old Delhi railway station at 10.40 pm.

Preliminary examination of the material found in the two charred coaches of the Samjhauta Express has revealed that a deadly mix of kerosene, sulphur and potassium nitrate (low grade) was used for the explosives, official sources said on Monday. These materials were packed in clothes and a timer device in suitcases, the sources said.

Northern Railway General Manger V N Mathur, who reached the spot from Delhi, said two suitcases were recovered from the spot -- one on the rail track and one from the train.
Both the suitcases contained IEDs -- one of them also had incendiary material, either kerosene or petrol, he said.

He said he had talked to the gateman near Deewana station who told him that he had heard two distinct explosions. "From this evidence, we deduce that this is a clear case of sabotage," Mathur said.

After detaching the two coaches, the rest of the train left for Attari via Wagah. Superintendent of Police (Panipat) Mohinder Singh Sheoran said forensic experts from Madhuban were summoned.

A senior police officer said a Pakistani national has also given information to police regarding some explosive being planted on the train.

The official said the passenger was identified as Shamshuddin.

Two Railway Protection Force personnel who died in the blasts were identified as Kashmir Singh and Rajender Pal, both hailing from Punjab. While Singh was an ASI in RPF, Pal was a constable.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while condemning the "heinous" bombing of the Samjhauta Express from New Delhi vowed not to allow such acts of terror to derail the Indo-Pak peace process.

"We will not allow elements which want to sabotage the ongoing peace process to succeed in their nefarious designs," Musharraf said in a statement in Islamabad.

He underscored the need for Pakistan and India to move forward undeterred in the quest for dispute resolution and lasting peace in the region and expressed profound shock over the tragic loss of lives in the attack.

Dr Singh, who received a call from his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz, said India was committed to doing everything possible to ensure that perpetrators of the heinous act were punished.

"The prime minister declared India's abhorrence for this heinous terrorist act and reaffirmed our commitment to doing everything possible to ensure that its perpetrators are punished," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

Dr Singh also conveyed his condolences to the Pakistani victims of the tragedy and indicated that steps were taken to provide all possible assistance for the injured and bereaved.
World leaders condemned the terror strike and expressed hope that it would not derail the Indo-Pak peace process.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri, who will arrive in Delhi on Tuesday on an official visit, said the response to the attack is that the "peace process must go on."
"We must deny terrorists any oppotunity. This act has to be condemned unreservedly," Kasuri said.

"It should act as an impetus for India and Pakistan to carry forward the peace process with even greater sincerity and a sense of purpose and direction," he said.

Describing the blasts as "a deliberate act of terrorism," the United States said such acts could only strengthen the resolve to defeat terror and achieve peace.

"The US government is shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives caused by a deliberate act of terrorism," a US Embassy statement said in Delhi.

"Such acts can only strengthen the resolve of all well-intentioned people to defeat terror and achieve peace," it said adding, the US government extends its condolences to the victims of this "criminal act" and their families.

Expressing "profound grief" over the attack, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing sent his condolences to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The European Union urged India and Pakistan to continue their peace dialogue despite the attack.

The German presidency of the EU said the attack was an act of "mindless violence clearly intended to disrupt the process of rapprochement between Pakistan and India."
Describing the bombings as "utterly shameful," British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said he was "shocked to learn of the devastating loss of life on the Samjhauta Express."

"I would also like to offer the governments of India and Pakistan whatever assistance they require, to bring to justice the perpetrators of this brutal attack," he said.
Bangladesh condemned the blasts as "heinous" and said it stood against "all forms of terrorism."
Japan said the blasts were "unforgivable" and "extremely vicious" and an "attack that targetted innocent people."

The train runs non-stop from Delhi to Attari where the passengers are shifted to the Samjhauta Express, which goes to Lahore after Customs and Immigration clearances.
The train only has operational halts at some stations, including Ludhiana and no passenger can alight from or board the train en route.