July 26, 2008 will probably go down in the country'sgory history of terror as a day when even terrorism stooped to new lows. Not only did 16 blasts rip through several localities of Gujarat'smost populous mega city, Ahmedabad, killing nearly 50 people and critically injuring over a 100 but this time the merchants of death targeted even hospitals, the havens for healing and caring just when the wounded started pouring in.
The serial blasts, eerily similar to the serial blasts which rocked Jaipur a couple of months ago which came within twenty four hours of serial bombings in the country'sIT capital, Bengaluru, used cycles and cars as the vehicles of death. Bombs were planted on rented bicycles in crowded market places, garbage dumps and in the case of the audacious blast at Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, in a car which had been parked in the parking lot outside the trauma centre for days with the specific purpose of inflicting maximum loss of life and property.
The heinous attack, aimed at spreading terror among the people and destroying both the social and economic fabric of the country'smost industrialised state however failed to achieve both objectives, thanks to a display of sterling leadership by the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
And it is precisely because of this that Narendra Modi, saddled with the past baggage of allegedly mishandling the communal riots in the wake of the Godhra carnage, may be able to silence his critics once and for all. In fact, in his measured response to this calamity inflicted on Gujarat, Shri Modi has displayed to the world at large his political coming-of-age in the statesmanlike manner in which he has handled a potentially explosive situation.
It was a calm, composed Shri Modi who took stock of the crisis. Within less than an hour of the explosions, a full-fledged emergency cabinet meeting of Gujarat Cabinet had been convened, the Army and paramilitary forces had been sounded and a security net had been thrown over the city to prevent any further untoward incidents. A rock-solid and seemingly unflappable Shri Modi was a leader leading from the front?visiting the victims the same night, providing the much needed healing touch that was the urgent need of the hour and most importantly, urging people not to panic or react to the provocation. Speaking to The Organiser, a senior BJP leader said: ?For a man who has been labelled as a Merchant of Death, Shri Modi that night was a proverbial messiah and his mere presence was enough to soothe the frayed nerves of the people.?
Though serial blasts have become a commonplace phenomenon in India with terrorists striking with impunity any time, any where with the deadly intent of spreading fear and exposing the vulnerable underbelly of our security preparedness, in Gujarat their aim was also to paralyse the state'sbuoyant economy and growth as also create communal schisms in an attempt to provoke communal backlashes. This was evident in the chilling e-mail sent to several TV channels by an hitherto unknown outfit, the Indian Mujahideen, which mentioned that the objective was to avenge the killing of Muslims in the state.
It is leaders like Shri Modi who have however shown that by rising to the occasion swiftly, a state government can combat the lethal designs of the masterminds of death. Urging people to maintain peace and communal harmony and focus on the development of the state, he effectively doused a potential communal flashpoint.
What also goes to the Gujarat CM'scredit is that instead of engaging in a blame game with the Centre, he is ensuring that his government works in tandem with the Centre to get to the bottom of this conspiracy. In fact, he personally briefed the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the state of preparedness of his state government and the measures that have been taken following the blasts to prevent a repeat.
In a stance befitting a leader of his stature, Shri Modi has termed the terror attack as an attack not on Gujarat but an attack on India. If the Ahmedabad serial blasts have showcased Shri Modi'sleadership, they are also a a sterling example of the legendary Gujarati resilience. There'sa sense of acceptance, of calm and of a steely resolution among Ahmedavadis that they will let nothing provoke them into a flaring up of communal passions once again. Leaders of both the Hindu and Muslim communities are urging people to maintain communal harmony at all costs. In addition, the blasts have also shown that Gujarat is one state which has learnt from its mistakes. Industrious by nature, the Gujaratis, Hindus and Muslims alike, have learnt that communal backlashes affect the business of both equally. ?When the state which has zealously nurtured its reputation of being among the most-investor friendly of all states in the country gets a slur on its reputation, it affects each Gujarati,? said an industrialist from the state.
While people are going about picking up the threads of their lives albeit a little cautiously undeterred by the discovery of over 10 live bombs in some parts of the city as well as in the textile hub of the state, Surat to convey the sentiment that it'sbusiness as usual, industrial associations too are doing their bit to ensure that business goes on, undisrupted. Shortly after the blasts, Chairman of the Gujarat chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and industrialist Vimal Ambani said: ?This is a short term set back, which will not affect the pace of industrial development in Gujarat. We are sure of moving forward despite of all odds.? He further maintained that no state in the world could provide assurance of a full-proof security. Nonetheless, CII-Gujarat would put forth several recommendations to the concerned state government authorities to ensure better security for industry, he said.
Rupesh Shah, President, Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industries (GCCI) criticised the bombings and termed it an effort to destabilise the industrial activities in the state. He said the blasts were a deliberate, well-planned effort to derail the industrial activities in both Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. Conceding that such incidents may be a short-term dampner for investors, he however expressed optimism that ?in the long run Gujarat will remain an attractive place for investment.
Echoing similar sentiments, S.P. Jain, VP, Hotels and Restaurant Association, Western India (HRAWI) said: ?For the past two years, Gujarat has been doing well on the hotel industry front. Such terrorist attacks will not have a long term impact.?
A leading corporate head honcho even went to the extent of saying that it was Gujarat'senviable track record in terms of all-round prosperity which had made it a target of the nefarious designs of terrorists. ?If you hit Gujarat, its almost like going for the country'seconomic jugular. But till the time that we have leaders like Narendra Modi, I?m sure their devious designs will be aborted.?