His opponent’s dark past continues to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s steadfast friend. The 49 convictions in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts which killed 56 people have come as another reminder of the Islamist terror attacks that had become part of everyday life during the UPA years.
The bombs were planted on bicycles. Modi does not let go of these political opportunities, and the jibe at the Samajwadi Party’s (SP) election symbol, cycle, was inevitable.
The year 2008 seemed to be written in blood for India. Not just in Ahmedabad, there were blasts in Bengaluru, Jaipur, Malegaon and Delhi. The year ended with the epochal massacre in Mumbai by jihadis like Ajmal Kasab who were dispatched from Pakistan.
The government of the day, the Congress-led UPA which SP supported from the outside, seemed not just completely ineffective but downright dubious. Congress politicians like Digvijaya Singh kept coming up with conspiracy theories of Hindutva terror. Brazening out mounting evidence, the government even built fake cases to draw false equivalence between two communities.
The Mayawati administration showed great reluctance in handing over the mastermind of the Ahmedabad blasts to the Gujarat police. Five convicts are from Uttar Pradesh and three from Kerala.
Votebank politics had made Uttar Pradesh a nursery of terror. Indian Mujahideen, SIMI and Pakistani intelligence ISI were plotting attacks across the country. Holy Varanasi was repeatedly bloodied between 2005 and 2007, at least 50 were killed.
A 2013 Indian Express report made a stunning revelation.
“The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered withdrawal of the criminal case against an absconding alleged HuJI operative Shamim Ahmed, accused of planting a bomb in a public place in Varanasi in 2006. The bomb, which did not explode, was found soon after the twin blasts at Sankatmochan Mandir and Varanasi Cantonment Railway Station in which 21 persons died on March 7, 2006,” it read. “This is the third terror case that the UP government has decided to withdraw. On May 22, the government moved an application in a local court of Gorakhpur, seeking to withdraw a case against alleged HuJI operative Tariq Qasmi in connection with the 2007 serial blasts in Gorakhpur in which six persons were injured.”
The Uttar Pradesh government also tried to withdraw cases against terror accused in Varanasi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur blasts.
After Modi came to power in 2014, not a single major Islamist terror attack has taken place on civilian targets outside Jammu and Kashmir.
The number of Maoist attacks reduced by 70 per cent from an all-time high of 2,258 in 2009 to 665 in 2020. Deaths of civilians and security forces have reduced by 82% from all-time high of 1,005 in 2010 to 183 in 2020.
Jammu and Kashmir saw 849 terror attacks between April 2017 and August 2019, while between August 2019 and November 2021 is has come down to 496.
It has been the same story in the North East. There were 824 incidents of violence in 2014 in which 212 civilians were killed. In 2020, it has come down to 162 such incidents, with just 2 civilian casualties.
Stepping up border fencing, amending the NIA Act, UAPA, extending BSF’s jurisdiction line and rendering Article 370 irrelevant in Jammu and Kashmir have changed the game. Adopting the doctrine of disproportionate response and closer tracking of terror financing has given the security apparatus more teeth.
It is neither unsurprising nor unjust of PM Modi to bring up the failures of his opponents. Because at stake is not just political power but something a lot more precious: innocent human lives.