Intro: Sikh terrorist actions and other violence at an unusual level
in India are taking a toll on the psyches of people in all walks
of life. Reporting from New Delhi, VOA Correspondent Don Weaver
sees signs of increasing anxiety on the part of Indians.
Text: These are uncertain times for Indians. They are uneasy about
the trends toward more terrorism and violence in everyday life.
The nation seems to have more than its share of violent incidents
Sikh terrorism is escalating, even in the Indian capital, where
bombings last weekend killed more than 40 people. There have been
months of riots in Gujarat and in Kashmir in the past couple of
days. A leading New Delhi newspaper reports the wave of terrorist
bombings has created a fear psychosis among the public.
The booby-trap bombs were inserted in transistor radios. After radio
and television stations warned people to contact authorities if
any suspicious objects were spotted, there have been so many panicky
calls police are unable to keep up.
Police and firefighters find most of the alarms are false. There
were two major fires in New Delhi Monday, leading to press speculation
the terrorists might be trying a new tack.
Each morning lately, the news is invariably disturbing. On Tuesday,
papers published stories concerning Mohinder Singh Khalsa, one of
three terrorist suspects nabbed Sunday in a police raid. He died
in police custody Monday after walking out of a hospital after his
capture where he was treated for apparent superficial cuts and bruises.
Policy deny the suspect was tortured to obtain information and say
he had refused to take food or water for a day. Doctors are quoted
as saying it is extremely doubtful he could have died so quickly
from that. His death amid suspicious circumstances is hardly reassuring
to Sikhs already apprehensive about possible attacks from Hindus.
The Army and other security forces are keeping a tight rein on New
Delhi, constantly on the lookout for Hindu-Sikh flareups. A mood
of uneasiness and apprehension is reported among segments of the
On Sunday, the day after the bombing stopped, a reporter took a
sixteen kilometer bus ride from southern New Delhi to the heart
of the downtown area. He saw only one Sikh at bus stops along the
Citizens and officials alike are relieved that a citywide strike
called Monday by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party to protest
the bombings ended without serious incidents. Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi criticized it for bad timing. He and other leaders stress
avoidance of circumstances leading to emotional reaction, which
plays into the hands of the terrorists out to disrupt communal harmony.
Caution and uncertainty are prevalent here in New Delhi, despite
surface normalcy. Some Sikhs only venture out in small groups for
better protection. There is talk of more trouble brewing, maybe
peaking in the first week of June. Sikh leaders in Punjab are calling
for a martyrs week to commemorate the Sikhs killed by the Army at
the Golden Temple in Amritsar last summer.
At any rate, Indians in New Delhi are concerned about the general
situation and discuss stocking up on extra foodstuffs in case there
are clashes and a curfew is suddenly declared. Families suffered
great hardship for days on end last November during Hindu-Sikh riots.
Following the bomb explosions, a Sikh factory owner in New Delhi
said it pays to be cautious right now. Recalling the communal rioting
last November, he said one community could attack the other at any
time. He added, what we are looking for is security.
The bomb scare has resulting in a number of quirky happenings. A
camera was found in a dustbin of the Home Ministry. First reported
as a live bomb, it was later found to be harmless.
Panic set in at a bus station in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh when a villager
showed up with a transistor radio. Passengers scattered and police
were called in. It turned out that the bewildered villager had purchased
an ordinary transistor radio as a gift.
In the Town of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, four men held up a bank,
making threats with a transistor radio that the tellers and customers
thought was a bomb. The bandits made a clean getaway with ninety
thousand dollars in rupees.
And in the city of Bombay, police sealed off a building where a
device was found on the terrace with a plastic box containing some
batteries. Explosives experts found it was a weather balloon.