Indian Apprehension




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 lately.

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 population.

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 entire route.

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.