Three serial blasts of low intensity ripped through the crowded Golghar market area of Gorakhpur on 22 May, injuring 6 people. The incident was the first of its kind in this city. Investigations are yet to find the perpetrators or establish the motive behind these blasts. The modus operandi of the attacks (crude bombs kept in tiffin boxes and cycles) and their marginal damage suggest that these attacks were only meant to create panic. But, they acquire significance when studied in the light of two recent developments: the rise of communal tensions in Gorakhpur and the role of its local Member of Parliament, Yogi Adityanath, in creating such tensions; and the burgeoning danger of terrorist-related crime in several eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) districts, including Gorakhpur.
Bordering Nepal, Gorakhpur is fast emerging as a Hindutva laboratory under what has come to be referred as the 'Yogi phenomenon.' Adityanath, a local BJP leader, and member of the Lok Sabha since 1998, has been pursuing a Hindutva campaign in Gorakhpur through his organization, the Hindu Yuva Vahini. A three-day Vishwa Hindu Mahasammelan organized here from 22-24 December 2006, for example, brought together motley Hindutva groups to discuss the challenges facing Hinduism. As part of this campaign, many instances of terrorizing Muslims in the city have been reported. These include the fatal attacks on Muslims at Nathua and Pande Hata in district Gorakhpur in June 2002, the fierce communal flare up in Mao town adjacent to Gorakhpur in October 2005, and the recent communal clashes in Gorakhpur following the arrest of Adityanath in January 2007. Every such incident has highlighted the impunity with which he and his followers act.
These developments suggest that Gorakhpur has the potential for turning into the next Gujarat. In fact, many (such as the People's Democracy, the weekly organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)) have drawn parallels between the tactics of Adityanath and Narendra Modi. It would be appropriate to recollect that the communal riots following the Godhra carnage in Gujarat and the discriminatory treatment meted out to the Muslim community thereafter, radicalized many Muslims and pushed them towards the outlawed Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Intelligence agencies later discovered that those behind the Mumbai blasts in July 2006 were drawn by the Lashkar-e-taiba (LeT) from this large pool of SIMI activists. Consequently, the situation in Gorakhpur poses a grave threat, as personal grievances evoked by the ill-treatment of Muslims are likely to generate and strengthen the support for terrorist outfits.
In this context, the rise of terrorist-related crimes in several districts of eastern UP assumes critical proportions. A number of arrests of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents have been reported from eastern UP. For instance, on 1 February 2007, the Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh Police arrested an ISI agent with several sensitive documents, including a map of the Harish Chandra Atomic Research Centre in Allahabad, and information about Indian army bases in Uttar Pradesh. A large number of seizures of explosives have also taken place in UP, the latest being the recovery of 10 kilograms of explosives and 20 kilograms of ammonium nitrate from the Faizabad railway station following the Gorakhpur blasts. Moreover, according to official reports, even SIMI is active in many districts of UP and has a strong base in UP's universities.
These factors highlight the looming threat of subversion within the state. A report in The Times of India on 22 July 2006 stated that out of the 256 modules of ISI across India, 146 were active in UP. They further indicate the extent of infiltration through the porous Indo-Nepal border, as evident from the 28 December 2006 arrest by the UP police of two ISI agents in Lucknow who had entered the state via Nepal.
The large scale presence of terrorists in the state on the one hand, and efforts to create communal rifts in Gorakhpur on the other, threatens to compound the problem of terrorism in three major ways: first, communal polarization may garner support for terrorist activities by creating a pool of alienated youth that can, in turn, provide for easy recruitment to outfits like SIMI and LeT; second, there is a possibility of the establishment of close(r) connections between terrorists operating in the state and sectarian elements as well as criminal groups; and third, the complicity of the state administration and its apathy towards the Muslim community - as evident from the transfer and suspension of the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police who arrested Adityanath in January this year - can easily be exploited by the ISI in expanding their activities in these regions. The Gorakhpur blasts manifest these developments, and therefore, have serious ramifications for the security of the country.