National Interest: Because we forget

On one issue there is no doubt: the firearms given to Sanjay Dutt in the middle of January 1993 were indeed for self-defence. So what is anybody complaining about? Self-defence is as good a defence morally as in a court of law.

The problem, as usual, lies in the detail. Which must be stated once again now because we live in times of such attention deficit disorder. Also, when the presumption seems to be that there was no history before Google. Or when you merely speed-read history through Hindi cinema as, in this case, in Black Friday, the stark Anurag Kashyap-directed film based on the serial bombings of March 1993. What's important is to understand what happened before and after. Only then can you get a fuller picture of what India, and not merely Bombay, had been confronted with in those bloody months. And I speak here partly with the benefit of hindsight, but mostly as somebody who covered the aftermath of the blasts for India Today, in the company of some of the finest reporters in the magazine's bureau then, its Bombay bureau chief Maseeh Rahman, and Rahul Pathak, who subsequently had a stint with us here, heading our Express News Service.

The most important fact is that while the serial bombing seemed like a flawless operation, it was a disaster strategically. Because the objective of its planners was not merely to kill a few hundred people. It was to orchestrate communal riots of an unthinkable intensity nobody would be able to control. It was the first ISI operation of this scale anywhere in India. In fact, it was then the first significant ISI foray outside of Punjab and Kashmir. And remember, this is when militancy in Punjab was being rapidly crushed by K.P.S. Gill's police, and the Kashmiri insurgency was still in its early days.

... contd.

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