Hyderabad, Feb 21: The terror strike at Dilsukhnagar that left 15 dead and 119 injured, was a cruel reminder that Hyderabad was still pretty much on the terror radar.
Outside there is commotion in the corridors of Yashoda Hospital in Malakpet area of Hyderabad. This is where 16 of the injured, 10 of them very serious, have been brought from the blast site at Dilsukhnagar. It is past midnight when Panduranga Reddy, a 22-year-old final year engineering student is being operated upon. He has lost a leg and his parents who have come from neighbouring Nalgonda district are distraught. His father oscillates between anger at the inability of a state capital to keep his young son safe and anguish when told Panduranga is not out of danger.
In the same hospital, Ravi Kumar, 24 is undergoing surgery. He was brought to the hospital by an autorickshaw driver and doctors hope his rescue by the samaritan in the golden hour makes all the difference.
As the night fell on Hyderabad, the sleuths of the Andhra Pradesh police had zeroed in on the CCTVs installed at traffic junctions in Dilsukhnagar, in the hope that the cameras will provide them with much-needed clues to the twin blasts that rocked the area on Thursday evening.
Given that there was no specific intelligence input that a terror strike was being planned in Hyderabad, the blasts took the police force completely by surprise and has raised several question marks over the efficacy of the working of the Intelligence machinery both in the state and in Delhi. Several cities including Hyderabad, Nanded and Bangalore had received inputs to be on alert after Afzal Guru was hanged inside Tihar Jail.
The last terror strikes in Hyderabad were in 2007, when three blasts – one in May and two in August – killed more than 50 people. The police at that time zeroed in on many sleeper cells and sympathisers, neutralising them. The nearly six years of peace and quiet had clearly lulled the police into a take-it-easy state of mind.
Unlike the 2007 blasts, when the Congress government and the police was quick to declare them the handiwork of terrorists belonging to the HuJi and LeT, this time the police is treading carefully. The reason being the CBI investigation into the Mecca Masjid blast in May 2007 revealed it was the handiwork of saffron elements. Over a hundred Muslim youth had been picked up and lodged in jail on charges of waging war against the state. Once the case collapsed like a pack of cards, they were released and the National Minorities Commission ordered compensation to be paid to the youth.
Police officials are convinced that it is not a plot planned in a hurry. They are convinced that Dilsukhnagar was chosen for a reason. The area is extremely crowded at most times and the evening time of 7 pm was calculated to inflict maximum damage. By planting the bombs close to an eatery and a bus stop adjacent to cinema theatres, the perpetrators of the horrific crime ensured they struck terror in the heart of citizens.
Also the choice of Hyderabad seems deliberate. The city has seen communal tension in the last three months – first over the disputed Bhagyalakshmi temple abutting the Charminar and then the hate speeches delivered by MIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi and VHP leader Pravin Togadia. The design seems to be take advantage of the fissures between the two communities and drive a wedge, depending on the suspects the police would pick up.
Thursday’s terror strike has several pointers for the security establishment. That it is hopelessly inadequate to safeguard its citizens and the intelligence machinery needs a serious overhaul. Secondly, the Home ministry needs to realise that the lull in terrorist activity in recent months is no indication of a reduction in their prowess. Thursday has been a very rude wake-up call.