Gujarat, the birthplace of the apostle of non-violence, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, has become India’s most violence-prone state. The attack on the Swaminarayan temple in Gandhinagar and the counter-attack to flush out the terrorists is the most recent incident in a long series which began early this year. Behind it stands an even longer history of violence based on caste and religion. Violence in Gujarat is a sociological phenomenon waiting to be researched and analysed. In the absence of such an in-depth study, the larger picture remains obscure. But a few preliminary observations may be hazarded. There may not be a direct causal link between the pogrom that followed Godhra and the shoot-out in the temple on Tuesday night. But it is not unreasonable to suggest that Tuesday’s incident belongs to the cycle of violence that began in Godhra. Gujarat, or more precisely the two major religious communities there, has descended into the world of Hammurabi where an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth were considered accepted social practice. The apparent indifference of the government of Gujarat under Mr Narendra Modi during the anti-Muslim violence may have provoked militant Muslim organizations to take the law into their own hands and seek vengeance for the destruction wreaked on Muslim life and property in Gujarat. Violence has an endemic tendency to breed more violence, terror invariably breeds counter-terror.
The indifference of Mr Modi’s government in March-April this year is in stark contrast to the alacrity with which the army has been called out immediately after the attack on the temple. There is obviously a greater alertness to prevent an escalation of violence and the beginning of a fresh cycle of revenge and vendetta. A terrorist attack is not a new thing in India. Such attacks have practically become a part of daily life in Kashmir. In recent memory, there are the attacks on Parliament in New Delhi and on the American Center in Calcutta. This attack on the Swaminarayan temple has occurred at almost a stone’s throw away from the chief minister’s residence. The recursivity of the terrorist attacks in high security zones is an indicator of a dangerous trend. It seems to suggest a systemic failure in intelligence gathering. The deputy prime minister, Mr L.K. Advani, who is also the home minister, has done well to rush to Gandhinagar, his parliamentary constituency. But he should also look carefully at the home ministry and at the growing evidence suggesting that all is not well with intelligence gathering.