University students react to bomb blasts in Bombay

Tensions between India and Pakistan are raising concerns over terrorism.

by Marni Ginther

The July 11 blasts in Bombay, India, have left some worried about old tensions between India and Pakistan and others concerned about increasing Islamic terrorist activity in and around India.

Over the past week, Indian officials have questioned hundreds of people and identified several suspects.

But Indian news services reported Sunday that a little-known militant group, Lashkar-e-Qahar, claimed responsibility for the act.

The group reportedly identified itself as an affiliate of Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group some suspected in the days immediately after the bombing.

Political science doctoral student Arjun Chowdhury is from India and has lived in Bombay. He said it’s not uncommon to see a new group branch off from a group that is already established and begin planning its own attacks.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, he said, has operated in Kashmir – the disputed region along the India-Pakistan border – for “about a decade.” He said the reasoning behind the attacks could be twofold.

One reason would be to hinder the peace process between India and Pakistan and perpetuate Islamic militant activity in Kashmir. Groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, he said, regard Kashmir as “another front in the jihad.”

“Quite simply, if there is a more peaceful atmosphere between India and Pakistan, the insurgency in Kashmir will draw down,” Chowdury said.

Second, he said he thinks that if the two groups can incite more anger from Hindus in India toward the Muslim population there, then India will become “a more fertile recruiting ground” for Islamic militant groups.

Steven Wilkinson, a political science professor at the University of Chicago who specializes in ethnic violence and the politics of South Asia, said that while groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Lashkar-e-Qahar might be trying to radicalize India’s Muslim population, they are not likely to succeed.

“India’s Muslims are now well-integrated in party politics in most states Ö in addition, many Muslim organizations have come out strongly against terrorism, and there have been public demonstrations against terrorism by Muslims in Karnataka and elsewhere,” Wilkinson wrote in an e-mail.

Sujata Vadher, a doctoral student in educational policy and administration, has family in Bombay, and her father is a retired general who was posted in Kashmir.

Personally, she said, she’s “surprised there haven’t been any riots” between India’s Hindu and Muslim populations.

She said it’s important for people in India to see the difference between their dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir and the larger problem of terrorism.

“People assume the bombings are connected to (Pakistan and India’s conflict over Kashmir), but terrorism has no issue,” she said.

The problem is further complicated, she said, considering there are terrorist training camps in Pakistan.

“Pakistan has become a haven for training of terrorists that are spreading terror across continents,” she said. “The problem is clearly of terrorism.”

Hitakshi Sehgal, a second-year public health student, grew up in Bombay and is studying there.

Although the trains probably were less crowded the first day after the bombings, Sehgal said there has not been an overall change in the people of Bombay.

“There is a famous saying in Hindi: ‘Jo dar gaya, woh mar gaya,’ which translates: ‘If you are scared, you are dead,’ ” Sehgal wrote in an e-mail. “I think that is very apt for people living in Bombay.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.