Sunday, February 28, 2010

Explosives which did not make news

It is astonishing that a seizure of explosives in container bags that carry a Pune connection on the very next day of the Pune blast, is not a story for the media! SHAHINA KK wonders at the bland response to seizures in Gujarat the day after the blast.

After the chilling Mumbai episode, once again the country has woken up to a tale of terror. The death toll in the Pune blast is 11 according to the latest figures. The police has not yet been able to achieve any significant progress in the investigation. The media, as usual has come up with stories of alleged involvement of terrorist outfits Lashkar and the Indian Mujahideen. According to the reports which appeared on the next day, the Lashkar, a break away faction of LeT and IM Kasmir (TOI) have already laid claim to the blast. A new Jihadi group based in Pakistan is also there in the list that claimed responsibility for the blast. Apart from these claims, solid breakthroughs are yet to emerge. When media talks about terrorism, the common reader/viewer is left with little choice. There is no room to raise eyebrows against the absence of evidence and confirmation by the investigating agencies. Hence, there is nothing much to do, but to wait, watch and see.

Explosives do not have the same news value always. Ammonium nitrate mixed with RDX need not always have a terror tale. Detonators and gelatin sticks need always not grab the prime time and space of electronic and print media. On the very next day after Pune blast there was another story that got relatively little importance and space in the mainstream national newspapers. The story was about the seizure of a huge cache of explosives inGujarat. 200kg of ammonium nitrate, 600 detonators and 200 gelatine sticks have been seized by Gujarat Special Operations Group on Sunday, the after the Pune blast. No news papers except The Hindu has carried this story on their national network. The amazing balance and objectivity kept by The Hindu, in the story which is free from terror phobia' is indeed commendable.

The Hindu reports;

“The Gujarat police on Sunday seized materials used for making explosives in Vapi on the border of Maharashtra. Coming close on the heels of the bomb blast in Pune, the seizure of 200 kg. Of ammonium nitrate, 600 detonators and 200 gelatine sticks from a car and an autorickshaw unnerved the police. However, investigation revealed that the materials were meant for quarrying at Silvassa, the headquarters of the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Additional Director-General of Police (South Gujaratrange) A.K. Singh said they were questioning three persons who were in the car with the explosive materials.

The occupants of the car were believed to be guiding an autorickshaw, which was also carrying the explosive materials, to Silvassa from Vapi. The explosives were procured from a licensed dealer, but were being taken to the Union Territory without permit. One of the arrested was the owner of a quarry in Silvassa. The car and the autorickshaw were seized. An explosives dealer was arrested for handing over the materials to those without permits.

There is hardly any mention in the story of the whereabouts of the ‘three persons' arrested. Neither the names, nor the religion of the accused have been mentioned. Any accused is innocent, until he is proven guilty. At the same time, there are several questions coming into the mind of the reader. “Who are these three persons? How can the police immediately rule out the possibility of any connection with the Pune blast? Why have the names of the arrested people been eschewed?

Some other newspapers and websites give different versions and information about the seizure. The Indian Express gives a detailed account of the story. The Express story in its Ahmedabad edition reveals the names of the people involved. It says “ Three persons identified as Barjish Misra, Ganesh Yadav and Ramkishore Gupta were arrested and booked under the explosives act. They told the police that they have purchased the explosives from Balaji Enterprises in Vapi in Valsad district”.

It is also reported in news websites that, a police constable is involved in it. That part of the story is curiously missing in the rest of the mainstream press. The bags that carried the explosives had the seal of a shop in Pune, is another piece of information that got little attention from the media. The Times Of India, carried this story in its Ahmedabad edition. The story goes: “A day after the Pune blast, the seizure of 200 kg of ammonium nitrate, 600 electrical detonators with TETA (an organic compound) and 20 gelatin sticks in Vapi on Sunday came as a rude shock considering the ease with which such lethal stuff was being transported illegally. Ironically, the deadly material was in gunny bags bearing the seal of Deepak Fertilisers in Yerawada, Pune. The stuff, worth Rs 3.50 lakh, was being transported from Vapi to Silvassa in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, according to DS Chauhan, inspector, Special Operation Group (SOG), Vapi. The consignment was meant for Dorji Keki Mirza, who runs a mining operation in Silvassa”

It is unbelievable that such a piece of information is only a regional news item for a national newspaper. It is astonishing that a seizure of explosives in container bags that carry a Pune connection on the very next day of Pune blast, is no more a story for the media!

The Times of India and the Hindustan Times gave little space to the story in their national network. A reader inDelhi or in any other part of the country, other than Ahmedabad, does not have any information on the matter. Both the newspapers came up with a number of stories on 15th February, calling attention to the zero progress in the investigation of Pune blast. Surprisingly there was no mention about the seizure of a huge cache of explosives on the very next day of the blast.

On the next day of a terror strike, as it is called, the seizure of lethal explosives raises a number of questions that remain unattended to. Why has the case has been registered under the Explosives act? Has it no more significance than that? How can the police rule out the involvement of any terrorist outfit in this regard?

In another incident on the same day, a Jeep transporting 50 kg ammonium nitrate, 400 detonators, and 85 gelatin sticks and 100 safety fuses was intercepted near Limdi, Surendranagar district. One person was held in connection with this illegal carriage of explosives. The Ahmedabad edition of The Indian Express reports that Police has refused to disclose the identity of the person arrested! This incident too did not go beyond the regional editions of the National newspapers.

All huge caches of explosives apparently do not have the same story to tell. They vary according to geographical and cultural locations. The news value is not same for explosives being seized in Kashmir or Assam compared to those being seized in Gujarat! This is not to argue that the explosives seized from two places in Gujarat on the next day of Pune blast must have some terror connection. It may be only a simple case of illegal carriage by a quarry owner. The only question is how can the police arrive at simple conclusions within hours of a terror strike? How can the media that usually plays the role of super investigator be contented with the police version on the seizure? Why is no media going after the Pune connection of the container bags of explosives? Is it only because the arrested persons do not carry names that have the unbearable burden of Jihad?

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1 comment:

Javed said...

it seems such an important front page splash on leading newspapers as well as breaking news on our mushrooming Tv channels missed the bus only because of names involved.