"India serial blasts kill 56 -Thu, Oct 30, 2008 AFP
GUWAHATI (India) - AT LEAST 56 people were killed and more than 300 injured in a string of blasts on Thursday in India's northeastern state of Assam, a state minister said.
'There were 12 blasts in which 56 people have so far died and more than 300 were injured. At least 70 of them are in a critical condition,' said Assam's Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Three other districts in western Assam were also targeted.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although state officials said the bombings were probably the work of the rebel United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which has been fighting for an independent homeland since 1979.
An immediate curfew was clamped on the city as angry residents went on a rampage, attacking police vehicles and public buses.
'The area was teeming with people, office workers, shoppers and vendors when a very big explosion took place,' said witness Arindam Das, who was shopping in one of the markets.
One of the blasts took place in front of the Guwahati District Magistrate's Court, killing five people.
Eleven people were killed in three explosions in the western district of Kokrajhar and 12 in nearby Barpeta district.
'It is very early to make a conclusion but ULFA has a history of triggering serial blasts,' Assam's Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
'Most of the bombs were planted in crowded places like markets and office complexes. So it shows that the perpetrators wanted high casualties,' Mr Sarma said.
The explosions came six weeks after the Indian capital New Delhi was hit by a series of bombs in crowded markets that left more than 20 dead. Those blasts were claimed by a group calling itself the Indian Mujahedeen In the past two decades, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Assam, which is known for its tea, timber and oil reserves.
Public support for the ULFA has dwindled in recent years after a series of attacks in public places that claimed heavy civilian casualties.
Peace talks between ULFA and the government fell apart in 2006. Since then the rebels have kept up their attacks. Violent insurgencies have wracked India's northeastern states - known as the 'seven sisters' - for decades. More than 50,000 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence in the region since India's independence in 1947."
One country but not one vision and aspiration. Economic progress in India has been touted as rivalling China and more - due to it's large English-speaking middle class and it's international exposure of it's IT outsourcing prowess - by the Western media.
China has it's own shares of problems with Tibet and Xinjiang regions. India has a lot more hot spots with religion and regionalism than China.
Lessons for me are:
1. without peace there can be no progress on the economic front. It only takes a bomb to ignite to destroy the confidence of laws and orders. Without laws and orders, security and certainty give way. Without security and certainty of peace, business people will not want to invest! It is as simple as that!;
2. I do not know what is the quarrel all about, but it is quite obvious from the reports that the people, majority of them, do not want violence and do not want independence from India. Yet, as in many situations, the vocal and violent minority hold sway over the silent or passive majority. To achieve peace, the majority needs to be pro-active. They need to take actions and seize the initiatives to foster peace in the states they are in. In the environment where they will build their prosperity and happiness. A concerted effort to flash the violent minority need to happen!;
3. in a land where locals and migrants mix, it is a toxic mix that need to be handled carefully! Any unintentional spark or careless remarks can trigger the explosion waiting to happen. On this front, Singapore need to be very careful and pro-actively manage our great influx of cheap migrant workers. Maybe there are no radical elements like those reported in this news report. Maybe someone with that inclination or tendency has not been pushed to the edge yet. We cannot afford to let it happen. We have to vigilantly and diligently guide against it from ever happening. So, mixing them harmoniously, letting the migrant workers sufficient social space to mingle and interact and releases energy is crucial. Let's be on guard and pro-active work to monitor the mix and keep it always under boiling point!
May the 'seven sisters' of India find peace eventually as the silent majority gets involved!