वृद्धाचलम Vriddhachalam (VRI): A bomb detection squad scanned the Vriddhachalam railway station on Monday after officials received a threat letter three days ago. The letter said that bombs will be planted in the station or trains if those arrested in connection with Advani pipe bomb case are not released within 25 days. Though the letter, apparently sent from Tirupur, was received by the station master on Friday, the officials delayed search operations seeking permission from higher-ups. The station master had forwarded the letter to the Divisional Railway Manager, Trichy, the sources added. The letter also said that liquor, ganja and a huge amount of money were being smuggled in trains passing through Vriddhachalam and this trend has to be stopped immediately. “These demands should be met within 25 days, otherwise bombs will be kept at Vriddhachalam Railway Station or in trains that pass through Vriddhachalam,” the letter said. Searches started on Monday after station master Issac handed over the letter to the police. Ten members of the bomb detection squad is camping at the station and are conducting searches, the sources added.
Genesis and History of Al Ummah
Al Ummah is a terrorist organisation mainly based in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It was banned by the Government for its carrying out 1998 Coimbatore bombings. Al Ummah was founded by Syed Ahmed Basha and M. H. Jawahirullah in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu in 1993. Jawahirullah, who choose the name Al Ummah, meaning “Followers of the Prophet”, had split from it and found Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagham. It came under the spotlight after 1993 bomb blast near RSS office in Chennai in which 11 persons were killed. Basha and others were arrested under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act but they were released in 1997. In 1998, Al Ummah was planning to assassinate Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K.Advani during the election campaign in Coimbatore. Advani, however, narrowly escaped due to a delay in his flight. But in the serial bomb blasts went off in 18 places in which 58 persons were killed, all of them within a 12 km radius, 4 bombs were planted at R S Puram area, two near Bus Stand, 1 near Coimbatore Medical College Hospital and at Ukkadam area. The bombings were apparently in retaliation to the earlier riots in the city the previous year, when Hindus and Muslim groups clashed with each other following the murder of a traffic policeman named “Selvaraj” by a member of the radical Islamist group Al Umma. The first of the serial bombs exploded at 3.50 pm on Shanmugham Road in R.S. Puram, 100 metres from the venue of an election meeting that was to be addressed by BJP President L.K.Advani. There were allegations that suicide bombers were ready to target L.K.Advani on that day. Over the next 40 minutes, blasts were reported on West Sambandam Road, Gani Rowther Street at Ukkadam, at a textile showroom on Big Bazaar Street, a shopping complex near the main bus stand at Gandhipuram, the vehicle parking lot at the Coimbatore Junction railway station, the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital (CMCH), a travel agency (owned by a local BJP leader) on V.K.K. Menon Road, a jewellery shop on Oppanakara Street, a BJP election office at Ratnapuri near Sivananda Colony and a temple at Kurichikulam. The explosives used were gelatin sticks; these were activated by timer devices. They were concealeddby in cars, motorcycles, bicycles, the sideboxes of two-wheelers, denim and rexine bags, and – in one case – a cart loaded with pineapples. Several bombs that failed to detonate were defused by the bomb disposal squads of the Army, the National Security Guards and the Tamil Nadu Commando School. An abandoned car laden with a horrifying 70 kg of explosives, discovered on East Lokamanya Street in R.S. Puram, close to the abdyua meeting venue, gave cause for much anxiety for days until the complicated device was dismantled.
The ruling party at that time, the D.M.K came under severe criticism for this incident.
Most political leaders and parties expressed shock and revulsion over the blasts. AIADMK general secretary Jayalalitha demanded that then CM Karunanidhi own “moral responsibility” for the blasts and resign.
Following a report from the Union Home Ministry on the security situation in Coimbatore, polling in the Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency was postponed from 22 to 28 February.
Within hours of the blasts, the Tamil Nadu Government banned the Muslim fundamendalist group and the Jihad Committee. Al Umma founder-president S.A. Basha and 12 other members of the organisation were arrested and explosive materials and weapons were seized from his house in Triplicane, Chennai. Leaders of the Jihad Committee and the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) were arrested in a State-wide crackdown. Among those arrested were Jihad Committee president R.M. Haniffa, general secretary Mohammed Haniffa, student wing secretary Akram Khan, TMMK president (also a college lecturer) M.H. Jawahirulla and treasurer G.M. Pakkar. Over the next few days, over 100 activists of the three organisations were arrested at Keezhakkarai, Devakottai, Dindigul, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Nagercoil, Melapalayam and Udumalpet. About 1,000 others were detained as a precautionary measure. In Coimbatore district, nine persons were arrested; 528 others – 326 Hindus and 202 Muslims – were detained as a precautionary measure.
In Coimbatore, joint combing operations undertaken for days after the blasts by the police, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the Swift Action Force (SAF) in Kottaimedu, Tirumal Street, N.H. Road, Vincent Road, Ukkadam, Al-Ameen Colony, Majeed Colony, Salamath Nagar and Saramedu yielded a huge haul of explosives and deadly weapons: 210 gelatin sticks, 540 pipe bombs, 575 petrol bombs, 1,100 electrical detonators and a large number of knives, swords, pickaxes and sickles.
For days after the explosions, Coimbatore – the city of business, looked like a town deserted; business establishments, shops and roadside stalls remained closed and few people ventured out. Hotels refused admission to guests. Wild rumours of fresh bomb attacks spread. In middle-class localities, residents formed vigilante groups. Anyone new to a neighbourhood was watched closely.
At R.S Puram, where several bombs had gone off, roads in some neighbourhoods were barricaded and “outsiders” were denied parking space for their cars. All this had more than a little to do with the car bomb discovered on East Lokamanya Road in R.S. Puram. For four days, attention was riveted on it. Residents in the locality moved out even as bomb disposal experts prepared to defuse the explosive
This incident came as a severe blow to the upcoming economy of Coimbatore. Real estate prices dropped temporarily, new investments to the city were temporarily halted. However, normalcy was restored within a few months. Dr. K. Radhakrishnan IPS, then appointed as city police commissioner Coimbatore, restored normalcy to the city. The people of Coimbatore are socially indebted to him till date. Abdul Nasir Madani, who is well known for his provoking speeches and chief of Islamist political outfit called PDP, was arrested by the police on 31 March 1998, for his alleged link with suspects of this blast. The special court found him guilty based on strong proofs submitted. Madani appealed against the judgement, and Tamil Nadu police failed to submit all the previous proofs and alibis. He was finally acquitted on 2007 August 1 and released from prison.
S.A.Basha, the mastermind of the blasts was found guilty of hatching a criminal conspiracy to trigger a series of explosions there on 14 February 1998 and to create enmity between the two communities.