Bali explosion fails to alert Goa

| 18 October 2002 21:32 IST

The bomb blast in Bali, a tiny idyllic coastal tourist state in Indonesia, that killed 181innocents last week could be an eye-opener for India, if Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda is now really targeting such international tourist destinations.

But little alert has been sounded by the central intelligence agencies to be overcautious regarding similar tourist spot like Goa, a tiny coastal state in India, which has already started flooding with tourists from all over the world.

"We have not received anything alarming from the intelligence agencies, following the Bali bomb blast", admits Karnal Singh, the DIG of Goa police.

Considering the peaceful co-existence of all the communities in the former Portuguese colony here, Goa is being considered a soft target in terms of the threat of cross-border terrorism.

The Hindu-dominated state, having miniscule population of Muslims, is famous for its sandy beaches and semi-western culture since the most popular coastline is predominantly Christian.

Like Bali, it has a total population of 1.3 million only while around 1.2 million tourists visit the state every year, but mainly in the peak season that runs from October to January. While the rich foreigners rest at the series of five star hotels located in South Goa, the northern stretch is the attraction for the middle class foreigners, especially the Europeans.

Along with it also comes all kind of criminal activities including illegal sale of drugs, illegally organised rave parties and even paedophilic activities at the cost of street children roaming on the beaches, of course in collusion with the local cops and other law-abiding authorities and politicians.

Over 3000 Kashmiris also camp in the coastal belt during the season – from September to April – under the guise of selling carpets. With hardly any customer seen at their shops, the police authorities admit unofficially that illegal drug trade is their main profession.

"The terrorists taking advantage of the existence of Kashmiris here cannot be simply denied", admits DIG Singh, claiming that the police are keeping watch on them as well as the outsiders visiting the Madarasas regularly.

In fact it is not just the incident in Bali that needs to alert the Indian intelligence to overprotect Goa. It was made a target two years ago, when the ISI-linked Deendar Anjuman had organised simultaneous bomb blasts in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Goa. A bomb was planted outside a church here in the port town of Vasco.

Incidentally, bomb hoax has also become order of the day in Goa suddenly for the last 10 days. At least five calls from the public telephone booths were made that bomb is planted in the chief minister's car, a village where local central minister was visiting, at a private bank, the famous Old Goa church as well as the Goa Medical College hospital.

"Either it is a cranky person or somebody is testing how alert the police is", observes DIG Singh. Rather than the possibility of creating laxity in the department with such false alarms, the police prefers to believe that it is a job of a cranky person.

Singh however does not deny that Goa could be considered a safe place to take shelter since several robbers and dacoits from Moradabad, Sarangpur and other such places from Bihar and UP have been found taking shelter here.

"Following the demolition of the Babri Masjid, hundreds of locals from these places had gone to Pakistan and they have now come back after proper military training", he informs.

Within a month, the police however are beginning organised patrolling by forming beats. The personnel on the beat are told to move from house to house, informing people that they will be available for any eventuality.

Besides serving the people, this move will also help us in improving our intelligence network with direct in-person contact with the locals. In fact, this is the best way to tackle terrorism, he says, as the terrorists always depend on local contacts.

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