Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi told the Indian Parliament on Monday that there is a foreign link to the wave of Sikh terrorist bombings in India that killed more than 75 people over the weekend.
Gandhi did not name which foreign nation might be involved, but Indian newspapers have blamed Pakistan.
Meanwhile, one of three alleged Sikh extremists arrested in the capital Sunday died in a hospital Monday. A hospital doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not identify the suspect but said the man appeared to have been tortured by police. Police Chief Ved Marwah said earlier that the three arrests were a major breakthrough in the bombing investigation.
Bomb at Interior Ministry
Another bomb, disguised as a camera, was found in the Interior Ministry and defused Monday. And in Punjab state, a worker for Gandhi’s Congress-I party and his son were wounded by shots believed to have been fired by Sikhs.
Most commercial activity in New Delhi was halted Monday by a strike called by the opposition Janata Party to protest the bombings. Police, who fired shots into the air and made baton charges to scatter strikers trying to block traffic, said they arrested more than 175 members of the opposition party for rioting.
Before Parliament, Gandhi described the weekend bombings in New Delhi and the surrounding states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan as acts of cowardice and desperation.
“There is involvement (of a foreign hand),” he said. “You know it. We know it. But it does not help . . . pretending as though it is the only problem.”
Authorities believe the bombs were carried out by Sikh extremists who want autonomy or a separate Sikh country in Punjab state, where Sikhs are a majority. They theorize that the bombings were meant to cause a Hindu backlash, polarizing the two communities.
Rise Above Emotions
In an indirect reference to fears of such a Hindu backlash, Gandhi appealed to people to rise above emotions and not follow their instincts.
“We have the choice of countering a small group of terrorists and carrying the rest of Sikhs with us,” Gandhi said. “We could very easily go wrong. A small error in our discretion could turn the whole group against all of us. This is where we must show utmost patience and restraint.”
Gandhi gave no indication of the extremists’ foreign links, but several Indian newspapers have reported that intelligence agencies believe as many as 150 terrorists, trained in Pakistan, crossed back to India in recent weeks. There has been no official comment on the reports.
Similar reports in the past have been denied by Pakistan.
The prime minister also told Parliament that either a new law will be introduced or existing legislation amended to combat extremists.