Mumbai bombs target India-Pakistan accord and secular democracy
Militant jihadi groups based in Pakistan are among the early suspects following a series of explosions which killed at least 130 people on the train network in India's financial capital, Mumbai (Bombay), today (11 July 2006).
Church, civic and community groups, together with other faith leaders and representatives of United Nations member states were quick to condemn the bombings, which followed another grenade attack (one of many) in Kashmir, and seem to have involved seven separate transport blasts.
Analysts say that the bombers are likely to have struck for a variety of reasons. First, militants oppose the India-Pakistan peace deal, which both the countriesí leaders reaffirmed today in the face of the worst assault yet on Indian soil.
Second, Indiaís model of secular democracy and religious pluralism, despite its fragility in recent years, is anathema to hard-line Islamists.
Third, there is resentment at the increasingly close relationship between the Indian and US governments following President George W. Bushís visit ñ even though India played no part in the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions.
Fourth, as the countryís main financial centre, Mumbai generates nearly 60 per cent of Indiaís GNP, maximising impact and disruption.
Commentators say that there may also be a link to the G8 summit which meets next Tuesday. Civilian attacks have in the past been timed to coincide with events significant to the globalisation process.
The first of the near-simultaneous blasts went off in the suburbs on the Western Railway at around 18.30 Mumbai time (13.00 GMT), during the rush hour.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm and asked people not to believe local rumours circulating about who might be responsible. There are fears about a backlash against Indiaís 134 million-strong Muslim minority.
India has suffered a series of terror attacks since 9/11, beginning with a strike on the parliament building itself.
Mumbai is spread over 642 square miles and has a population of almost 17 million people. The cityís railways cater for over six million people each day, and as a finance centre it faces a constant influx of people from across the country.
Some 55 per cent of Mumbaiís population lives in johpar patti, or slum and shanty towns.
India has a history of tolerance towards different belief systems, but Hindu nationalism has been on the rise in recent years. Attacks on churches and some mosques have been growing, with the authorities accused of doing too little. A number of states effectively penalize religious minorities.
There has been controversy over anti-conversion laws and accusations of proselytism towards Christian social service groups.
Christianity is a well-established minority faith in Mumbai, with Catholic, Orthodox and historic Protestant congregations present alongside growing numbers of evangelical and Pentecostal churches.
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