New Delhi — Authorities reported more than 2,000 arrests after a weekend wave of bombings that killed or wounded hundreds of people. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi pledged Monday to toughen India’s already harsh antiterrorist laws.
A bomb disguised as a camera was found at the Home Ministry and was defused.
Most commercial activity in the capital was halted by a strike called by the opposition Janata Party to protest the bombings.
The weekend explosions in northern India, most of which were caused by booby-trap bombs placed in transistor radios, killed at least 85 people and wounded 225.
Gandhi charged in his remarks to Parliament that “a foreign hand’’ was actively promoting Sikh terrorism.
He did not identify the foreign power, but his government has frequently accused Pakistan of training and arming Sikh separatists who support either more autonomy or complete independence for Punjab state, where members of the sect are the majority.
The prime minister, who assumed power after his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on Oct. 31, did not describe the planned legislation, but said it would seek to “strengthen the hands of police and ensure national security.’’ The government says Mrs. Gandhi’s assassins were two Sikh members of her security guard.
Special laws currently in force in Punjab allow security forces to arrest and search without warrant. Thousands of Sikhs are imprisoned under two other harsh laws: the National Security Act, which allows preventive detention without trial for up to two years, and the Terrorist Affected Areas Act, which permits closed trials in special courts and shifts the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense.
Army units still conduct antiterrorist operations in Punjab 11 months after they were sent into Amristar’s Golden Temple, seat of the Sikh religion, to drive out heavily armed terrorists.
Home Minister Shankarrao B. Chavan said the weekend bomb attacks were aimed at “scuttling prospects of a negotiated settlement” of the Punjab crisis.
Political analysts and officials say a power struggle between moderates and extremists in the Sikhs’ Akali Dal political party caused the resurgence of terrorism. Militants oppose new talks with the government on the party’s demands for greater political and religious autonomy.
Article extracted from this publication >> May 17, 1985