1998 Valentine’s Day Massacre in India

Yes it is true that India has a very serious problem with Hindu terrorism: but it has a serious one with the Islamist variety too.

When we in the West think of Valentine’s Day we think cards and chocolates and sappy expressions of love. Or at least some of us do. Others among us think of death. Not very happy, is that?

There is, after all, the infamous ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’ in Chicago in 1929 which was all wrapped up in efforts to control the illegal booze trade during Prohibition and pitted storied gangsters Al Capone and ‘Bugs’ Moran against each other. Seven men associated with the latter’s ‘North Side’ were killed by men from the former’s ‘South Side’.

We in Canada almost had our own Valentine’s Day Massacre in 2015 in Halifax when two youth, one Canadian and one American, both self-professed ‘Columbiners’ (i.e. those who celebrate the killings at a Colorado high school back in 1999), planned to attack a shopping mall. Good police/intelligence work thwarted that particular plot.

Lindsay Souvannarath, one of the co-conspirators (Photo: The Canadian Press)
1998 Coimbatore bombings

India, a nation not usually associated with the festivities surrounding Saint Valentine, suffered its own terrorist attack on this day in 1998. 12 bombs were detonated in 11 different locales within a 12-km radius in the city of Coimbatore, in India’s Tamil Nadu state. 58 people were killed and more than 200 injured by the explosives, which were concealed in cars, motorcycles, bicycles, denim and rexin bags, and fruit carts.

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One of the vehicles destroyed

The attacks came a few months after clashes between police and members of an extremist group called Al Ummah in which 18 Muslims died. Al Ummah was targeting L K Advani, a leading BJP politician (the BJP has veered towards Hindu nationalism and extremism in recent decades). Some of the perpetrators evaded justice for more than 20 years by fleeing abroad.

India currently does have a very big problem with Hindu extremism, as I argued in my latest book When Religion Kills. Nevertheless, there is also a serious Islamist extremist issue: in fact the two sides often feed off each other.

I have no idea how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in India but I am certain that citizens would prefer not to mark the day with bombs.

Phil Gurski
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