BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: South Asia
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 16:09 GMT
Calcutta's citizens voice fears
People at police barricades
The attack left ordinary citizens shocked
By the BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

The US consulate, the British Deputy High Commission and the American Centre in Calcutta's Ho Chi Minh Street and Jawaharlal Nehru Road were among the most heavily-guarded establishments in Calcutta.

Injured man talks to police
Investigators have few clues at the moment
They had been that way ever since Indian intelligence claimed to have discovered plans by Islamic radicals to attack US and British missions in India two years ago.

And security arrangements were believed to have been further tightened after 11 September.

But at 0625 local time on Tuesday, as the police were packing up after completing duty on an uneventful night shift, all hell broke loose.


Two gunmen on a motorcycle swept past the police position ,one driving, the other firing from his AK-47 rifle.

This is the first time the state is facing a threat of militancy since the days of the Naxalite uprising

Former intelligence chief Amiyo Samanta
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya later admitted that the policemen on duty could hardly have fired back.

With their antiquated .303 Lee Enfield bolt-action rifles, they were no match for the motorcycle-borne attackers firing AK-47s.

The citizens of Calcutta were shocked by the attack.

The city lived with a lot of violence during a Maoist Naxalite movement in the early 1970s - but this was militancy of a different kind.

Ranen Sen, who works as a freight executive in an office next door to the American Center, said he would never feel relaxed again.

"I will look beneath my car every time at the parking lot because there could be a bomb in there," he said as police kept him and thousands of other curious onlookers away from the scene all morning.

Mohan Gill, a travel executive with Japan Airlines, said this attack would affect tourism in the city.

"With the war clouds in the West, we have been getting lot of tourists from the Far East and South East Asia this season but this, I suppose, is the end of it," he said.

Future threat

Others see a much bigger challenge ahead of the authorities.

"This is the first time the state is facing a threat of militancy since the days of the Naxalite uprising," say former police intelligence chief Amiyo Samanta.

Crowds gather around American Center, Calcutta
Attacks on US interests are a new challenge for local police
The violent Naxalite uprising was a home-grown movement, but West Bengal now could be hit by groups with much wider interests.

"The police here will have to tighten their belts and wake up to face the new challenge of trans-regional militancy," said Mr Samanta.

For the moment, though, the authorities are concentrating on trying to establish who exactly might have been behind the latest incident.

See also:

22 Jan 02 | South Asia
Gunmen attack US centre in Calcutta
22 Jan 02 | Americas
Protecting Americans abroad
31 Dec 01 | South Asia
India hands Pakistan 'wanted' list
28 Sep 01 | South Asia
India arrests militant chief
21 Jan 02 | South Asia
India keeps pressure on Pakistan
13 Dec 01 | South Asia
India attack prompts crackdown
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories