Security has been beefed up across India, especially in areas that have large Muslim populations to prevent a backlash from militant Hindus.

Maharashtra state authorities have already attempted to prevent Bal Thackery, a firebrand Hindu nationalist and leader of the anti-Muslim Mumbai-based Shiv Sena party, from addressing his supporters at a public meeting on Wednesday.

"Although everything seems normal in Mumbai, there is a deep fear in the back of our minds," Muslim businessman Mukhtar Khan told United Press International.

"Past reaction of the police shows that any violent attack on the public is automatically blamed on the Muslim community so we have to be apprehensive."

Muslims represent less than 20% of the population in India, although forming the world's second-largest Muslim population after Indonesia.

Violent decade

Central government ministers have come to the conclusion that the car bombings may be linked to last year’s Gujarat riots, according to AFP.

Communal violence ravaged Gujarat for months following the burning in February 2002 of a train carriage carrying 59 Hindus.

Initial reports alleged that the torching was carried out by a Muslim mob but a subsequent report by forensic scientists in Gujarat in July 2002 concluded that the fire on the train was most likely started from the inside.

About 2,000 people died in the ensuing reprisals against Muslims, according to rights groups. Independent reports blamed the Hindu nationalist state government of orchestrating the violence.

"Past reaction of the police shows that any violent attack on the public is automatically blamed on the Muslim community"

Mukhtar Khan
Indian Muslim businessman

Maharashtsa’s deputy chief minister claims that six bombings in Mumbai in recent months began with the re-election of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in December 2002.

He argues there is “no doubt” Monday’s attacks were linked to the riots last year.

Hindu-Muslim relations

Monday's blasts also came soon after the release of a report by the Archeological Survey of India on the status of the Babri Mosque site in the northern town of Ayodhya.

Hindu militants razed the 16th century mosque at the site in 1992. They said the site was the birthplace of the god Ram and the mosque was built there after a temple that stood upon it was torn down.

Bombings in March 1993 are widely thought to have been a Muslim reaction for the deaths of hundreds of Muslims during rioting earlier that year, following the destruction of the Babri mosque.

Hindu militants want to build a temple at the site but Muslims, in turn, want the area returned to them so that the historic mosque can be rebuilt.

Archaeologists were working at the site in line with a court order to determine whether it ever held a Hindu temple. Monday's ASI report said archeologists found the remains of a temple.

The findings provoked anger among Indian Muslims who labelled them "political" not least because a preliminary report in June stated there was no evidence to support the temple claim.