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Coloured mindsets on terror

Author: KG Suresh
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: June 16, 2014
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/coloured-mindsets-on-terror.html

Enough nonsense has been said and propagated about the so-called saffron terror, a term much favoured by members of the Congress and the party-led UPA regime which was drubbed by the people. It’s time to dump the terminology

 One of the most destructive contributions of the previous UPA Government to the country’s political lexicon has been the term ‘saffron terrorism’, which was used by Congress leaders repeatedly to browbeat the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, whose anti-corruption campaign was giving them sleepless nights and restless days.

 The objective behind coining the term was also apparently to put on the defensive the majority community which was at the receiving end of terrorist acts perpetrated by jihadis in pursuit of the nefarious designs of their masters across the border. The country’s majority community was increasingly feeling frustrated over the inability of the Government to prevent and stop such attacks and an innovative way was found to tell that terrorism was common to all religions and the Hindus too were not beyond doubt and, therefore, have no reason to complain.

 The Western world too has of late been a victim of jihadi terror but these liberal democracies never thought of coining the term, ‘Christian terror’, to counter the association of violence associated with a particular religion.

 While it is true that no religion gives sanction to acts of terrorism, the fact remains that the jihadi terrorists, inspired by fanatic clerics based on their interpretations of Islamic holy texts, which do contain references to ‘jihad’ or war against infidels (who have often been described as idol worshippers etc), have been indulging in violent acts across the world. There is every reason to believe that these are misinterpretations which have no relevance whatsoever in a civilised world, but it is also important to call a spade a spade and realise the fact that this ideology, which is also referred to by many as Salafism/Wahhabism is wreaking havoc even in the Islamic world. The followers of this fanatic mould are not only targeting the non-Muslims but also fellow Muslims in several countries including neighbouring Pakistan. The targets include not just Shias and Ahmadiyyas but even the majority Sufi Muslims in the sub-continent for worshipping graves, which is being equated with idol worship.

 As against this, the world’s most ancient religion, Hinduism, does not make any reference to non-believers or directs any action against them. Here, the battle is between truth and falsehood, righteousness and injustice, good and evil in which finally truth prevails (Satyameva Jayate). Yet, a desperate attempt was made to malign an entire civilisation, a centuries-old heritage which has never indulged in any violence against any other nation throughout its chequered history.

 What was initially termed as ‘Hindu terrorism’ was subsequently re-phrased as ‘saffron terror’ associating acts of violence allegedly perpetrated by some members belonging to the majority community with a colour associated with renunciation and piety for centuries.

 In fact, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had once famously stated that Bhagwa or the [deep] saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. “Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work”, he had said.

 The coinage by the UPA Government had enraged rationalists and spiritualists alike. B Raman, one of India’s most brilliant strategic minds, had criticised the term as a tool for political posturing toward the Muslim minority, while new-age guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had slammed it saying that it is a myth and an insult to the Hindu religion, which he described as the “most tolerant”.

 Now coming to the facts, in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case. Initially, 13 persons of the Students Islamic Movement of India, a banned terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, were said to be involved. Between October and December 2006, nine persons were arrested and statements of seven were recorded. Four remained absconding, out of which one was a Pakistani national. On December 21, 2006, a chargesheet was filed by Mumbai Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad against nine accused persons and four absconding accused under various sections of the 1967 Act and the IPC. On January 11, 2007, the Maharashtra Government accorded consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation for further investigation of the case and in February 2010, the CBI filed supplementary chargesheet confirming to the investigations made by the ATS and holding 13 persons as accused in the case.

 On July 18, 2007, a bomb blast took place inside Samjhauta Express, a train running between India and Pakistan, in which 68 people died and 12 were injured. The initial investigation in the case was carried out by Haryana Police and subsequently the ATS Haryana. Both these agencies came to the definite conclusion that the blast was carried out by Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islam. The investigations were further corroborated by the statements of David Headley’s wife that her husband was involved in the Samjhauta blast in 2007 and also by the narco-analysis test carried out on SIMI activist Safdar Nagauri.

 After the blast, the Union Government handed over a dossier to Pakistan and the United Nations alleging that the Samjhauta blast was carried out by HuJI and LeT. The issue was also raised before the UN Security Council, and on the basis of the reports submitted by India, the council had imposed sanction, embargo and banned HuJI and Arif Qasmani of LeT as terrorist organisations for their involvement in the incident. As a result of massive reaction from international anti-terrorist groups, the Union Government initiated the process of forming a National Investigation Agency to deal with acts of international terrorism.

 On May 18, 2007, a bomb blast took place in Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid in which nine persons were killed and 58 injured. Based on the initial probe, the South Asia Terrorism Portal, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, the National Counter-terrorism Centre of the US and the UN reported that HuJI was actually behind the attacks. The NCTC Director cited HuJI as the perpetrators in a 2010 document to the US Senate while the South Asia Terrorism Portal named Vikar Ahmed as the main suspect in the blast.

 On September 29, 2008, a bomb blast took place at Malegaon in which six persons were killed and 101 injured. In the chargesheet filed on January 20, 2009, for the first time, a larger conspiracy of a group for creation of a separate Hindu rashtra was brought to light by the NIA.

 After 2009, a total of five cases were marked as acts of ‘saffron terrorism’ which was used to demean and debase the RSS, the Vishva Hindu Parishad and the BJP by several UPA leaders and Ministers. These cases have been re-investigated by the NIA without any jurisdiction. Interestingly, NIA chief SC Sinha, under whose directions the said probe was carried out was subsequently appointed as a member of the National Human Rights Commission.

 The sudden discovery of saffron terrorism has raised many questions which remain to be answered. Why is it that despite his alleged involvement in such a heinous crime, Lt Col Shrikant Purohit who remains in jail is still being given full emoluments? How two independent groups — SIMI activists and the so-called saffron terrorists — are being accused of the Malegaon and Samjhauta bomb blast incidents? How the accused SIMI activists have been let out on bail and the others continue to languish in jail? Why is this unequal treatment? Why the Government which even handed over dossiers to Pakistan and the UN, based on which the world body banned HuJI and LeT, reversed its own findings and became a laughing stock before the international community? Why all accusations are based on retracted confessions of the accused and not other evidence corroborating their direct involvement in the offence?

 The nation is still searching for satisfactory answers, and one hopes the new Government and the new Union Minister for Home Affairs would respond appropriately.

(The author is Senior Fellow and Editor with the Vivekananda International Foundation)
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