The Bomber Among Us

The Hindu majority has a blind spot for terror among its own
The Bomber Among Us
The Bomber Among Us

Hindus are docile, peace-loving, non-violent people. India is a land of unity in diversity. This is, after all, the country that produced Mahatma Gandhi. Terrorists are always Muslims. What of the so-called Maoist terrorists? Oh, they are tribals and their leaders are communists. They are not really Hindus!

These are the stereotypes we live with, blinding us to an unfolding reality. That there is indeed a phenomenon that can only be described as ‘Hindu terror’. For the people who display trishuls, shout shrill slogans for Bharat Mata and believe in retributive justice against minorities are not fringe lunatics with crazy ideas. Increasingly, investigations reveal that they have actually taken to making bombs and planting them in places where Muslims would be blamed. Why do they do this? Perhaps, in their distorted worldview, any action that would mobilise the people against the minorities is justified.

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Yet most of us believe that Hindu terror does not exist because we do not see it. And what we don’t see, we don’t know and we don’t believe. Hence the conspiracy of silence on the issue. Jyotirmaya Sharma, author of books on Golwalkar and Hindutva, says this stems from the myth that most Indians harbour about the peaceful, other-worldly Hindu. “If you participate in the myth, you participate in the conspiracy,” he says. Indeed, he argues that while we can separate mainstream Muslims from the extreme Wahabi Islam promoted by organisations like the LeT, in the case of Hindu terrorists, they are emerging from the wellspring of the Sangh parivar. “The BJP parliamentarians and the terrorists are from the same tradition and that should worry us deeply,” he says.

“BJP parliamentarians and the terrorists are from the same tradition ...and that should worry us deeply.” Jyotirmaya Sharma, Author   “They get away with murderous activities as they have sympathy among a section of the Hindu elite.” Dilip Simeon, Historian

“Past records are bad enough...the Indian state can’t afford any complacency against Hindu terrorists.”  Christophe Jaffrelot, Historian   “Hindu chauvinism has grown in the past 20 years...there are many who silently support such attitudes.” Kumar Ketkar, Senior Journalist

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  “What is objectionable is using government machinery to give currency to the idea of Hindu terrorism.” Seshadri Chari, Ex-editor, Organiser  

Historian Dilip Simeon digs out some data from the past to argue “that to disregard the nature of the RSS would be to pull wool over our eyes”. He quotes from the February 4, 1948, communique of the government of India declaring the RSS unlawful because “its members have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms and suborn the police and military. These activities have been carried out under the cloak of secrecy...the cult of violence of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself”. Besides, Simeon asks, “Is Praveen Togadia’s yatra in Kandhamal that resulted in 125 dead, thousands injured and rendered refugees any less a terrorist act than that of the cadre involved in the Malegaon and Ajmer blasts? They get away with their murderous activities because of sympathy among a section of the elite.”

Crimson tide Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur

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Why does mainstream discourse rationalise and accept groups like the VHP, Shiv Sena and the RSS? At worst, they are trivialised as a looney fringe. Senior Maharashtra-based journalist Kumar Ketkar says this attitude comes from a middle class ambiguity. “Hindu chauvinism surfaced over the last 20 years and there are many who silently support it. And the classes who have such attitudes are in high-end professions like media, academics, law and judiciary.” S.M. Mushrif, ex-IGP (Maharashtra) and author of the book Who Killed Karkare?, calls it Brahminists’ propaganda. “The mainstream media, police, government are all victim to their propaganda. I purposely don’t call them Hindus. At every stage in the investigation of these cases of Hindu terror, there was interference by the IB which has also been taken over by the Brahminists.”

Clearly, there are strong views on the issue. Historian Christophe Jaffrelot says Hindu terror groups may not pose as big a threat to India as Pakistan-sponsored Islamist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba but they still need to be dealt with seriously. He counts at least three reasons for this. “First, they belong to a resilient tradition that harks back to Savarkar and Godse for whom terrorist violence was a legitimate modus operandi against Muslims and even the Mahatma. This school of thought has always been on the fringe of the Hindu nationalist movement, but they re-emerge in the context of crises like Partition and the post-9/11 series of Islamist attacks in India. More importantly, the Sangh parivar tends to move in this direction as is evident from the techniques of the Bajrang Dal and the involvement of RSS members in the Ajmer blast and the Mecca Masjid attack (Hyderabad). Second, even if organisations like Abhinav Bharat are microscopic, they were started by serving or retired army officers, including Ramesh Upadhyay and Lt Col Purohit. This development takes place after the BJP and VHP have already attracted dozens of former armymen and senior policemen. While India can congratulate itself on the apolitical role of its military personnel, any infiltration of these institutions by communal ideas or elements is alarming.”

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Blast proof Major Upadhyay and Swami Amritanand Maharaj

Ironically, the BJP and RSS, alarmed by the questioning and investigations of its cadre, now say that terrorism has no religion. BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar told Outlook, “We believe you cannot defame all Muslims just because some are terrorists. You don’t say Muslim terrorists, so why say Hindu terrorists? We condemn your communal approach to terrorism.” Seshadri Chari, member of the BJP’s national executive and a former editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser, says the police has every right to investigate and question people. “What is objectionable is using government machinery and planting news to give currency to the idea of Hindu terrorism. The government is under pressure from some quarters to say that terrorism is not peculiar to people of the Islamic faith.” In other words, Hindus cannot be terrorists and if someone says they are, it can only be under pressure from those who work for Islamic terrorists!

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh is one of those who has consistently raised the issue of Hindu terrorism with the government. He told Outlook: “I have been saying for a long time that Hindu radicals and Muslim radicals are two faces of the same coin. Acts of terrorism increased after the Babri Masjid demolition. This in turn led to the radicalisation of a section of the Hindus. There is so much evidence of the RSS/VHP combine operating via various militant organisations, so much proof that they have given training in bomb-making. Unfortunately, the media mostly goes with a one-sided story. Whenever there is a blast, the same day the media comes out with names of Muslim boys.”

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Blast proof Terror outfit Abhinav Bharat’s Lt Col Shrikant Purohit

The media, after all, only reflects the stereotypes and prejudices of society. Indeed, it thrives on sensational images of Muslim terrorists. A mainstream English and many language channels have even admitted that TRPs go up whenever they show visuals of Muslim terrorists and the Taliban. Hindu terror, it seems, doesn’t have that kind of mainstream audience.

So we have a situation where Muslims are picked up randomly, presumed guilty until proven innocent. In the case of so-called Hindu terrorism, though, the reverse is always true. As Jaffrelot explains, “The Indian state cannot afford to display any complacency vis-a-vis Hindu terrorists as the past records are bad enough. Till recently, policemen—sometimes contradicting themselves in the course of the investigations itself—were quick to attribute any blast to Islamist groups...even when the casualties were Muslims. If the guilty men of Abhinav Bharat and other groups are not dealt with in the right way, the impression that is gaining momentum among the minorities—that some Indian citizens are more equal than others before the law—will have a devastating impact.”

That process has already begun. The irony is that much of what Indian Muslims have been blamed for may well turn out to be the act of a terrorist determined to communalise the situation and blame minorities for wanton violence. We can only wonder who would benefit from such a vitiated atmosphere.

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