Rediff.com has reported as follows: “In a statement that is expected to erupt a huge political row, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said on Sunday (January 20, 2013), "The RSS and BJP are running terrorist training camps to spread Hindu terrorism." He mentioned the Samjhauta Express and Malegaon blasts to further enhance his point as he addressed Congress workers at the ongoing (since concluded) Chintan Shivir in Jaipur . He said that BJP's "cultural nationalism" is actually a weapon to divide the country. ”His speech was disastrous, to put it mildly.”
Apart from evoking protests from the BJP and the RSS, some of whose leaders have demanded his resignation for projecting the majority Hindu community of India as indulging in terrorism, even many of the Congress delegates to the Shivir were reported to have been embarrassed by his speech which lionized Mrs Sonia Gandhi and demonized the BJP and the RSS.
Realising the damage that might be caused by his “disastrous” speech as described by Rediff, Mr Shinde has subsequently sought to retract from his statement by claiming that he was merely referring to media reports of the investigation made into some cases in the past. He was apparently referring to the media reports of the investigation into the Malegaon blasts that killed many Muslims and the explosion on board the Samjhauta Express.
It is a fact that investigation into some pre-2008 terrorist incidents brought out that these were not committed by Muslim extremists and that at least some of them such as the Malegaon blasts were acts of reprisal against the Muslims by some Hindu extremists who had an association with the RSS in the past.
The investigation so far, based largely on the interrogation of some arrested Hindu suspects, who professed the Hindutva ideology, showed that neither the BJP nor the RSS had any knowledge of the planned acts of reprisal by these suspects. There has been no evidence at all that these organisations had any role in these incidents. These were purely rogue acts of reprisal by these individual Hindus with past association with these organisations.
While evidence of the involvement of some Hindu rogue elements in the Malegaon blasts seems to be strong, evidence of their involvement in the Samjhauta Express explosion appears to be more circumstantial than direct. Moreover, immediately after it, US authorities had assessed that it was probably caused by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).They have not come out with any subsequent assessment on it.
Investigation into these cases has since been taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) formed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in 2009 when Mr P. Chidambaram was the Home Minister. Despite all its resources, the NIA has not so far been able to come out with a comprehensive conclusion on the alleged involvement of some Hindu extremists in acts of reprisal against Muslims.
There has been no sense of urgency in the MHA in having the investigation completed and the suspects prosecuted. One has a strong suspicion that the NIA is sought to be used not for the investigation and prosecution, but for politically needling the BJP and the RSS by periodically levelling allegations against them. This partisan exploitation of the investigation for political purposes is likely to continue till the 2014 elections. Mr Shinde’s statement is part of this partisan exercise.
Short-sighted leaders of the Congress do not seem to realize that they have been playing into the hands of Pakistan and weakening our campaign against Pakistan for early action against the masterminds of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. Pakistan has been trying to link up its early prosecution of the accused in the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai with our early prosecution of the accused in the Samjhauta Express explosion on the ground that many Pakistanis travelling back to Pakistan by this train were killed in this explosion.
Mr Shinde’s statement was totally unwarranted and even mischievous because there have been no further acts of reprisal against Muslims after the arrests of the Hindu extremists allegedly involved in the Malegaon blasts. The total stoppage of such acts of reprisal shows that the group involved was very small and its arrest has ended such incidents.
Mr Shinde, before his retraction, sought to project as if such conspiracies involving the BJP and the RSS were continuing without any shred of evidence. His objective was to demonise the BJP and the RSS for political advantage before the 2014 polls.
The past allegations regarding the involvement of some rogue Hindu extremists in the Samjhauta Express explosion are being exploited by the Interior Ministry of the Government of Pakistan. Mr Shinde’s latest allegations are being exploited by Hafeez Mohd Sayeed, the Amir of the Jamatt-ud-Dawa, the political wing of the LET, for claiming not only that there is Hindu terrorism against Muslims in India which justifies the LET’s acts of reprisal to protect the Indian Muslims, but also that Mr Shinde’s statement shows that so-called Hindu terrorists from India are probably responsible for the recent wave of terrorism in Pakistan itself. His allegations could cause a serious backlash against the members of the Hindu minority in Pakistan.
Mr Shinde’s statement carefully avoids any condemnation of the on-going activities and conspiracies of the Indian Mujahideen and its links with the LET. At the same time, it seeks to project sections of the Hindu community who do not support the Congress, as associated with terrorism. His deeply prejudiced and communal stewardship of the union ministry of home affairs needs to be condemned by all right-thinking persons.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies