Promising Hindu superiority, Hindutva has been turned into a vicious doctrine that promotes ultra-nationalism, religious fundamentalism and intolerance
By Shahid R. Siddiqi
Muslims are a suspect community in India and, in some states more than others, are increasingly becoming targets of scorn and terrorism at the hands of radical and fundamentalist Hindu outfits. What lies at the root of this is a fundamental change in the outlook of a segment of Hindus towards non-Hindus and minorities.
They call this doctrine of hate and terror, ‘Hindutva’.
In an election related petition before the Bombay High Court the appellants contended that an appeal to vote for Hindutva amounted to an appeal to vote on grounds of religion and therefore is a corrupt practice under the law. The respondents argued that ‘Dharma’ or ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduism’ are all synonymous terms and appeal to vote for Hindutva was not for religion, but for culture. The Bombay High Court agreed that Hindutva or Hinduism was culture falling within Article 29 of the Constitution.
Later, appellants before the Supreme Court of India submitted that ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduism’ was no religion but a way of life which incorporated noble values such as respect for all religions and the moral code of conduct for every sphere of human activity that evolved in this land from most ancient times, inter alia, included secularism. In support of this they relied on two earlier Constitution Bench Judgments of the Supreme Court in the cases of Yajnapurushdasji (1966 (3) SCR 242) and Sridharan (1976 (4) SCC 489). The court accepted the contention of the appellants and further observed that Hinduism and Hindutva accept and respect every religion and recognize the right of every individual to practice any religion.
Hailed as landmark judgment, this was expected to put an end to misinterpretation of Hindutva or Hinduism as religious fundamentalism or its misuse by exploiting religion for politics that could destroy the secular character of the Indian Nation. But this was not to be.
Most unfortunately, Hindutva has been turned into a philosophy of ultra-nationalism by right wing Hindu fundamentalists. Its votaries gloat over the rise of Hindutva on the pyre of Hinduism, for they have felt embarrassed and humiliated by Hinduism as it is.
Being a faith and way of life, fundamentalists saw Hinduism as weak and inferior to Semitic creeds that had a strong presence in India and which they found to be well-bounded, monolithic, masculine, organized and capable of sustaining the ideology of an imperial state. This was demonstrated by the past conquests of Hindu states by Muslim invaders from Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran that established their dynasties at different times and later by the Christian British colonialists. Consequently, they felt a strong need to build Hindutva on the tenets of reformed Hinduism, redefine the origins and evolution of Hindu civilization and religion and project Hindu power by building India into a powerful regional player and persecute Muslims, Christians and other minorities.
Sangh Parivar, a family of Hindu nationalist organizations of which Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad are part, adopted new Hindutva as its guiding ideology. Shiv Sena, a highly controversial political party of Maharashtra, shares this ideology and is very closely associated with Sangh Parivar. The record of these right winga radical right wing political party a radical right wing political party a radical right wing political party radical parties in pursuing ultra-nationalist agenda and engaging in indiscriminate massacre of minorities, particularly Muslims, is enough to show the true colors of Hindutvavadis (followers of Hindutva).
Since the first horrific Mumbai blasts of 1992 a persistent campaign has created a perception that Muslims were behind every terror activity, promoting a shrill paranoia about the existence of a vast and homegrown Islamist terror networks that were sometimes linked to Kashmiri freedom struggle and at other times to Pakistan’s ISI. This was reinforced by biased media coverage and political campaigning.
And it is this frame of mind that has slipped into the Indian criminal justice system too. The police, investigating agencies, intelligence agencies and even the lower courts, under the media and government pressure to show results after bomb blasts and killings, have found Muslim youth easy scapegoats for blame to be heaped on for all acts of terrorism, instead of finding actual culprits. These young men are rounded up even if Muslim communities themselves are the targets of Hindu terror. They are put away in jails without evidence, tortured without regard to their rights and even ‘convicted’ by the courts on the basis of their so called ‘confessions’. Their future is destroyed and their families are made destitute.
With this militant Hindutva on the rise, Indian secularism is clearly on the decline.
The well known Indian publication ‘Tehelka Magazine’ in its January issue makes startling revelations about the Hindutva conspiracy to commit large scale killings of Muslims. It has published the voluntary confession of a zealot who has for long remained directly involved in the planning and execution of such acts of terrorism.
According to the magazine, on December 18, 2010, Swami Aseemanand, an elderly Bengali man and key accused in 2007 Mecca Masjid blast (in Hyderabad Deccan) that claimed nine Muslims lives, voluntarily confessed before the metropolitan magistrate of Delhi his involvement in a string of terror attacks. He did this in full knowledge that his confession could take him to the gallows.
Naba Kumar Sarkar, popularly called Swami Aseemanand, a Hindutva leader and a rabid Muslim hater, was arrested in November 2010 after being a fugitive for two years. He was known to be very close to RSS leadership, including former RSS chief KS Sudarshan, current chief Mohan Bhagwat and politicians like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
According to Aseemanand, it was a momentous emotional transformation that prompted him to take this step of seeking prayschit (penance). He reportedly told the magistrate, “When I was lodged in Chanchalguda district jail in Hyderabad, one of my co-inmates was Kaleem. During my interaction with Kaleem I learnt that he was previously arrested in the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case and had to spend about a year and a half in prison. During my stay in jail, he helped me a lot and used to serve me by bringing water, food, etc for me. I was very moved by Kaleem’s good conduct and my conscience asked me to do prayschit (penance) by making a confessional statement so that real culprits can be punished and no innocent has to suffer.”
The confessional statement spread over 42 pages went beyond terror attacks against Muslim communities. It unraveled the inner working of Hindutva terror network, provided names and extent of involvement of Hindutva leaders in the conspiracy, uncovered legal evidence about the planning and execution of terror acts over past several years by Hindutva zealots and provided forensic evidence that connects the missing links that has eluded investigators so far. In short, this one confession unfolds the mystery surrounding RSS reign of terror against minorities.
This testimony and earlier investigations have revealed new faces that lie at the heart of the terror conspiracy. One such person is Indresh Kumar, a member of the RSS central committee. His own party men have confessed before CBI investigators that he mentored, bankrolled and directed the RSS pracharaks in carrying out Malegaon, Hyderabad, Samjhauta Express, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid attacks. Evidence has surfaced that these radicals even bombed Hindu temples and blamed the attacks on the Muslims groups.
Not unexpectedly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have rubbished the probe into Hindutva terror by alleging that Aseemanand’s confession was obtained under coercion.
Over the past four years the evidence gathered by CBI and other agencies against RSS pracharaks and lunatic Hindutva groups like Abhinav Bharat and Jai Vande Matram is compelling. When pieced together with Aseemanand’s confession, the whole body of evidence, both material and circumstantial, builds a solid case against these terror groups. It is now known that the broad conspiracy of targeting Muslims and their mosques was hatched around 2001 and for this purpose key RSS pracharaks inducted Hindutva radicals from RSS, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad and some from fringe saffron groups like Abhinav Bharat, Jai Vande Matram and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. The main theatres of operation were Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan states.
Aseemanand admitted being part of the group that selected Muslim targets for explosions. He said, “I suggested that 80 percent of the people of Malegaon (Maharashtra) were Muslims and we should explode the first bomb in Malegaon itself. I also said that during the Partition, the Nizam of Hyderabad (Deccan) had wanted to go with Pakistan so Hyderabad was also a fair target. Then I said that since Hindus also throng the Ajmer Sharif Dargah (Rajasthan) in large numbers we should also explode a bomb in Ajmer which would deter the Hindus from going there [the shrine of a Muslim saint who is also revered by the Hindus]. I also suggested the Aligarh Muslim University (Utter Pradesh) as a terror target”. He went on to say, “In the meeting Joshi suggested that it was basically Pakistanis who travel on the Samjhauta Express train that runs between India and Pakistan and therefore we should attack the train as well”.
This bi-weekly train operates between Lahore and Delhi as a goodwill gesture and a confidence building measure agreed by the two governments and is appropriately named “Samjhauta” (or “compromise”) Express.
Although small explosions in Nanded, Jalna and Parbhani and some failed attempts in Bhopal due to faulty devices were reported between 2002 and 2004, but starting from Malegaon in September 2006, blasts after blasts took place for two years in prominent Muslim neighborhoods and mosques, which Aseemanand admitted were carried out by a team of RSS pracharaks.
In September 2006, four bombs exploded in the communally tense town of Malegaon, one in the crowded marketplace and three in Hamidiya mosque during prayer time. Thirty one Muslims were killed and over 312 injured. In May 2007 Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad was attacked killing nine Muslims and injuring over 50. In the Ajmer Shrine a powerful bomb exploded in October 2007 that fortunately killed only three devotees and injured over a dozen. In September 2008, a bomb, concealed in a motorcycle, exploded in a Muslim neighborhood in Malegaon while another bomb simultaneously went off in a mosque in a small Gujarat town of Modassa during prayer time.
On February 18, 2007 on the eve of Pakistan foreign minister Kasuri’s visit to India to pursue the peace dialogue, three powerful bombs exploded in two coaches of the Samjhauta Express train at midnight when it was 80 km out of Delhi on its way to Lahore, turning them into an inferno. Sixty eight people, mostly Pakistanis, were killed and dozens were injured. The peace dialogue was almost scuttled. Aseemanand has admitted that this was the handiwork of a group of RSS pracharkars, although RSS propagandists immediately pointed fingers at Pakistan based Kashmiri outfits. Even Washington bought the story and demanded of Pakistan to spring into action against the culprits.
Some excellent investigative work done by the police officer and then Maharashtra ATS Chief, Hemant Karkare, helped him track the motorcycle used in the Malegaon blast to a radical leader Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, whose arrest led to 11 high profile arrests of Hindutva activists who had a role in Malegaon blast, including serving Lt. Col. Purohit and a Hindu religious leader Dayanand Pandey. From Pandey’s possession Karkare recovered damning evidence against all of them in the 40 audio and video tapes, which were recordings of secret terror conspiracy meetings held by Pandey, Purohit and others.
Karkare’s investigations also led to the discovery that Lt. Col. Purohit had procured 60 kg of RDX from Jammu and Kashmir in 2006, part of which was alleged to have been used in Samjhauta Express and part of it in Malegaon blasts.
Karkare was bumped off during the 2008 Mumbai attack, ostensibly by RSS and other Hindutva radicals whom he was exposing. With Karkare gone, the investigation got derailed and was lost in the noisy blame game with Pakistan on the issue of 2008 Mumbai attack, which had assumed center stage. Karkare’s successor Raghuvanshi is believed to have covered up the investigation to avoid Karkare’s fate. But with crucial evidence available due to Aseemanand’s confession, the pieces of the puzzle of Hindutva saffron terror should now fall in place and the probe being handled by National Investigating Agency (NIA) should hopefully be concluded soon.
Tehelka has also revealed the “nexus between Hindutva terror and Indian military intelligence officers” in bomb attacks in Samjhauta Express, Hyderabad, Ajmer and Malegaon. The report says “political bigwigs and serving and retired army officers, all seemed part of the conspiracy”. According to Aseemanand, Lt. Col. Purohit was a founding member of Abhinav Bharat, a shadowy saffron terror outfit aimed at infiltrating every institution. Tapes recovered from the RSS accused have revealed names of two Majors, four Colonels and two Brigadiers who were part of the outfit, four of them having intelligence background.
Lt. Col. Purohit is heard on the tape saying “We are all on the same plane – Hindu Rashtra (nation)”. He goes on to claim that “General J.J. Singh (Indian army chief until 2007) is with us”. Purohit also talks of “one of our own captains” having visited Israel for “training and meeting” who demanded “four things from Israel”: uninterrupted supply of arms and training, “an office with a saffron flag in Tel Aviv”, political asylum and “support for our cause of a Hindu nation in the UN”. The tapes claim that Israel gave “a very positive response and promised arms and asylum”.
One wonders if this is only the tip of the iceberg. The infiltration of Hindutva radicals in the armed services with links to terror groups should be a matter of grave concern for the Indian political leadership, as well as for the army top brass.
Shahid R. Siddiqi began his career in the Pakistan Air Force. He later joined the corporate sector with which he remained associated until recently in a senior management position. Alongside, he worked as a broadcaster with Radio Pakistan and remained the Islamabad bureau chief of an English weekly magazine ‘Pakistan & Gulf Economist’. In the U.S. he co-founded the Asian American Republican Club in Maryland in 1994 to encourage the participation of Asian Americans in the mainstream political process.