By Air Commodore ® Khalid Iqbal
India’s anti-minorities bias is so strong that Indian government prefers a posture of denial regarding the threat posed by Hindu radicalism. Indian state’s pro-Hindu stance has made it paralytic to tackle Hindu extremism. Response of the Indian establishment to Hindu nationalists has rarely exceeded mild disparagement.
Indian home minister Sushilkumar Shinde surely deserves appreciation for mustering the courage to publicly acknowledge the ground reality of growing Hindu extremism and terrorism by naming RSS and BJP being amongst around two dozens entities which are linked to harbouring, practicing and promoting Hindu extremism. There has been confirmation, as indeed expansion, of his remarks by home secretary RK Singh, as well as external affairs minister Salman Khurshid. It is not a revelation; it is just an acknowledgement, at the political level, of an open secret.
On the heels of home minister’s statement, Mr RK Singh elaborated that at least 10 persons involved in a spate of terror attacks in different parts of the country, had links with RSS or its affiliated organisations: “Yes, during investigation of Samjhauta Express, Makkah Masjid and (Ajmer) Dargah Sharif blasts, we have found at least 10 names who have been associated with the RSS at some point or the other…We have evidence against them. There are statements of witnesses.” The home secretary also made public the names of these ten persons. One of the 10 men was dead, six had been arrested and three were still absconding. The names included high-caste Hindus, which is the hard core constituency of RSS and BJP.
External affairs minister Salman Khurshid also backed home minister’s statement on “Hindu terrorism” saying it was based “entirely on facts” made available by investigative agencies. “Let me just say this to you very clearly that our stated position, that is shared fully by the home minister and past home minister, is based entirely on facts as the investigative agencies have made available to the government,” Khurshid said. More important are Mr Khurshid’s remarks that terror has no religion and colour. This backing for Mr Shinde came amid BJP calls for his resignation.
These statements are a breeze of fresh air as previously the entire focus of the Indian leadership had been on maligning Pakistan on the issue of terrorism. Though the statement is widely being criticized by RSS and BJP but the Indian government seems to be on the self-correction path. Congress government is now under a lot of pressure to recant Shinde and his accusations. It should stand firm and launch a comprehensive process of investigation into these matters.
The RSS and the BJP are sister parties, both advocate an extreme right-wing version of Hinduism and have no love lost for minorities, as well as moderate Hindus. Indeed, it was the RSS that was part of the co-conspiracy leading to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi for his supposed bias towards Muslims and it hasn’t moderated its views since then. The BJP, the second largest political party in the country, has ruled by dividing India along religious and sectarian lines. As the RSS, through the BJP, forms the alternative government of India, this involvement shows that Hindu terrorism is becoming a part of the accepted norm of India’s mainstream politics. It also exposes the Indian claims of its “shining” secularism and tolerance for all religions.
Apart from RSS and BJP, a number of other organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, Abhinav Bharat (Pride of India), the Rashtriya Jagran Manch (National Revival Forum), the Sri Ram Sene (Army of god Rama), the Hindu Dharam Sena (Army for Hindu Religion) and the Sanatan Sanstha (Eternal Organization), are among the outfits known for having launched violent attacks against Muslims, Christians and other minorities.
The driving force behind Hindu extremism, is Hindutva, a doctrine evolved over the years along the lines of Nazism and Fascism to re-establish the supremacy of one race (Brahmin caste) by insisting on Varnashram (caste system), by imposing Sashtras (Vedism), by creating a common language (Sanskrit), by devising a common culture (Bharaty Sanskriti), and by enacting common laws based on Manu and Vedanta.
In 2002, the BJP government banned the Muslim group ‘Students’ Islamic Movement of India’ (SIAMI) citing the group’s charter, which seeks to establish Sharia rule in India, and the terror charges some of its members were facing. Tehlka fame journalist Ajit Sahi carried out extensive investigations and came out with a startling finding that most of the terrorism related cases against SIMI activists were fabricated. But the Hindu radical outfit RSS remains at large, even though it campaigns, very openly, for a Hindu state in India, and its members incite and perpetrate violence against Muslim and Christian minorities.
It is this mind-set which breeds a mob psyche that has led to incidents like massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, demolition of historic Babri mosque and persecution of other religious and ethnic minorities. There are nearly 150 million Muslims in India, but as per government’s own figures, only 4% are graduates, 5% have public employment, an overwhelming majority remain locked out of public institutions and their access to government loans and education is severely restricted. From demographics to diet, personal laws to places of worship, Muslims are suspect in everything they do. The Indian state has failed appallingly in its obligations to Muslim citizens. It is unfortunate that the Hindu right gets away so easily by routinely humiliating Indian Muslims.
India has been using the LoC in Kashmir to show the scant regard in which it holds Pakistan, despite its recent efforts to appease India, most notably the grant of Most-Favoured Nation status. The recent heightening of tensions was because of Indian aggression on the LoC, and was followed by an exercise by the IHK police to prepare the public for facing nuclear, biological and chemical attacks!
One of the biggest misconceptions about the subcontinent is that terrorism flows only one way, from Pakistan to India. India’s recognition that right-wing political parties in the country may be training terrorists was long overdue. India’s boasts of being the largest democracy in the world will ring hollow if one of its main parties is found to have terrorist ties. For the sake of justice, Indian government should go ahead with investigations and provide proof to the world to counter the BJP and RSS claims that the duo is being victimised by its political opponents. To find that these two parties may be involved in training terrorists may not surprise many. Mindset of Hindu right towards Indian minorities is not expected to change too soon; nevertheless Indian government’s distancing is a welcome change!