By A.J. Philip
A Hindu religious leader’s recent confession that some major terrorist attacks in India in the past were the handiwork of a “Hindu” group has lent a new dimension to the discourse on terror.
Swami Aseemanand’s confession before a magistrate in Delhi in late December is not an end in itself as the police will have to corroborate his statement with evidence to have the guilty convicted.
However, the confession has evoked a mixed reaction with sections of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people’s party) calling it a tissue of lies while many Muslim families, whose members had been accused of engineering the terrorist attacks and are still in jail, see it as a vindication of their claim of innocence.
What the incident underscores is that terror has no religious identity and the argument often touted by vested interests that “all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims” is as specious as it is mischievous.
Make no mistake, it was not a prick of conscience that forced the self-proclaimed “swami” to make a confession.
Painstaking investigation by the police had similarities in the bomb blasts at a mosque in Malegaon, a Muslim-majority town in Maharashtra, Mecca Masjid at Hyderabad, the Sufi shrine at Ajmer and the Samjhauta Express that runs between Delhi and Lahore.
They had links with a “Hindu” rightist stamp and the “swami” was one of the kingpins of the whole operation.
The “swami” began his hate campaign, first by targeting the tribal Christians in Dangs district in Gujarat state. He unleashed a violent campaign to bring them into the Hindu fold, in the name of “homecoming.”
Many top leaders of the “Sangh Parivar,” a term loosely used for the 100-plus organizations that draw ideological sustenance from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, national volunteer association), who feel discomfited by his confession, had at that time hailed him as a “savior.”
In wholeheartedly supporting such suspicious characters, the concept of “our terrorists versus their terrorists” has come into being.
When Australian missioner Graham Stuart Staines and his teenaged sons were burnt alive in Orissa in 1999, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (international Hindu organization) was blamed. But then federal Home Minister and BJP leader L.K. Advani gave the outfit a clean chit.
The same phenomenon was at work when the chief of Maharashtra’s anti-terrorist squad the late Hemant Karkare arrested some “Hindu” leaders for their involvement in the Malegaon blasts.
Instead of letting him continue his work, he was vilified. Karkare’s lead had led to the arrest of the “swami,” but the police official was killed while fighting the Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai on Nov. 26, 2008.
Earlier this week, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said his organization has no place for those who take the law into their own hands. But the very next day BJP president Nitin Gadkari posed with a man, whom Aseemanand described as a major player in terrorism.
Such support will not help either the party or the nation.
At one time, the BJP had a robust anti-terrorism policy which, because of its duplicitous stand, does not any longer inspire confidence.
While there is no distinction between terrorism by the members of a minority community or of the majority community, the latter is far more dangerous.
For instance, in each blast where “Hindus” were allegedly involved, police arrested and implicated local Muslim youths.
Since communalism of the majority community can pass off as nationalism, minorities like Christians face a greater threat from it.
The writer is a New Delhi-based senior journalist. [email protected]