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India’s Hindu Terror: Can It Be Tamed? – Analysis

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The arrests of individuals linked to fringe Hindu groups for involvement in several terror attacks present an opportunity for the Indian government to show that it is not soft on terror.

By Bibhu Prasad Routray

THE REALITY of terror attacks by Hindu groups is gradually registering in the minds of Indians, although the extent of the damage potential of these fringe formations remains a matter of debate.

According to available information, persons associated with the Hindu terror groups, such as the one ironically named Abhinav Bharat (Modern India) and the other Sanatan Sanshtha (Eternal Organisation), carried out explosions in several places across the country. Prominent among them were two blasts in Malegaon in Maharashtra state in 2006 and 2008; an explosion targeting a train that runs between India and Pakistan in 2007 in Haryana; a blast in the Sufi shrine of Ajmer Durgah in Rajasthan in 2007; and a blast in a mosque in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh in 2007. Collectively these five attacks claimed the lives of at least 126 civilians, mostly Muslims.

Criminal Planning

India
India

Investigations into all these attacks reveal the details of planning that went into them. They were carried out by a compact group of men and women, ostensibly to take revenge for the ‘Muslim terror acts’ against the country. A member of the group, a colonel in the Indian army, provided technical expertise and explosives from the Army’s supply, which were then placed under concrete slabs, bicycle/ motorcycles and tiffin boxes to create mayhem. The conspirators even killed one of their main organisers — to get rid of evidence of their involvement.

Paradoxically initial suspicion for the attacks had fallen on Muslim groups. For instance, nine Muslims were arrested and continue to be detained for their involvement in one of the blasts that took place in 2006. Experts then had sought to explain the attacks on Islamic places of worship as being driven by the larger objective of Pakistan-sponsored militants to drive a communal wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims in India. Curiously the confessions recorded of the arrested members of Abhinav Bharat justify the death of Hindus in such attacks as collateral damages the majority community must suffer in order to “teach the Muslims a lesson”.

Politics over Terror

Persons involved in the attacks have in some way or other been connected to the Hindu right-wing revivalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Swami Aseemanand, arrested in connection with five of these explosions has indicated the direct role played by some of the RSS leaders in the attacks. The RSS, to date, however, remains defiant and characterises investigations into the acts of ‘Hindu terror’ as attempts by ‘anti-Hindu’ forces to weaken the efforts to counter jihadi terrorism. The RSS claims that “a Hindu cannot be a terrorist”. The main opposition political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is closely connected with the RSS, cautiously remains supportive of the government’s actions, but maintains that the government must do more against the jihadi terror.

With 83 percent of its population being Hindu, any reference linking terror acts to the majority group is bound to be controversial and politically sensitive in a country where many political parties use religion to garner votes. That consideration compelled Home Minister P Chidambaram to backtrack from his expression ‘saffron terror’ in 2010 in parliament. In addition to the BJP, some of his colleagues within the Congress party too objected to raking up the issue.

NIA Investigations

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), set up after the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, is currently probing two cases involving the Hindu extremists. The government in New Delhi is supportive of the NIA examining all the cases wherever the role of the Hindu outfits is evident.

In the first week of March 2011, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) wrote to the state governments and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s criminal investigative agency, soliciting their views whether they would like to hand over all ‘Hindu terror’ cases to the NIA. Given the political nature of the issue this step would lead to an impartial and ‘single agency’ investigation of the cases. Currently, some of the cases are being investigated by individual state-level Anti-Terrorism Squads (ATS) and some by the CBI.

Moreover, giving all these cases involving the Hindu outfits to the NIA makes practical sense, since most of these attacks involve common conspirators. Notwithstanding the objections raised by some of the states, especially those ruled by the right-wing BJP, the NIA Act allows New Delhi to take over from the state police any case with terror linkages, with or without their explicit consent.

India’s secular fabric

Effective steps to counter terror acts by the Hindu outfits will have wider ramifications for India’s secular fabric as well as its intent to be a part of the global anti-terror efforts. Any dilution in the initiative would not only weaken its claims of being targeted principally by externally-sponsored terror groups, but also would bring to the fore the latent prejudices towards the minority Muslim community. The Indian government would do well to curb the rise of such a trend, through an impartial, objective and professional investigation process, while it is still in its infancy involving fringe elements.

The Congress government in New Delhi, just two years into its five-year term, and thus not facing the communal electoral considerations of an election year, is well positioned to pursue the investigation to its conclusion. It is an opportunity for the Indian government to assure its Muslim citizens and the international community that it is not soft on terror.

Bibhu Prasad Routray is a Visiting Research Fellow in the South Asia Programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He previously served as a Deputy Director in the National Security Council Secretariat, Prime Minister’s Office, New Delhi.

RSIS

RSIS

RSIS Commentaries are intended to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy relevant background and analysis of contemporary developments. The views of the author/s are their own and do not represent the official position of the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), NTU, which produces the Commentaries.

9 thoughts on “India’s Hindu Terror: Can It Be Tamed? – Analysis

  • Avatar
    March 29, 2011 at 8:19 am
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    Wit he anti hindu and pro minority actions of congress governments we find it difficult to believe that a hindu terror outfit exists. Please do not blame any one if he thinks that this is to satisfy the vote bank of the ruling party to show that they are arresting hindus also.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      March 29, 2011 at 9:49 am
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      Yes, there is no proof as such…of any Hindu groups are involved
      This is just the congress [Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s] plan….
      She is just doing all wrong things against India and Indians…
      Time will come…and we Indian are going to pay for the this [ whatever the Sonia Gandhi’s wrong doing ]

      Reply
  • Avatar
    March 29, 2011 at 9:44 am
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    the sad history of past 5oo years of foreign rule has left the scars on the face of the country, resulting in tragic partition of the indian sub continent. millions of the people have been killed since then. due to poor statesmanship of political leadership some pockets like kashmir and rise of naxlites have becone a profound play of vested intersts. We hindus, christians and muslims have a common origin and sooner we realise it, we can tread the path of progress. Any organisation that supports the case of indian subcontinent as one needs to hailed. We should be broad minded and not leftists or rightists while pursuing national interests. skewed views should ot be welcomed

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  • Avatar
    March 29, 2011 at 10:01 am
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    I am offended by the term “Hindu Terror”. This is an insenitive use of religion to potray few bad men. This speaks volumes about how desperate we are here to appease electorates. Its time that we punish those who have faulted against the rule of land but restrain ourselves from degrading our history and religion which has been here when no other existed. Mr Bibhu Prasad Routray, I am sad on your potrayal of softness on terror. If India was so hard then what were we doing after Mumbai attack?

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm
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    hindus can be agitated and can be aggressive due to foriegn invasion. but we hindus are human being we also get impatient. some small group may think we need to retaliate eye for an eye. even in america and isreal they think eye for an eye. but we majority hindus do not buy that eye for eye attitude.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm
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    The fundamental question here is a comparison between ‘Jihad’ as a valid observance by the Muslims as per Quaran and the non existence of any such directive in Hindu scripture. Whereas the Quaran orders their followers to pursue, destroy, kill and rape the non believers (including their own Shias, Ahmedias etc) no such commands are given to the Hindus to kill other religionists. Here lie the reason why the larger body of Muslims from condemning terror since if they do so then they are diobeying Allah and is equal to blashphemy. People who are tolerant and peace loving cannot fathom this philosophy.

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  • Avatar
    March 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm
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    Because of Hindu liberalism,we have no state.Our country have already been divided once and further division is being plotted by jihadi forces with the help of 4th estate and politicians in India, who call themselves secular and reserve everything for anti-Hindu groups.Hindus have been marginalized not only in all OIC member countries,and but even in Kashmir.Any Hindu resistance is now dubbed as Saffron Terrorism,by GOI and even by opera organizations like RSIS.With their eternal timidity Hindus can not escape faceing holocaust planned by OIC,China and Hussain Obama.Amen.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm
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    All RSS workers are not terrorists but why all terrorists are from RSS. The word Hindu means way of living. Hindus are good people but some of the RSS such as Abhinav Bharat men are terrorists. They should be punished to keep the country safe but if they are not punished then the government is doing injustice or is soft on Hindu terror that is saffron terror. Where Rahul Gandhi says in wikileaks that the saffron terror is the most dangerous in India and should be stopped.

    Reply
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