Monday, November 3, 2008

Hindutva’s terror link

The revelation that a militant section of the Hindutva network was behind the September 29 bomb blasts in Muslim-dominated Malegaon in Maharashtra and Modasa in Gujarat has shattered the myth propagated by the Hindutva campaign that only Islamist fundamentalism breeds terrorism. Indeed the Sangh Parivar’s loaded argument has been that while all Muslims are not terrorists, all terrorists are Muslim. Saffron rabble-rousers have had no compunction in lobbing this charge at the Muslim community as a whole. While it has become almost an article of faith with the parivar to link Islamist fundamentalists with terrorism, today, with the arrests of radical Hindu activist Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and four others, among them a retired Major, the Sangh and its affiliates find themselves warding off the same accusations. Prima facie, the case against the Sadhvi and her accomplices is serious. The Anti-Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra, which has been on the trail of Hindutva terror since 2006, has charged them under the Indian Penal Code for murder as well as under sections of the Indian Explosives Act, 1884, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The antecedents of the accused, the suspected role of former military personnel in providing training to them, and the recovery of military-grade explosive material (possibly RDX) from the blast sites, have added to the discomfiture of the BJP and the parivar, which claim to be India’s only truly nationalist forces. The Sadhvi is a former activist of the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. She and her accomplices were associated with several right-wing Hindu extremist organisations. There is another deeply worrying aspect to the case: How did the accused lay their hands on military-grade explosives? The other question is how far the trail will go as the investigators pursue the leads provided by this lethal mix of Hindutva and terror. There is no escaping the crisis that this has set off in the parivar. The BJP’s first response was to deny that any Hindutva outfit could be involved in terror. But party chief Rajnath Singh, who has been photographed with Pragya Singh Thakur, has subsequently gone on the offensive, insisting that she must be presumed innocent unless proven guilty. What all this highlights is the imperative of acknowledging that terrorism is too serious a challenge to be left to opportunistic, subjective interpretation. Combating terror is a responsibility governments and political parties across the spectrum must take up in a united and cooperative way.

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