The chintan shivir was a party session, and Sushilkumar Shinde seemed to have been in some confusion over his roles as senior Congress leader and as Union Home Minister when he attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for “inciting Hindu terrorism” through “training camps.” While he had every right to criticise the BJP and the RSS for their policies and programmes at a party forum, Mr. Shinde should have realised his responsibility as Union Home Minister and not triggered a fusillade of allegations that were short on substance and long on rhetoric. There is a larger irony in Mr. Shinde’s over-the-top rhetoric. For the longest time, the intelligence agencies and police across India refused to take the threat posed by Hindutva extremists seriously and framed innocent Muslim youth for the blasts in Hyderabad and Malegaon. When evidence first emerged of a Hindutva terror network, the authorities took forever to connect the dots. Instead of punishing those in the police who tortured innocent men in Hyderabad and elsewhere, and quietly but doggedly going after the real perpetrators, the minister has reduced the problem to one of politics. Not only did Mr. Shinde fail to provide evidence for his allegations, he has no explanation for his government not having acted on these serious charges. If he really has proof that the opposition party is inciting terrorism, why has he not prosecuted its leaders? There is no doubt that some BJP leaders interceded on behalf of those accused of the terrorist bombing in Malegaon. But surely the worst they are guilty of in that case is bad judgment, not abetment or incitement.

Mr. Shinde’s use of the phrase ‘Hindu terrorism’ to describe terror acts committed by fanatics in the name of their religion is as objectionable, and inaccurate, as the use of the term ‘Muslim terrorism,’ but the BJP should not be in denial about the fact that such acts do indeed take place. Independent India’s first terrorist crime was the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, a man driven by the ideology of Hindutva. As for the present, the police have said the bomb blasts aboard the Pakistan-bound Samjhauta Express, and at mosques in Hyderabad and Malegaon, were carried out by extremists with “links” to the RSS and other Hindutva-oriented factions. It is possible, even likely, that those arrested are just the tip of a bigger iceberg. Nevertheless, Mr. Shinde had no business blithely connecting these incidents to the BJP without proof. India has enough trouble facing up to the terrorist threat without it being made a political tool by the Congress to fling reckless charges. Empty rhetoric can only aid, not hurt, terrorism.

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