Sushil Kumar Shinde spoke irresponsibly of ‘Hindu’ terrorism. But it is equally absurd to see the remarks as ‘playing into’ Pakistan’s hands
On his prime-time show on Times Now, Arnab Goswami was in red-hot rage: this time over Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s statement that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ran terror camps. To quote Mr. Shinde : “… their training camps are promoting Hindu terrorism.”
It has become a habit with Mr. Shinde to shoot from the hip and then look bewildered at the commotion he has caused. In the middle of the student exodus back to the north-east, when passions desperately needed cooling, he offered to run more trains to take the frightened crowds home rather than reasoning with them to stay back. More recently Mr. Shinde made the astonishing claim that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been kept out of the loop on Ajmal Kasab’s secret execution.
Mr. Shinde undoubtedly misspoke on “Hindu” terrorism and “Hindu” training camps at the Congress’s Jaipur conclave. He should have known that at party meets government takes a back seat to organisation. And even if he typically mixed up the two roles, he should have substantiated his accusations and explained why he was indulging the BJP if it ran terror camps. And he most certainly should not have used “Hindu” in place of the ideological construct of Hindutva. And yet the reactions to the Home Minister’s gaffe have been equally over the top, with Mr. Goswami leading the pack of breast-beaters hyperventilating over “India playing into Pakistan’s hands.” The trigger was provided by Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed who obviously saw it as a ‘gotcha!’ moment: “World should take notice and declare India a state that is supporting terror on its soil after its HM Shinde candidly confessed.”
Several questions arise: Is India going to get all defensive and skittish each time an extremist from across the border deliberately makes a provocative comment? Why do we need to respond to Hafiz Saeed when official Pakistan has reacted far more responsibly? Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Moazzam Khan said: “We being a responsible country do not want to get into speculative mode.” Mr. Khan avoided direct accusations even on the Samjhauta Express blasts where Indian investigators have moved from blaming Pakistan to Hindutva groups: “Pakistan has repeatedly said that we want a thorough investigation (into Samjhauta) and want the investigation to be shared with Pakistan, and whosoever are the perpetrators or culprits should be punished in accordance with the law.” Can anyone quarrel with this perfectly reasonable response?
More importantly, consider the full implications of pushing the line that admitting to Hindutva terror means scoring a self-goal vis-à-vis Pakistan. Should investigators on the trail of right-wing terror groups stop midcourse because the results might help Pakistan? Will Pakistan decide how we deal with our internal problems?
If the answer is yes, then, henceforth India must decide that all terrorists must necessarily be Muslim even if the evidence throws up Hindutva connections as it has indeed done in a host of blast cases, from Malegaon to Mecca Masjid to Samjhauta Express. India must resort to this dishonesty in order that we don’t find ourselves squirming under Pakistan’s accusing gaze. This is absurd logic and leads to the alarming conclusion that Pakistan will not object if the Indian terrorists are Muslim. And why so? Because Indian Muslims are Pakistani by belief and behaviour! Isn’t it a point to ponder that the “playing into Pak hands” objection is never raised when an Indian Muslim organisation is under the scanner for home-grown terror? What is this if not the two-nation theory all over again?
The BJP said as much when it reacted to Mr. Shinde’s statement thus: “It is a downright insult of India’s spiritual, cultural and civilisational heritage…” In other words, if a Hindutva link is found to terror, then the nation is insulted. But obviously not when innocent Muslims are picked up, tortured and incarcerated — as they have been in all the cases mentioned.
The NIA charge sheets
If Mr. Shinde felt the need to take on the Hindutva parivar, he could have stuck to the charge sheets filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The NIA, which has so far filed two charge sheets in the Samjhauta Express case — one on June 20, 2011 and the second on August 9, 2012 — did not once use the word “Hindu.” But the ideological orientation of the accused was clear enough: Their collective motive was attributed to “Jihadi/terrorist attacks” on the temples of Akshardham (Gujarat), Raghunath (Jammu) and Sankat Mochan (Varanasi). And they were charged with bearing “deep vengeance against not only the Jehadi terrorists but unfortunately against an entire minority community.” The second charge sheet spoke of the accused getting “training in a jungle near Bagli, District Dewas, Madhya Pradesh.”
As citizens, we can question the charge sheets, and argue that they could turn out to be fabrications, as they have in some of the Jehadi cases. But at least the Minister would have been stating what is on record — both on the ideological direction of the accused and on the training camps.
Similarly the BJP should have forced Mr. Shinde to provide evidence that the party ran training camps. But it had no business taking the moral high ground on terrorism. The party never objected to Muslims being randomly picked up. It said with relish that “all terrorists are Muslim.” Today the party’s hypocritical new line is that terror has no religion.