Over the last few days, the anti-Hindu campaign in India seems to have regained its momentum. Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s latest remark of saving cows in his state has overshadowed his visit to Taj Mahal; the so called liberals and seculars say that India’s largest state (in terms of population) is now under “Hindu rule”, where the minorities and dalits have no future. A popular cine –artist, who wants to form a political party in Tamil Nadu, has joined the anti-Hindu brigade to show his secular credentials. He would now like us to believe that “the Hindu-terror” is not a myth but the reality.
I had pointed out once in this column how in a farewell party to his Indian friends and colleagues, a Western diplomat had pointed out that his three-year posting in India made him realise that here, a country where the Hindus constitute nearly 80 per cent of the total population, politicians, intellectuals, bureaucrats, lawyers and judges were more vocal about the interests of Islam and Christianity than about the protection of Hinduism. On the contrary, what surprised him the most was that sharpest attacks on Hinduism came invariably from the Hindu elites. Hinduism for them is the most absurd, unscientific and cruel religion of the world that perpetuated casteism, inequality and exploitation.
These Hindu-bashers are not convinced that every great religion or civilisation has its pluses and minuses and as times pass by, the minuses get corrected. After all, it is under Hinduism that people worship women as goddesses whereas the women are not equal to men under Islam; even till recently the women did not have voting rights in many developed Christian countries. Caste, as a concept, was highly scientific – since it espoused the principle of division of labour, a principle that ensured that every section of society is “wanted”. True, the concept got corrupted when one’s place in life depended not on one’s ability but on ones’ birth. There is thus need to de-corrupt the principle; but it does not mean that one should throw Hinduism in the Indian Ocean for good. In fact, unlike any other religion the world, Hinduism promoted pluralism in the forms of pluralities of Gods and Goddesses. There is no compulsion on Hindus to worship a particular God or Goddess, nor does it compel one to worship his or her God in a particular way or method; Hinduism even respects those who do not want to worship at all. As a faith, Hinduism is inclusive, and inner-directed. It does not impose itself on its own adherents. So no question of its imposing itself on others arises.
It may be noted that most of the Hindu-haters in India are great apostles of the Congress and Communist parties and their hero happens to be Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first prime minister. Incidentally, in 1949, Nehru had said that ‘to talk of Hindu culture would injure India’s interests’. He had admitted more than once that by education he was an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim, and a Hindu only by accidental birth. In 1953, Nehru had written to Kailash Nath Katju: “In practice the individual Hindu is more intolerant and more narrow-minded than almost any person in any other country.”
In fact, it is not wrong to say that Nehru had total contempt for Hindu religion, for Hindu culture, for Hindu society and for the average Hindu. Nehru codified the Hindu personnel laws (concerning Hindus’ diverse customs, rituals and practices) in 1956, but he backtracked on doing so towards Muslim personal law. No wonder why J B Kriplani, a veteran socialist, opposed the Hindu Code Bill on the ground that the Nehru government was “communal”. Kriplani had told Nehru, “If you want to have a divorce for Hindu community, have it; but have it for Catholic community also. I tell you this is the democratic way; the other is the communal way. It is not the Mahasabhites who alone are communal, it is the government also that is communal, whatever it may say. I charge you with communalism because you are bringing forward a law about monogamy only for the Hindu community. You must bring it to the Muslim community. Take it from me that the Muslim community is prepared to have it but you are not brave enough to do it.”
It is under Nehruvian secularism that the Government appoints trustees to manage Hindu temples (and mathas) of Viswanath, Tirupati, Puri, Nathdwara and Guruvayur. In Kerala, ministers are busy finding out the wealth of Sabarimala temple. But the same government considers it “communal” to do likewise in the case of masjids, churches and gurudwaras. Secularism of the Nehruvian variety says that it is “progressive” to denounce a Hindu Swami for trying to influence his or her followers, but it is “communal” to raise finger at those who issue fatwas and hukamnamas.
Against this background it is just not a coincidence that the term “Hindu terror” or “saffron terror” came into public parlance when the Congress-led UPA was in power in between 2004-14. The term was made very “popular” by the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and senior Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh. We all know how as home Minister Chidambaram had changed in 2009 the original affidavit describing Ishrat Jahan, killed in a police encounter in June 2004, a member of a Pakistan-based Lashkar module. He said “there was no conclusive evidence” against Ishrat.
Ishrat and her three other friends were killed by Gujarat Police in June 2004 in an encounter based on feedback from the Jammu and Kashmir Police. It was said that the group was plotting to kill the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In July 2004, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) had published an article on the Jamaat-ud-Dawah’s website claiming Ishrat Jahan as their operative. But around this time, the Congress-led UPA assumed office. The Congress as well as many human rights activists saw the incident not as a conspiracy to kill a Chief Minister but as “a fake encounter”, emphasising the point that in a democratic country, a criminal should be punished by the judiciary alone, not the police. As the controversy grew, the LeT issued a clarification in 2007 (after three years) saying that it was wrong in naming Ishrat as its activist in India!
It was against this background that Chidambaram changed the affidavit. That Chidambaram was wrong became evident when recently David Headley, who conspired with the LeT in plotting the 26 November, 2008 (26/11) Mumbai attacks, admitted, first to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation and then before an Indian court, that Ishrat Jahan was indeed a “fidayeen” (sacrificial aspirant) working for someone named Muzammil Bhat or Muzammil Butt of the LeT to target Modi. Cornered, Chidambaram and the Congress party have now reverted back to the “core issue”, which, according to them, was “the fake encounter”.
Chidambaram’s decision on the Ishrat case should not be seen in isolation as a measure to implicate and oust Modi from the office in Gujarat. That may or may not have been the case, but that must be viewed as only a component of the more important and overall strategy to legitimise a concocted phenomenon of ‘saffron terrorism’. And this strategy, fully manifested 2008 onwards, was necessitated for the Congress party to neutralise the adverse impacts of the 26/11 tragedy one the one hand and to revive normal interactions with Pakistan on the other. In the process, not only the Ishrat case but also those relating to blasts in Samjhuta express, Malegoan, Ajmer Sharif and Mecca Masjid (Hyderabad) were reopened simultaneously to implicate “Hindu fundamentalists”.
It would seem that but for the capture of Pakistani terrorist Kasab alive during the 26/11 attacks, the Congress party would have termed the incident as an act of “saffron terror”. In fact, in 2010, the internet whistleblower organisation WikiLeaks released US embassy cables in which the then US ambassador to India was told by a senior Indian minister that the death of Hemant Karkare, a senior anti-terrorism investigator killed during the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was somehow orchestrated by Hindu extremists just because he was fighting ‘saffron terror’. Coincidentally, this was the time when none other than Rahul Gandhi told American diplomats, as WikiLeaks revealed, that the real danger to India came from the “Hindu terror”.
And importantly this strategy went in full swing soon after the Congress party won 2009 – Assembly elections in Rajasthan and Haryana. At the time, not only at the Centre but also in Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra there were Congress governments. “Reinvestigations” of the aforementioned terrorist incidents, all occurring in these four states, and implicating “the Hindu terrorists” for these incidents (earlier all those arrested accused in these cases happened to be members of the banned Muslim organisations like SIMI), and then linking it with the Ishrat Jahan case, became very easy.
It all began with Samjhauta blasts. For those uninitiated, a terrorist attack occurred around midnight on 18 February, 2007, on the Samjhauta Express, a twice-weekly train service connecting Delhi and Lahore. Bombs were set off in two carriages, both filled with passengers, just after the train passed Diwana station near Panipat. 68 people were killed in the ensuing fire and dozens more injured. The attack came just a day before the then Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri was to arrive in New Delhi to resume peace talks with Indian leaders.
Initial investigations suggested that the prime suspects in the bombing were the LeT and JeM (another outfit in Pakistan), both whom have been blamed for many high-profile bombings in the past. Importantly, on 1 July, 2009, the United States Treasury and United Nations Security Council placed sanctions on LeT and named one Arif Qasmani as having played a role in the bombing. But surprisingly, all of a sudden in 2008 Police Officer Hemant Karkare, who was heading the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), came out with a theory that one Lt Col Prasad Purohit supplied the RDX that was used in the Samjhauta Express blast. Purohit, according to him, was a prominent member of the “Hindu terror outfit” Abhinav Bharat.
Subsequently, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which the Manmohan Singh government had specially created soon after the 26/11 attacks to act as the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency, filed a chargesheet against five accused—Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi (now dead), Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange alias Parmanand and Ramchandra Kalasangra alias Ramji alias Vishnu Patel—in the Samjhauta Express blasts case at a special court in Panchkula. The timing was important as it was done just on the eve of the foreign secretary Nirupama Rao’s visit to Pakistan to talk to her counterpart there and prepare grounds for the much anticipated parleys between the foreign ministers of the two countries. Indo-Pak talks had not gathered the required pace in the absence of Pakistan’s co-operation in punishing those responsible for attacks on Mumbai on 26 November, 2008. By chargesheeting the alleged “Hindu terrorists” on the eve of Rao’s visit, the Manmohan Singh government allowed Pakistan to project a linkage between the two incidents. As veteran security expert late B Raman argued then, the Manmohan Singh government virtually walked into the Pakistani trap by relaxing the pressure on Islamabad to arrest and prosecute successfully all those involved in the 26/11 strikes and by succumbing to its pressure on the Samjhauta Express incident.
As already pointed out, the theory of “saffron terror” was evolved to neutarlise the adverse impacts of the 26/11 tragedy, particularly during the electioneering for 2009 general elections. Once evolved, there were logical follow-up measures, one of which also included a proposed Bill to combat communal violence that projected Hindus as inherently communal and therefore it was they who would be proving their innocence if charged, not the other way round, as mandated by any normal jurisprudence.
In retrospect, one finds this anti-Hindu mindset of the UPA government very surprising, given the fact that despite their overwhelming majority and despite the cruel history that the community has experienced, the Hindus had no problem with having a non-Hindu Prime Minister and a non-Hindu as the chief of the country’s largest political party. In fact, when Singh became Prime Minister the first time (2004), he was administered oath by a non-Hindu (Muslim) President of the country as well. If anything, this proves the intrinsic secular character of the Hindus. One doubts whether in any well-entrenched Western democracy in the world, a Hindu, or for that a matter, a non-Christian, will ever be able to assume any high political office.
But then, nothing seems to have changed even under Modi. His government has singularly failed in arresting the onward journey of the anti-Hindu trait of Nehruvianism , which, in turn, has been dependent on the following strategy – Make the Hindu community as weak as you can, by creating internal divisions in it, by denigrating its culture, by inflicting insults upon it, and by whatever other means you can afford. To put the things differently, as long as Nehruvianism continues to be the guiding principle of India’s governing class, it will do everything possible to divide Hindus and derive their strength from the vote bank politics.
By Prakash Nanda