Balancing Of Terror Script Going Awry
Ever since India began to be subjected to unremitting terrorism from Pakistan, mostly in direct collusion with the authorities in that country, there have been unmistakable signs on part of certain vested interests in India to hang on to some straw of ‘Hindu’ or ‘saffron terror’. The arrest of Lt Col Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya elicited much joy and satisfaction amongst a section of the polity, professional activists and many in the media.
In the wake of the blasts in Delhi in October 2005, a TV journalist from a leading English channel came to my residence to record my views and assessment of the incident. At the end, he kept insisting that I comment in a specified manner about ‘Hindu terrorism’. At that time the term ‘Hindu terrorism’ or ‘saffron terrorism’ was not even conceived by the vested interests.
Recently, the Army Chief General VK Singh has been questioned by the media about the involvement of Lt Col Purohit in acts of terror including the Samjhauta blasts. Responding to a journalist of dubious distinction, who was seen to be putting words into his mouth, the Army Chief said that Purohit is an aberration, thereby confirming his culpability in the blasts. Such questions are politically motivated and the Army Chief did fall into the trap.
The charges against Purohit are far from being proved.
In the interest of the Army, it would have been more appropriate for the Army Chief to state the actual position, i.e. the law will take its course and Purohit, if found guilty, would be dealt with accordingly as per the Army Act and should have reiterated that justice in the Army is more swift and deterrent than the civil. For the moment, some Army authorities should avoid the tendency to hold Purohit guilty even before a charge sheet is filed.
It should also be taken into consideration that there are at least three set of theories and two confessional statements with regard to the Samjhauta blasts. Moreover, some of the motivated leaks from the CBI cannot become the basis for reaching any conclusion because the credibility of the investigative agency is nil in the public opinion. The Army Chief also needs to explain to the nation as to how the military intelligence has been regularly leaking to the press details of investigation against Purohit.
The ploy to create the saffron equivalent of Osama-bin-Laden or Hafid Sayeed was too clear for most discerning Indians. Various opinion polls on different websites on this issue bear testimony. Curiously, the first revelation about involvement of ‘Hindu groups’ in Malegaon blasts (Malegaon-2) was in end 2008, i.e. just before the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. The latest revelations about involvement of the same groups in Malegaon blasts of 2006 (Malegaon-1) and Samjhauta Express come at a time when the government is beset with damning accusations and is politically most vulnerable. Both occasions have one common feature — inspired and flip-flops leaks to the media on a daily basis.
How is it that it is the same people, who are supporting the Maoists and Kashmiri separatists, are speaking so vociferously about the phenomenon of ‘Hindu terrorism’ or ‘saffron terrorism’.?
The export of terrorism to India has grown vicious by the day especially after December 2000. Since then India’s financial centre, i.e. Mumbai, has been targeted about dozen times and India’s capital Delhi, at least half-a-dozen times. India’s science & technology capital, Bengaluru, was also attacked. Revered religious centers, i.e. Varanasi, Ahmedabad, Ayodhya, Mecca Masjid (Hyderebad) and Ajmer Sharif, have been targeted. Passengers traveling on trains and buses also bore the brunt. It is a well-known fact that terrorism sponsored by Pakistan cannot be successful without some degree of local facilitation by misguided and subverted elements.
The increasing frequency, intensity, reach and audacity of terrorism did anguish and unnerve the Indians. Certain segments of the polity and other vested interests felt that the Indian society was being polarised on communal lines, which was constantly eroding their brand of politics. It was purely imaginary, just like as it was in the immediate aftermath of partition in Pakistan. It may be instructive to know that the Cabinet Secretary of Pakistan, Mohd Ali, when asked by a top Indian bureaucrat, BK Nehru, regarding the persistent use of abusive language against India and Hindus by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn (Muslim League’s mouthpiece), replied that though he knew that it was wrong, but such fabrications about an enemy was necessary for building Pakistan. When Nehru retorted by asking what would happen if India was also to conjure up the bogey of “Hinduism in danger”, Ali quickly announced that Hinduism was incapable of fanaticism.
OBJECTIVE OF TERROR
The desperation to equate Pakistan-sponsored terror with so-called ‘Hindu terror’ or ‘saffron terror’ is largely motivated by selfish considerations of very few at the cost of the nation. There can be nothing more misleading than the oft-repeated refrain of some politicians, professional activists and some media persons that all kinds of terror are same. The truth is that the objective of each type of terror is different.
In case of Pakistan, it is to bleed India to disintegration and death. The Maoist terror is to expand its writ and finally overthrow the government in Delhi. Terrorism in Kashmir has the objective of secession from India.
What is the objective of ‘Hindu terror’ or ‘Saffron terror’? Is it retributive terror? Why did this phenomenon of retributive terror not come into being between the years 1990 and 2000, when terrorism was confined to Kashmir and had in fact consumed the region? It did not happen even after Kashmiri Pandits were evicted from their homes, to lead a miserable life in temporary camps.
If indeed ‘retributive terror’ on part of ‘saffron outfits’ is a reality, it is because the government was seen by the people to be confused, ineffective, and weak in tackling terror. Is it then retributive terrorism, law and order problem or certain individuals in pure self-defence have taken law in their own hands? Probably, in their notion such attacks can be precluded by raising the cost and threshold level, which the state has failed to do. Even if one were to term it as ‘terrorism’, the question arises whether the proactive and reactive terrorism is the same.
The same constituency of India that takes strong objection to the term ‘Islamic terror’ has no qualms about using irresponsible terms like ‘Hindu terror’ and ‘saffron terror’. There is also no denying the fact that the objective of ‘Islamic terrorism’ is very clear, i.e. it is for the cause of ‘Ummah’. This has religious overtones. It is possible that the reaction to it will also have religious colour.
Any attempt to draw parallels between terrorism of all kinds, though politically beneficial, can be counter-productive rather provocative. Each form of terrorism has to be dealt with on different planes. The revelations following various investigations may not be entirely motivated and may have some element of truth in it. It was more than expected that the chain of terrorist, which strikes across the nation may, provokes retaliatory measures. It is an exercise of responsible and perspicuous governance to ensure that retaliatory susceptibilities are contained. The approach of two wrongs makes a right or one wrong is equal to another wrong does not address the root cause of the problem. It only contributes to the creation of new undesirable elements and organisations, and further polarises society.
Arguably, a prime minister aspirant, as per WikiLeaks conveyed to the US Ambassador: “Although there was some evidence of some support for LeT amongst certain elements in India’s Muslim community, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalized Hindu groups… .” While the statement reflects his political expediency, he must also reflect, if the growth of such ‘Hindu groups’ is a reality, then under whose watch it started, and was it because the state abdicated its responsibility of protecting its citizens?
Another very senior politician of the ruling party and two-term chief minister of Madhya Pradesh is on record to say that he was in touch with the Maharashtra ATS chief on regular basis before the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai. He maintains that the ATS chief had expressed his apprehension about being targeted by radical Hindu groups. If it is true, then the question arises as to why a former chief minister of another state, presently in no official capacity was having regular discussions on terrorist threat perceptions with a relatively junior officer in Maharashtra. Such threat perceptions are of secret nature and no police officer is entitled to divulge or discuss these with an unauthorised person. It amounts to breach of official trust and propriety.
Was there an attempt to influence the ATS in Maharashtra? Are there political machinations to influence intelligence and investigative agencies? The reputation of CBI is known, but attempts to influence the newly created NIA, if any, is worrisome. How is it that only those ATS, ruled by the same political party, are active in unearthing the phenomenon of so-called ‘Hindu terrorism’ or ‘saffron terrorism’?
Had this kind of input supposedly attributable the late Mr Karkare come from the Union Home Minister of India, or the Home Minister of Maharashtra, it would have been legitimate and understandable. Is terrorism being used as a political tool in India?
The same politician released a book RSS ki Sazish 26/11? by one Aziz Burney in December 2010. When asked why he chose to release the book since it was against his stated position that 26/11 was handiwork of Pakistan, the politician had a perfect political answer that the title of the book carried a question mark. Mr Burney is convinced that 26/11 attack was orchestrated by the CIA, Mossad and RSS. In fact, as per Mr Burney, all terrorist attacks in India after 1993 are Mossad and RSS conspiracies. Mr Burney has described this politician as “like-minded person”. Mr Burney maintains that another Member of Parliament from Uttar Pradesh wanted the book to be released in her constituency, which has a sizeable Muslim population.
Dwelling on the 26/11 attack, this whole business of ‘saffron terror’ is intriguing. All the Pakistani perpetrators of this attack were wearing sacred threads on their wrist generally worn by Hindus. The fact that Karkare was specifically targeted adds to the mystery. Had Ajmal Kasab not developed cold feet, in hindsight it appears certain that the 26/11 attack would have been labelled as an act of ‘Hindu terror’ or ‘saffron terror’. Was the balancing of ‘Islamic terror’ and ‘Hindu terror’ part of some larger game plan? Was it to create a ‘balance of terror’ to prevent India from taking punitive action against Pakistan? Was it a political ploy to prevent the perceived polarisation of Indian society in keeping with the imperatives of vote-bank politics?
This is crass politicization of terrorism in India. It cannot get worse than this.
RETRIBUTIVE ‘HINDU TERROR’?
The efforts to create the specter of ‘Hindu terror’ by vested interests were losing much credibility after the hype that accompanied the arrest of Lt Col Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya after the Malegaon blasts in 2008 (Malegaon-2). There is now an attempt to link all terrorist incidents in which Muslims were mainly victims as handiwork of ‘Hindu terrorists’. The proponents of ‘Hindu terror’ theory consciously ignored the fact that there were desperate attempts by Pakistan-based terrorist organisations to incite communal clashes in India. Pakistan-based terrorist groups are known to be engineering sectarian clashes within their own country as well. This is another manifestation of terrorism in the name of pure Islam.
Between 2002 and 2006, religious centers/places identified with the majority community were targeted at Akshardham, Ayodhya and Varanasi. The serial blasts in Delhi were carried out on the eve of Deepawali. These attacks failed to provoke communal clashes. Till 2007, there was no indication of retributive ‘Hindu terror’. It is possible that the Pak based terrorist organisation began to provoke the Muslim community by targeting them.
Mostly such targeting of Muslims was in 2007, i.e. February—Samjhauta Express, May—Mecca Masjid, and October—Ajmer Sharif. Relatively, all these blasts, arguably with the exception of Samjhouta blasts, were of low yield. Probably, the perpetrators of these blasts across the border felt that causing large causalities could prove to be counterproductive and since the objective was to provoke the Muslim community, the intensity of blasts had to be calibrated at a low level. It should also be realised that all this was happening in the shadow of the post-9/11 war against terror, whose epicenter is in the Af-Pak region.
If it indeed was retributive terror on part of ‘Hindu radical groups’ then any retribution by virtue of its very intent would have been more devastating than the provocation. Any ‘Hindu terrorist’ group, hell bent on retributive terror, would not have been handicapped by men, material and expertise as far as manufacturing and employing bombs and IEDs are concerned, given the existence of various terrorist groups like Maoists, ULFA, etc.
The Maoists in particular, by virtue of their writ in the mining belt, are sitting on mountains of explosives. Maoist cadres have been trained by the LTTE in manufacturing and handling of bombs and IEDs. The Maoists have been selling materials and expertise to any and every terrorist group for a price, ideology being no hindrance. The so-called Hindu terror groups could have easily established linkages with them.
Take the year 2008, before 26/11, there were unremitting and deadly attacks on India, i.e. May—Jaipur, July—Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, and September—Delhi. The entire country was shaken and incensed. Any retributive terror should have been devastating. But the simultaneous blasts in Malegaon (Maharashtra) and Modak (Gujarat) in end September were of very low key (8 killed), wherein crude pipe bombs were used. This was the first time that a terror attack was bandied as the handiwork of a big ‘Hindu terror’ network involving serving and retired defence personnel and members of right wing Hindu groups.
ANALYSIS OF ATTACKS
Prior to 1993, Jihadi terrorism was generally confined to Kashmir. In the years that followed, it consumed the whole of India. The import, nature and motivations of terrorism originating from Pakistan and its impact on India are discussed below:
1993: In the month of March this year, there was a major terrorist strike at Mumbai in which more than 257 people were killed and about 1,400 injured. Later in the same month, a bomb blast in Kolkata killed at least 50 people.
1996: In January, a bomb explosion in Sadar Bazar area in Delhi killed six people and injured 31.
1998: Terrorism struck the southern town of Coimbatore in form of bomb blasts in which 46 people died.
2000-2001: Between end 2000 and 2001, all high-profile targets, i.e. revered national symbols and institutions, were attacked by terrorists from Pakistan. These were: Red Fort (Dec 2000), J&K Assembly (Oct 2001), Parliament (Dec 2001). The aim clearly seemed to provoke India into a war.
2002: The focus of terrorist attacks this year was on transportation systems and religious centres. This year also witnessed the movement of terrorism to eastern part of India. In May, a train near Jaunpur in eastern UP was targeted. In September, bomb blasts were carried out in a train in Rafiganj in Gaya (Bihar), and another train was targeted in the same month at Kurnool (south India). Also in the same month, blasts occurred at the Akshardham Temple in Gujarat purportedly with the aim of triggering clash. It marked the beginning of new pattern of terrorism.
2003: The concentration of terrorist attacks was generally Mumbai. The attacks took place in the month of January, March, July and August. The blast near the Gateway of India in August was most deadly, which claimed 50 lives and more than 150 were injured.
2005: The attacks again started with targeting of Jaunpur in eastern UP in July 2005 in which 13 people were killed in a train bomb blast. In the same month, there was an attack on the Ram Janambhumi Temple at Ayodhya. The same year witnessed multiple bomb blasts in Delhi at the time of Deepawali in October, which left 61 dead and more than 200 injured. The religious connotation of the timing of the attack is significant. The emergence of eastern UP as a terror hub is also significant.
2006: The year also began with the attacks on eastern part of India, i.e. Varanasi (Sankat Mochan Temple), in the month of March in which 28 people died and more than 150 injured. Three months later, the western part of India, i.e. Mumbai commuter trains were targeted in which more than 200 people died and nearly 1000 injured. In the month of September, two bomb blasts took place near a Muslim cemetery at Malegaon*, in which 37 people were killed and 125 injured.
Note: * Attempt to link Hindu groups based on this attack.
2007: The year was characterised by the bomb blasts in areas where there is high concentration of Muslim population, i.e. February—Samjhauta Express* (68 killed, 49 injured), May—Mecca Masjid* in Hyderabad (16 killed, 100 injured), August—Hyderabad* bombing (44 killed, 54 injured), October—Ajmer Sharif* (3 killed, 10 injured), November—Varanasi, Lucknow, Faizabad (15 killed, 80 injured).
Note: * Attempt to link Hindu groups to these attacks.
2008: In this year, frequency, intensity, spread and audacity of terrorism emanating from Pakistan were unprecedented. This was also the year, when insinuations were first made against ‘Hindus groups’ for terrorist activities. The year ended with the most audacious attack on the financial capital of India, Mumbai, in November, known as 26/11 attacks. Pakistan-sponsored terrorists traversed the sea from Karachi to Mumbai and attacked the city at eight different locations including Hotel Taj Palace. Some 173 people lost their lives and nearly 327 were injured. Earlier on July 25, the IT capital of India, Bengaluru, witnessed nine blasts. Fortunately, the causalities were not high (2 killed, 20 injured), but the symbolism of the target and intent were significant. Two months earlier on May 13, explosions had rocked the city of Jaipur at eight different locations. Some 63 people were killed and more than 220 injured. Again on July 26, a series of 17 blasts shook Ahmedabad in which nearly 50 people killed and more than 150 injured. On September 13, blasts again rocked Delhi, killing 30 people and injuring 100. Two weeks later, there were low-intensity blasts in Malegaon* (Malegaon-2), in which 8 people were killed and 80 injured. Simultaneously, there were low-intensity blasts in Moda in Gujarat. Some 17 bombs were found in Ahmedabad and diffused.
Note: * After the attack Malegaon-2 for the first time, the involvement of ‘Hindu group’ was revealed. Attempts now are being made to establish link between Malegaon-2 and Malegaon-1, as also with Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif and Hyderabad bombings.
DIFFICULTIES IN LINKING ‘HINDU TERROR’
Malegaon-2 in 2008 could not pay much dividends after being milked in the 2009 elections. The current challenge is to keep the bogey of ‘Hindu terror’ alive and this can only be done by linking the terrorist incidents at Malegaon (2), Ajmer Sharif, Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express and Malegaon (1). To link these it is a tall order. Malegaon-2 (2008) and Malegaon-1 (2006) cannot be linked because of various reasons.
In Malegaon-1, RDX was used and in Malegaon-2—crude pipe bombs. After Malegaon-1, the Maharashtra ATS had ruled out the involvement of ‘Hindu groups’, and maintained that RDX was used only by Islamic terror outfits. It is pertinent to mention that in May 2006, the police had recovered cache of RDX explosives based on information provided by arrested SIMI activists.
On November 28, 2006, the Mumbai Police said that two Pak nationals were involved in the explosions and declared: “We have successfully detected the Malegaon case. We are however on the lookout for eight more suspects.” Three accused gave confession before a competent authority about their involvement in the conspiracy, but later two of them rescinded in front of a Magistrate on the plea that their confession was not voluntary. If the same ‘Hindu groups’ were involved in Malegaon-2, then it would have been more sophisticated and deadly than Malegaon-1.
Malegaon-2 and Modasa blasts, notwithstanding the distance, were synchronised and similar in nature. It clearly indicated that the same group or agency was involved in these blasts. However in November 2008, the DSP at Sabarkantha in Gujarat, KK Mysorewallah said: “We have interrogated all the five (read Hindu suspects) who are in the custody of Mumbai police. None of them are however involved in the Modasa blasts.”
Also intriguing is the fact that after Malegaon-1, the ATS revealed that the bicycles used in the blasts were purchased from a Hindu shopkeeper to mislead the investigators. But in Malegaon-2, the key evidence against the so-called ‘Hindu groups’ was based on the motorcycles belonging to them, which had been used in the blasts.
The Maharashtra ATS declared that narco analysis of one Dayanand Pandey had revealed that Malegaon-2 was carried out to avenge the killing of a Hindu activist Sunil Joshi by SIMI. Now the Rajasthan ATS says that Joshi was killed by fellow Hindu fundamentalists. Allegedly, the motorcycle used in the Malegaon-2 blasts was sold by Sadhvi Pragya to Sunil Joshi.
The use of motorcycles parked below a defunct SIMI office in Malegaon, the ease and speed with which Malegaon-2 was solved, the timing, the low intensity of the blast and absolutely contradictory revelations indicate that the blast was carried out for political expediency to create the specter of ‘Hindu terrorism’.
The most bizarre flip flop by the investigative agencies has been with regard to the blast in Samjhauta Express in February 2007. In July 2009, the US accused one Arif Qasmani of being the chief coordinator of LeT for the attack and so did the United Nations. The later in fact named at least four LeT perpetrators. David Headley’s Moroccan wife Outalha had conveyed to US intelligence authorities about his involvement in the Samjhauta blast and spoke about Headley’s linkages with the LeT. She conveyed to an American official that she “felt she had been used in express train bombing”. Accordingly, as per New York Times, the US officials had informed Islamabad in December 2007. The American intelligence agencies have far deeper and more extensive penetration in Pakistan than Indian intelligence agencies.
Similarly, the American investigators unequivocally held that the Mecca Masjid blasts were carried out by HUJI. The head of the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) of the US submitted as much in statement of record before the Senate Homeland Security and Government of Affairs Committee. Before the CBI took over the case, the Hyderabad police too had named HUJI. The then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Y Rajshekhar Reddy after consultation with the security officials blamed terrorists based in Pakistan and Bangladesh for the blasts.
Blasts in Hyderabad City
The greatest difficulty being encountered in linking Malegaon-2, Malegaon-1, Mecca Masjid and Samjhuta is the blasts in Hyderabad in the Lumbni Amusement Park and a ‘Gokul Chat Shop’ in August 2007. Nineteen other unexploded bombs were recovered across Hyderabad. The amusement park is located near the state secretariat.
Sans Hyderabad blasts, it is convenient to blame ‘Hindu terrorism’ for the blasts at places as mentioned, because predominantly Muslims were casualties. But in the Hyderabad blasts, majority of those killed were Hindus. The police and the investigative agencies categorically held HUJI of Bangladesh for the blasts. They stated that the twin blasts were similar to the one used by terrorists in the Mecca Masjid blasts. Again, the Chief Minister spoke about the involvement of terrorist groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh. In the perception of common people as well the Hyderabad blasts in August 2007 was the handiwork of the same group that carried out blasts in Mecca Masjid just three months before in 2007.
The spin doctors of ‘Hindu terror’ do not want to label the blasts in Hyderabad as retributive ‘Muslim terror’, so now they are insinuating that the ‘Hindu terror’ groups involved in the Hyderabad blasts may be in collusion with Islamic terror outfits in Pakistan. This is stretching human credulity to the breaking point!
The much touted success of the investigative agencies in linking blasts in Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and other blasts to ‘Hindu Terror’ or ‘Saffron Terror’ raises more questions than it answers.
While vote-bank politics of some political outfits may have been served, India has lost. The police and the investigative agencies have been politicized and their credibility stands shattered. Even the newly formed National Investigative Agency (NIA) has been rendered vulnerable to political manipulation. The inspired leaks of Swami Aseemanand’s confession and flip flops over it bear testimony.
In terms of India’s security, the damage is incalculable. Pakistan, the perpetrator of terrorism in India is now asking India to share the details of Samjhauta blasts. 26/11 and Samjhauta blasts, much to the gratification of vested interests and anti-nationals, stand equated.
As and when Pakistan unleashes, the next terror attack on India, the Pakistan authorities will deny it and demand that it be first establish whether it was ‘Hindu Terror’ or ‘Islamic Terror’.
India’s option of punitive action against Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism within the country stands foreclosed.
India has lost the war against terrorism.
By RSN Singh
The author is a former military intelligence officer.