Monday, August 15th, 2022 11:50:11

The Bizarre Linkage

Updated: July 16, 2011 10:34 am

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on June 20 filed a chargesheet against five accused—Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Asimanand, 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 this month’s much anticipated parleys between the foreign ministers of the two countries. Given the fact that Indo-Pak talks have not gathered the required pace in the absence of Pakistan’s non-cooperation in punishing the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)-guided Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), responsible for attacks on Mumbai on November 26, 2008, chargesheeting the alleged “Hindu terrorists” on the evening of Rao’s visit, the Manmohan Singh government has allowed Pakistan to project a linkage between the two incidents.

Such a linkage is not only unfortunate but also bizarre. In the case of Mumbai attacks, the LeT’s role is a proven fact. It is also well established that terror outfits such as Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and LeT, as Manmohan Singh told the group of editors on June 29, are offshoots of the ISI. Besides, the Pakistani generals openly say that terrorism is an important instrument of Pakistan’s foreign policy. It is obvious that the attacks on Mumbai was a “State-action”, though in every likelihood the civilian leadership of Pakistan was kept in dark about the whole operation.

In contrast, nothing is final on the alleged role of the Hindu extremists in the Samjhauta blasts. The accused have been chargesheeted, but their alleged crime is yet to be proven in the court. I will deal with this point at a greater length little later. But for the sake of argument, if some Hindu extremists did cause the despicable blasts, and this is to be condemned in no uncertain terms, theirs were individual acts, having nothing to do with any official Indian establishment. Here, the Indian State was not involved. And the alleged Hindu extremists, unlike the Let and JeM, have had no ideological agenda.

In all probability, actions of the alleged extremists were the results of frustration with an ineffective Indian government that has failed repeatedly to punish or deter a series of terrorist incidents, mostly sponsored by Pakistani outfits and ISI, in various parts of India. And this was nothing unique. The history of terrorism has instances of such acts of reprisal by individual citizens dissatisfied with the official counter-terrorism response. It was seen, for instance, in Northern Ireland when some angry members of the Protestant community took the law into their own hands against their Catholic fellow-citizens.

In short, the Samjhauta blasts happen to be a stand-alone case and cannot be compared to the 26-11 attacks on Mumbai, something that Pakistan has been portraying all these years. For Pakistan, terror incidents in India should be seen as part of an action-reaction syndrome. In that sense, veteran security expert B Raman has a valid point when he says that the Manmohan Singh government has 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.

Notwithstanding all this, the bigger question is how transparent has been the government in discovering the hands of the so-called Hindu terrorists in the Samjhauta incident. For those uninitiated, a terrorist attack occurred around midnight on February 18, 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, both whom have been blamed for many high-profile bombings in the past. Importantly, on July 1, 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 (he was killed, incidentally, in the Mumbai attacks), who was heading the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and found “saffron terror” in every terror blasts, 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.

Interestingly, following the thesis of Karkare (who Congress leader Digvijay Singh claims was in regular touch with him till his death), the Congress- ruled governments in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana re-opened many cases of terror and surprisingly found the linkage with “Saffron Terrorists”. Coincidentally, this was the time when Rahul Gandhi told American diplomats, as WikiLeaks revealed that the real danger to India came from the “Hindu terror”. The Haryana Police, which was investigating the Samjhauta blast, and then NIA “unraveled” finally the whole mystery behind the blast on the basis of confession of Swami Asimanand, though the latter has told the court that he was physically forced to make the confession and was innocent.

The point to note is that the whole allegation against Hindu extremists is mainly based on a “forcibly extracted confession”. Secondly, and this is more important, Lt. Colonel Purohit , the prime suspect initially and on whose role the government and the media all over the world had gone hyper, has not been chargesheeted at all. All this really puts a serious question mark over the professionalism of the investigators. The entire exercise seems motivated and politically directed without any satisfactory evidence against Hindu organisations such as the RSS. This is bound to be counter-productive. To blame the RSS just because some of those arrested had an association with it would be as unfair as it would be to blame the Army just because some of those arrested were serving in the Army.

And this brings to the mind the terribly flawed approach of the Manmohan Singh government towards communal harmony as a whole. It is so one-sided that it will not be wrong to say that the government and the Congress party are essentially anti-Hindu. See the proposed Bill to combat communal violence, the subject of our cover story this week. It projects the Hindus as inherently communal and therefore it is they who will be proving their innocence if charged, not the other way round as mandated by any normal jurisprudence.

In fact, I find the anti-Hindu mindset of this government and the Congress leadership surprising given the fact that despite their overwhelming majority and despite their cruel history, the Hindus have 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, he was administered oath by a non-Hindu President of the country. If anything, this proves the intrinsic secular character of the Hindus, something one cannot say of any other religious community anywhere else in the world. I doubt 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. Let us remember that the United States may have today two Governors of India-origin—Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Piyush (Bobby) Jindal of Louisiana; but both of them have converted to Christianity, something they deftly played in their election campaigns.

The moral of the story is that no true Hindu can ever be a sectarian. It is not in his or her gene. Regrettably, the present ruling political establishment in the country, supported by a patronized jholawla-class, is working very hard to prove the contrary.

By Prakash Nanda

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