By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Terrorism has created a new storm in Indian political circles over an issue which paradoxically is not linked with any recent terror-strike. Verbal missiles are being exchanged between rival political parties over usage of words â€œsaffron terrorâ€ by Home Minister P. Chidambaram. While inaugurating a three-day conference of top police officers in the capital city, he said: â€œThere is no let-up in the attempts to radicalize young men and women in India. Besides, there is the recently uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past. My advice to you is that we must remain ever vigilant and continue to build, at the central and state levels, our capacity in counter-terrorism.â€ (August 25)
Chidambaram used the words â€œsaffron terrorâ€ as in the recent past, some people associated with saffron brigade have been arrested for involvement in several militant activities. These include blasts in Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh (May 18, 2007), Ajmer, Rajasthan (October 11, 2007) Malegaon, Maharashtra (September 8, 2006) and Modasa, Gujarat (September 29, 2008).
Uproar was created in Upper House of Parliament with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena objecting strongly to Chidambaram using the words â€œsaffron terror.â€ (August 27) Legislators from the left bloc and several parties, including Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), however, questioned the stand taken by BJP and Shiv Sena. Chaos in the House led to repeated adjournments.
Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi raised the issue as soon as the House assembled for the day. â€œThe (Home) Minister should declare the names of people connected with terrorism when making such statements,â€ Joshi said as his party members shouted slogans. With too many people shouting at the same time, Chairman Hamid Ansari decided to adjourn the House for 15 minutes.
After the House re-assembled, leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley (BJP) said that â€œa very large section of the Houseâ€ objected to Home Minister using the words â€œsaffron terror.â€ On this, Brinda Karat (Communist Party-Marxist) said later in the House that Jaitley had expressed his partyâ€™s views and not of majority in the House. â€œWe disagree. Certain organizations operating in the name of Hindutva should be condemned,â€ she said.
LJP leader Ramvilas Paswan referred to association of Sangh Parivar (saffron brigade), with terrorism and said that Chidambaram had made the statement as a responsible minister. â€œSaffron terrorism should be dealt with firmly,â€ he said. BJP leaders rose immediately objecting to his comments and demanded an apology from him.
While Congress leaders have tried to downplay the issue, the opposition parties have demanded an apology from Chidambaram and also his resignation from the cabinet. Several parties are using the occasion to display their â€œsecularâ€ image by condemning â€œsaffron terrorism.â€ Asserting that terrorism has no color, Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said: â€œIt is completely black in color, whether you associate terrorism with saffron, red, green, or white, it can never be connected to any color.â€ â€œTerrorism should be condemned. It is important to be restrained in using the language. Most importantly people should not object to any color as every color has its own tradition and history,â€ he said.
BJP leader Rajnath Singh strongly criticized Chidambaram and accused him of being â€œindifferentâ€ to the importance of saffron, which he said is â€œa color of devotion, dedication, sacrifice and holds a very respectful position in our country.â€ â€œIt is really sad that Chidambaram has associated saffron color with terrorism. Our national flag, the tricolor, has this color, our saints, mahatmas also wear this color. Now, Chidambaram is trying to place all of them in the category of terrorists,â€ he said.
Countering the Sangh Parivar, while addressing his party members, Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar (Nationalist Congress Party) said: â€œIf â€˜green terrorâ€™ is fine with them, why should â€˜saffron terrorâ€™ upset them so much? Isnâ€™t green too a color in our national flag?â€ â€œSome leaders are angry because they say â€˜saffron terrorâ€™ is an insult to not just one party but to the entire country. They tell me, saffron is the color of our flag. But they forget that even green color is present in our flag,â€ Pawar said.
With Bihar Assembly elections round the corner, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and LJP have used Chidambaramâ€™s â€œsaffron terrorâ€ warnings to win over the Muslim votes in the state. While RJD boss Lalu Prasad strongly criticized the Hindu terror groups, LJP leader Paswan went a step further in demanding ban on Hindu extremist outfits. Both the leaders, in their respective meetings with media, also criticized the Congress for being â€œsoftâ€ towards â€œsaffron terrorism.â€ â€œThe center should ban RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and Bajrang Dal if it is interested to rein in saffron terrorism,â€ Paswan said. Condemning both Hindu and Muslim communal forces, Paswan pointed to â€œinnocent Muslim boys languishing in jails, while Hindu terror outfits were on the rage.â€
Not willing to lose this opportunity of targeting the center, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has threatened to launch a campaign against usage of words â€œsaffron terror.â€ Accusing the center of â€œmaligning countryâ€™s cultural heritage for sake of vote banks,â€ while addressing a gathering, Modi said: â€œSaffron color is a part of our national flag. It is the color worn by saints and holy men and it is also the color associated to temple flags. Is the center associating all this to terrorism as well? This son of Gujarat demands an explanation from the Prime Minister and asks him to take back the words and apologize.â€
Irrespective of whether uproar over â€œsaffron terrorismâ€ calms down soon or not, the occasion is certainly being exploited by all keen on displaying their political â€œcolors.â€