By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHI: Three Hindu suspect terrorists – Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shamlal Sahu and Shivnarayan Singh â€“ were arrested last week in connection with Malegaon (Maharashtra) blasts on September 29. All three belong to Madhya Pradesh. A day later (October 25), Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Mumbai Police detained two former army officials from Pune. The two are understood to have trained the people for carrying out the blast. In the coming days, more arrests are expected to take place.
The needle of suspicion turned towards Sadhvi as the motorcvle used in Malegaon blasts is said to be hers. In addition to being linked with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)â€™s student wing Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), she is believed to be associated with Indore-based radical Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM), which is accused of being involved with Malegaon blasts as well in Modasa (Gujarat). Five Muslims were killed in Malegoan and one in Modasa.
Statistically, considering that Hindu extremist organizations have played a very negative role, targeting Muslims, the recent arrests seem to be an extremely minor step in punishing the guilty responsible for Gujarat carnage (2002), demolition of Babari Masjid (6 December 1992) accompanied by riots across the country and other cases. Nevertheless, it is hoped, the small but definite move will serve as a warning signal to ones who may be engineering plans to provoke more Hindu extremists to militancy to polarize vote-banks on religious grounds.
With assembly elections due in six states during the coming weeks and national elections scheduled for May, politicians have certainly not fallen back from making noise over arrest of Hindu extremists. In the Rajya Sabha, referring to involvement of Hindu extremist outfits in several blast cases, Brinda Karat (Communist Party of India-Marxist) aggressively demanded ban of such Hindu outfits (October 23). Questioning labeling of only a particular community (Muslims) as terrorists, she said there should not be â€œtwo yardsticks for dealing with menace (terrorism).â€
â€œAll those who indulge in violence are criminals. Do not associate criminals with any community. Terror has no religion,â€ Union Minister Kapil Sibal said on Brindaâ€™s comments regarding communities being associated with terrorism. â€œThose who carried out violence at Malegaon or Modasa are criminals and action should be taken against them under Indian Penal Code (IPC),â€ he said.
Countering Brindaâ€™s demand for ban on Hindu extremists, BJP legislators raised demand for stronger action against Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the ban against which has been recently extended. Heated argument between the legislators led to the adjournment of the Upper House.
While the BJP is definitely at a loss to explain involvement of members associated with saffron brigade in terrorist-incidents, the Congress is exploiting the situation demanding explanation from the party. â€œHindu terrorism is as dangerous as Islamic,â€ All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Digvijay Singh said (October 25). The arrests have â€œthoroughly exposed the true face of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-Bajrang Dal-ABVP combine,â€ he said.
â€œThe message is now loud and clear. The BJP and (L.K.) Advani, who talk about the need for a stronger law for an all-out fight against terrorism, should first acknowledge that Muslim and Hindu terrorists are equally dangerous and should be fought alike,â€ Singh said. â€œThe Congress is clear that the fight against terrorism should target both Hindu terrorists and Muslim terrorists without casting aspersions on the communities. We would like to know the stand of Advani and his party on this issue,â€ he said.
Referring to arrest of suspected Hindu extremists in blasts, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said: â€œIt is a serious issue. We will have to be careful (of such blasts occurring in small cities).â€ With investigations still not complete, Deshmukh said it was too early to come to a definite conclusion on Hindu outfitsâ€™ involvement in the blasts. â€œEvery time something happened minorities felt they have been targeted. But the best thing that has happened in this case was that it has been proved that it was not so,â€ he said (October 26).
BJP leaders have objected to use of the term â€œHindu terrorismâ€ and attempt made to malign Hindu organizations before charges against the suspect terrorists have been proved. Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said: â€œSome section are trying to malign the majority community. BJP is objecting to the term Hindu terrorists, which is wrong. Nobody is saying that the law must not take its course. No one can say that. A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his caste or religionâ€ (October 24). Referring to what Brinda said in Rajya Sabha, he said: â€œInvestigations should happen but the whole majority community is being assailed. We object to the ultra secularists. We object to what Brinda Karat said in the House that it was Hindu terrorism.â€
Expressing that three arrested had nothing to do with Sangh Parivar, senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said: â€œTheir association with the Sangh Pariwar is being talked only to give Hindu organizations a bad name. If there is proof against anyone, action should be taken but only after a thorough investigation is carried out into the casesâ€ (October 25).
Statistically, arrests of only a few alleged terrorists, linked with extremist Hindu groups, appears to be a small step taken towards displaying the trend of labeling only Muslims as suspect militants â€“ without any substantial evidence- as incorrect. Though small, the move definitely carries a significant message: – the arrest of three Hindu arrests as suspect terrorists is expected to play a major role in silencing the saffron brigade from labeling only Muslims as terrorists and their demand for the need of more stringent anti-terrorist laws.