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31 October 2008

Finally, Hindus Take To Terror

So what if the RSS is not involved? So what if just a handful of Hindus have taken to terrorism? It's an ominous beginning for sure
Surajit Dasgupta

Local residents and police officers clear debris at
a blast site in Malegaon, 29 September 2008

Photo courtesy: REUTERS

Much as the journalists may detest the forum for having encroached upon their exclusive right to comment on society, orkut is where I have been getting instant gratification as a commentator the moment anything worth commenting upon happens anywhere in the world, since the days when I was banished from writing by my former employer, The Pioneer. I was not complaining as the forum called "Indian Politics" in which I wrote boasted of a membership strength of more than 21,000 back then whereas my employer's newspaper had a circulation of less than one-fourth the number. Also, I had to word my expressions far more carefully online as it had an overwhelming presence of good leftist writers who would otherwise protest instantly, unlike in a newspaper where I could happily ignore a couple of disagreeable responses to my article in the form of letters to the editor that were likely to reach the office a week later.

So, I was happy putting my thoughts in those slots of 2,048 characters in 'threads' discussing last month's bombing in Malegaon, where the instant nature of responses had once again ensured that the much-berated '20-somethings' succeeded in expressing their angst not only before print medium columnists but even before television talk show panelists. That was unless my attention was drawn towards the latest article by Chandan Mitra, whose paper I haven't read since May this year. A very well argued piece as usual, but one on the expected lines at that. This is exactly where a Hindu not belonging to the BJP must differ and admit that, yes, Hindu terrorism has arrived.

Unlike the BJP that used to cry foul about "Islamic terrorism" all these years and is now saying "terrorism does not have a religion", and unlike the lib-left brigade whose stand was and is that "terrorism does not have a religion," if other Hindus did not shy away from calling it Islamic Terrorism till September 2008, let them have the honesty to mark the bombing outside a sealed SIMI office as Hindu Terrorism now.

A trial cannot lead to justice unless you call the guilty by name.

I will first write to what extent I agree with Mitra's analysis and then specify where I disagree. The following paragraphs in this section, where I agree with The Pioneer's Editor, include my posts in a forum in orkut in 2007, addressing the Muslim members of the online community. Some additions have been made to peg it to the current affairs.

Before Nanded, Kanpur, Kandhamal, Bengaluru and Malegaon began happening, whenever members of some obscure Hindu outfit have scared the hell out of common people, I, like any affiliate of the RSS of which I am not a part and don't intend to be so, have insisted that if terrorism has a religious adjective, it can only be Islamic.

First, ransacking gift shops before the Valentine's Day or vandalising cinema halls for screening a film on 'converted' lesbians could not be classified as Hindu terrorism, but simply as hooliganism.

Second, even when bombs were involved, they were reactions from some fringe elements that were not backed by a big terrorist organisation that has a well-defined agenda or programme.

Third, in riots perpetrated by Hindus, there has been no continuity in the rioters' programme between one riot and another, unlike all acts of bombing by Muslims that are preceded by almost identically worded threats and succeeded by almost identically worded justifications.

Most Hindu acts of riot were sparked off by some provocative action. Unlike in the case of outbursts by Muslims driven by a perpetual, never-ending and overriding sense of being 'deprived' by the state, riots by Hindu groups had always had an immediate, local reason. For proof, study the third column, a whodunnit of sorts, of this well-researched work by an institution that is the lib-left's delight:

"Communal Riots in India"
A Chronology (1947--2003)
B Rajeshwari

Commissioned by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

People outside India may be surprised to know that from the Partition-time riots in 1947 to the Gujarat riots in 2002, a community that does not let go its official status of a 'minority', nevertheless musters the bravado to challenge the majority into a duel on most occasions! And then the inevitable happens: When a much larger, spread-out Hindu population retaliates, the casualty is much larger on the ghettoised Muslim side.

Fourth and more distinguishable is the factor of the passive role played by the intellectual heads of the community. Unlike liberal Muslim writers, liberal Hindu writers never write of any "root cause" of Hindu anger, thus making the specific acts of terrorism by certain little known Hindu outfits unrepresentative of the Hindu population at large. I have yet to see any Muslim writer call Osama bin Laden a terrorist without qualifying the remark further. They always find 'reasons' for him to have become an international outlaw. No Muslim says Mohammed Afzal, the mastermind behind the attack on Parliament House, should be hanged. But look at Hindus: While there are many who want him hanged, there is an equal number that is emphatic and vociferous in his defence, who are saying he didn't get a fair trial. Modernist Muslims must shrug off the homogeneous nature which the community as a whole projects. The Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid may not compare to lyricist Javed Akhtar. But in his speech, an Akhtar too would talk of the "cause" of Muslim frustration. Ever read an article by Praful Bidwai or Ashis Nandy on the "cause" of Hindu frustration? This is proof of Hindu heterogeneity and Muslim homogeneity. The reason behind the negative labelling of Islam that, obviously, no Muslim would like, lies in these sights of Islamic society's monolithic character.

To not be categorised as a society with a given mindset, every member of the society must have individualistic opinions on communal issues. Slowly the world will treat those members as independent individuals without thinking of them as dwellers of a ghetto.

If terrorists have a constituency, Hindu terrorists don't. Even Hindu-centric politics has the Indian Hindu population divided. Most Hindus do not subscribe to the 'cultural' (read political) agenda of the Sangh, let alone the programme of some Hindu Jan Jagaran Manch. Recall the uproar of protest from Hindu modernists when Babri Masjid was demolished and then recall the squeak of displeasure from Muslim moderates when the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed. The Babri incident had such a lasting reaction from Hindus that so many years later even now the Congress and the Left (both parties full of Hindus) find the BJP an untouchable party.

My fifth point is addressed to theologists. Every time there is an outrage perpetrated by Muslim terrorists, all that we hear from the moderate Muslim clergy is that the act is "anti-Islamic", "Islam means welfare", "Islam teaches peace and tolerance", blah blah. It was no different in the orkut forum where I wrote the above. An Indian Muslim scholar and lesser intellectuals from Pakistan pointed out how, according to the Qur'an, the Hadith and the Shari'ah, terrorism was فساد/fasAd and not جهاد‎/jihAd. They remarked that terrorists who were found to be Muslims were not "true Muslims".

Now the question is: One, does an Ayman al Zawahiri think of himself as a 'false Muslim'? How does one part of a community's population decide that the other part is untrue? What if the 'untrue' part denounces the 'true' part, citing an equal number of verses from the scriptures? And they indeed do so. That is why more and more members of the community join their fold, convinced that it's the terrorists who know the right definition of jihAd. And global jihAd spreads to more countries of the world. Whereas, while most Hindus disown the Sangh, the Parivar at the most calls them "pseudo-secular"; one never heard of anything like an "untrue Hindu"! For, that's not possible by definition. No Hindu scripture has a concept comparable to کفر/kufr (infidelity), emboldened by which the clergy can declare someone an apostate. Two, it may well be true that moderate Muslims have the right interpretation of Islamic scriptures. But in this busy world a Hindu does not have the time to read his own religion's scriptures. How can he spare time to read the remaining international tomes on theology? His obvious recourse is to understand Islam from the conduct of Muslims. And what does he see? He sees, for example, that Islam is finicky about cleanliness and hygiene. The believer is exhorted to do a وضو/wuzU where, when others wash only the palms while washing the hands, a Muslim must clean the forelimbs till the elbows. Contrast this with the filth in any Muslim neighbourhood. Why talk just of poor Muslims? Look at the mess middle class Muslims make of the international terminals of Indian airports during Haj. So, what value should one attach to the scriptures of a religion when the religionists are not going to abide by it in letter and spirit, anyway?

My last argument in this section deals with internationalism. Why the label "Islamic", the politically correct word for which is "Islamist", seems to be permanently pasted on terrorism while the liberals argue that India's Maoists should then be called Hindu terrorists and Naga militants be called Christian terrorists? The answer is too obvious and yet it needs to be put down in words so that one can wait for its riposte from the liberal camp, worded, hopefully, in sound logic.

A certain prominently visible factor is absent in terrorism by all communities save that by Muslims: a global reach and appeal. What makes people around the world associate global terrorism with Islam is the concept of a ‘nation’ called Islam.

Irrespective of your official nationality, irrespective of what you do and who you are, and irrespective of whether or not an issue affects you, if you are a Muslim in Hawaii Islands and you find another Muslim in Siberia in some kind of a problem, you get worked up. Such 'brotherhood' is unheard of among Christians. This does not happen to Hindus. This does not happen to Buddhists. This does not happen to anybody except Muslims.

But why? Why should the Muslim grocer in my neighbourhood get overtly animated on the issue of a fence in Israel erected to protect motorists from being bombed by the men of Hamas and Islamic Jehad? If that fence is demolished, will the grocer's life change? No. But the mullahs who brainwash a Muslim right from his childhood wouldn't let them feel for any local identity of his. It seems as if a Muslim's other identities like being a Bihari, an Indian, a student, a teacher, a trader, etc are all secondary.

Why don't terms such as Hindu terrorism, Christian terrorism, Buddhist terrorism, etc., get coined? Simple. If a Pakistani Hindu militant outfit -- there is none worth its salt -- says that some Krishna temple in Lahore is to be demolished; so Hindus all over the world unite and declare a धर्मयुद्ध/dharmayuddha against the state of Pakistan, Hindus from the rest of the world will either not bother to listen or have a hearty laugh and get on with their routine lives. But tell a Muslim in Rio de Janeiro that a mosque/dargah in Seychelles is going to be razed; and for days on end he will forget about food, shelter, clothing and other pressing needs and get energised to seek revenge against the Republic of Seychelles, never mind that he may not have the wherewithal to do so! And then we might well see a certain Amar Singh giving geography lessons to a remote Muslim-dominated village in Uttar Pradesh. Soon a Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan would replicate the act in Muslim pockets of Bihar. Would seasoned politicians resort to such motivated, misleading campaigns if they knew that a Muslim voter's concern is as local as a Hindu voter's?

Let's think of Irish Republican Army and NSCN (Naga militants) — mostly Catholic Christians, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam — all Hindus, Ku Klux Klan — all White Protestant Christians, Maoists — tribals and Hindus mostly, etc. Is/Was any of these terrorist organisations an umbrella spread in the name of religion? No. Their objectives are local; their issues are political and economic but not religious. Did the almost liquidated IRA have a single recruit who was not Irish? No. Does NSCN have a single recruit who is not a Naga? No. Does LTTE have any Hindu among them who is not a Tamil? No. Do Naxals have any Hindu among them who is not an Indian? No.

So why do we have among Kashmiri terrorists such Muslims who are not Kashmiri? Why should an Afghan, Arab or Pakistani be bothered about Kashmir, if not the factor is Islam?

If to terrify someone makes one a terrorist, then even a train dacoit is one. But the dacoit is not resorting to "the use of violent action in order to achieve political aims or to force a government to act", as the Oxford English Dictionary defines "terrorism".

The next definition, hence, involves terrifying someone or some people for political gains. Here is where I shall drift away from the BJP's stand personified by Mitra's article.

I had written in orkut in 2007:

Do organisations such as Bajrang Dal do that (terrifying someone or some people for political gains)? Yes. But what is their wherewithal and reach, and how much is their appeal? Can the Sangh Parivar execute a phenomenon like 9/11? Can they (or do they even want to) hijack a plane to ram it into a building or to get some prison detainees released? Do lathis and handmade weapons compare with AK 46, AK 57 and Stinger missiles? You must be kidding.
The recent incidents have forced the following rethink:

First, we are discussing terrorism based on the term's definition in standard English dictionaries. Since the definition does not mention proportions, the distinction between a bullet from an AK 47 and that from a country-made pistol is immaterial.

Second, we are discussing if Hindu terrorism has arrived, and not if the recent incidents of terrorism necessarily bear an RSS signature. Therefore, it does not matter if the two persons who got blown off in Kanpur while making bombs "had been expelled from the (Bajrang) Dal 12 years ago and were probably involved in a conspiracy to settle scores with their tormentors in that organisation".

The Congress's policy may smack of Muslim appeasement, but it still cannot afford to use a term like "Hindu terrorism". So, it settles for "RSS terrorism". And BJP spokespersons and journalists like Chandan Mitra try to prove it is not. But what's the big deal in proving false what is obviously false? So, let political scribes fight a faux battle while bloggers practice politically incorrect truth.

Why is it Hindu terrorism this time? Because, the answer to the question I had used in the first section of this article --
is the terrorist organisation an umbrella spread in the name of religion? -- is "yes". Unlike Hindus in the Maoist camp, Hindus in the Hindu Jan Jagaran Manch do not bear a grudge for the 'wrong' economics of the country. Unlike Hindus in the LTTE, Hindus in the HJJM are not fighting for the rights of a community distinguishable by its language. Until recently, any subversive act by a group with mostly Hindu members had the following characteristics: (a) The 'club' members' religious identities were coincidental; (b) the club's formation was not based on the premise of 'protecting' a given religion by means of violence, and (c) its appeal was not to the followers of one religion to fight those of another, all of whom were identified as the 'enemy'. If the respective agendas of the RSS and the VHP match these three parameters only partially, the very formation of an outfit like the HJJM has clearly defied this formula to earn the dubious distinction of being a "Hindu terrorist" outfit. More so because like terrorists it did not need an immediate provocation that was hitherto symptomatic of every riot where large Hindu mobs attacked Muslim dwellings (since 1947, as explained above in the first section of this article).

And like Islamic terrorism's ever-increasing influence that has witnessed the popping up of sleeper cells and other motivated Muslim terror outfits all over the country, if Bajrang Dal has become stale news by now, here is HJJM at your service! Now, if you say the HJJM has no link with the RSS, nor has the Indian Mujahideen any link with Al Qaidah. This is not to equate the RSS with Al Qaidah. It is to say that inspiration suffices; the man with a gun does not need to be officially associated with the man with a mike.

When The Indian Express's 22 October report suspected a Hindu outfit's hand in the Malegaon blasts, and the issue was raised in my orkut forum, I wrote:
I had suspected so right after the bombings in the named places. The spots and timings of the blasts had clear tell-tale signs. But the supporters of the Sangh said that could be a red herring and, so, I pointed it out to them that I had used the word "suspicion". Now, it is beyond the level of suspicion, though the trials on the cases are awaited.

Our worst fear has come true. Decades of our establishment's rubbishing the genuine Hindu grievance of Islamist terrorism has left the majority totally disillusioned and frustrated. It's true that only the community's fanatic fringe will indulge in such nefarious activities, as Hindus by and large are quite casual about their religious identity. But passive support by law-abiding Hindus to such abominable acts of violence will witness a rise. The community that is known for its heterogeneous political views, the people who are known to raise the din in protest of Babri Masjid's demolition perhaps louder than the Muslims, will increasingly get muted. Most Hindus will still not justify violence in open, public fora. But they will just remain quiet and, in private circles, say, "This was bound to happen!"

Our country is in for serious trouble.
Finally, I have another pertinent point to make about terrorism. I, along with a big circle of friends with whom I have grown up since my school days, have been amused by the statements issued by politicians after every terrorist act. It is not that the present Home Minister of India, Shivraj Patil, is the first funny politician the country has ever had. Here is why their post-terrorism sound-bytes have always been funny.

It's not funny to call terrorism a "heinous crime". It's not funny to call a terrorist strike a "dastardly act". It's not funny to "condemn" a terrorist strike. But, considering suicide bombers specifically, how can one call a person who blows himself off for a 'cause' -- howsoever wrong -- a "coward"? Agreed, living takes more courage than dying, but programming one's own death and embracing it the next moment may be mad; it can't be cowardly.

Of course, all other terrorists are certainly coward. And the biggest cowards are Hindu terrorists. Here is another of my posts from orkut to conclude:
To attack the evil can be a policy. To identify an attacker as an evil and then hit him back cannot be a policy. If someone is evil, he must have been so even before he attacked you.
So, what about self-defence?
This offence is not defence. The Hindu right wing in India could never attack the attacker. Throughout history, whenever Hindus have been assaulted, the leaders of the community were either defeated or they surrendered and submitted meekly. What do you mean to convey now by attacking the attackers' kinsmen and future generations who, needless to add, do not have the wherewithal to put up a formidable defence? Can you attack Dawood Ibrahim? No. Can you attack Osama bin Laden? No. Can you bring back or go and kill in Pakistan the 20 odd criminals who are wanted by India's police? No. Then, if you think by attacking other Muslims, you are getting even, you are grossly mistaken. Only a coward attacks a weak.


  1. Before you say I should have waited for the trial of the accused in the Malegaon case and its verdict before 'jumping to any conclusion', spare a thought for our judiciary's unassailable backlog.
  2. If "Islamic terrorism" does not mean all Muslims are terrorists, "Hindu terrorism" does not mean all Hindus are terrorists. In fact, since it is just a beginning, members of the second community who may be swayed by the extremist ideology is, at the moment, negligible, albeit present for sure.
  3. As a linguist, I do not make a distinction between Hinduism and Hindutwa. To me, "-twa" is a Sanskrit suffix as "-ism" is an English one. I do not use the word "Hindutwa" in an otherwise English sentence just as I do not use the word "Hinduism" in an otherwise Hindi sentence.
The writer is a mathematician and linguist, now a corporate communicator and has been a science journalist, a teacher and a marketing manager (in reverse chronological order) in his previous vocations
The article on Chandrayaan will be written after the mission's lunar capsule lands on the moon surface

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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.