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'Islamic Terror' And The Hypocrisy of The BJP

08/08/2015 1:17 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard next to a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaign flag during a curfew in Srinagar on December 8, 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to hit the campaign trail for regional elections in Indian Kashmir, just days after a militant attack left 11 soldiers and police dead. Hundreds of extra troops have been deployed in the main city Srinagar where Modi is due to speak at a public rally to boost his Hindu nationalist party's bold bid to seize power in the troubled Muslim-majority region. AFP PHOTO/Rouf BHAT (Photo credit should read ROUF BHAT/AFP/Getty Images)

The world has reached at a point where violence, hate and bloodshed have become a common phenomenon, beamed into our TVs every day. The perpetrators may have different names, or have different gods but their intention is the same: to cause maximum damage and spread fear among the people. Nonetheless, certain terms categorising terrorism by faith are in common circulation, none more so than "Islamic (or Islamist) terror".

In India, another subset of terrorism has been identified as "Saffron (or Hindu) terror". It has provoked a fair amount of backlash in a country where more than 80% of the population is Hindu. Recently, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in a press conference said, "Terror has no religion, 'Hindu terror', coined by UPA, weakened India's stand on terrorism."

If Wikipedia is anything to go by, the term "saffron terror" was first used in 2002 in an article by Praveen Swami in the magazine, Frontline after the Gujarat riots.

Later in August 2010, former home minister P. Chidambaram controversially urged Indians to beware of "saffron terror". This did not go down well even among member of the Congress and a Hindu priest also filed a defamation lawsuit against Chidambaram.

However, a series of incidents led the former home minister to use this term -- the 2007 Samjhauta Express bomb blast, the Mecca Masjid bomb blast in Hyderabad, the Ajmer Dargah blast and in 2008, three bomb explosions in Malegaon in Maharashtra. According to some allegations, saffron terror groups were involved in these blasts.

According to documents released by WikiLeaks, Rahul Gandhi remarked to US Ambassador Timothy Roemer, at a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister of India at his residence in July 2009,that the RSS was a "bigger threat" to India than the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organisation.

At the annual conference of Director Generals of Police held in New Delhi on 16 September 2011, a special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) reportedly informed the state police chiefs that Hindutva activists were either suspected or were under investigation in 16 incidents of bomb blasts in the country.

So if one had to add a religious dimension to terrorism, then "saffron terrorism" would be as legitimate (or not) a tag as Islamic terrorism.

Nonetheless, hypocritically, the BJP decries the use of the term Hindu/saffron terror while liberally referring to "Islamic terror". In 2014, Rajnath Singh, who so vociferously stated that religion and terror could not be conflated, spoke at length on the scourge of "Islamic terror" while addressing a meet of DGPs and IGPs.

Middle-East correspondent of The Independent Robert Fisk wrote in his column during the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion by US and allied military forces that "There is no connection between Islam and terror".

Indeed, terrorism has no religion; all religions preach peace and brotherhood, though there are few lunatics who distort religious texts for their own purposes. The Union home minister should go by his own words that "terror has no religion".

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