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Beyond Religious Boundaries

by Vidyadhar Gadgil, 19 November 2008

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Herald, 17 Nov 2008

The Sangh Parivar’s perverse notions of patriotism are exposed by its
stance on terrorism by saffron forces

The arrests of Lt Col Srikant Purohit, a serving army officer, and the
self-styled godman Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey alias Swami
Amritanand Dev Teerth Maharaj, for their alleged involvement in the
Malegaon blasts have added to the increasingly frightening picture
that is emerging regarding the involvement of various Hindutvavadi
outfits in terrorism. There are also disturbing reports of the
involvement of the BJP MP Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur, as well as
Swami Asimanand in the Dangs, with those arrested in connection with
the Malegaon blasts.

The case of Lt Col Purohit shows that the Sangh Parivar ideology has
even penetrated into the armed forces. Purohit, who has admitted to
being the "mastermind" behind the Malegaon blasts, is hopefully just
an aberration, but given the alleged involvement of the Bhonsala
Military School in the Hindutva terror networks, there is a very real
fear that even more armed forces personnel could be found to be
involved. Retired artillery officer Lt Col Jayant Chitale, who heads
the ’Maharashtra Military Foundation’ and had raised a suicide squad
of "dedicated Maharashtrian youth" says, "I have over 1,000 of my boys
serving in the three services today. Each one has been brainwashed by
me. They are motivated, determined and will do anything for the
nation." If even a fraction of his claims are true, we have a serious
problem on our hands.

The arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur alerted us to the extent that the
Hindu right has been adopting terror as a means of achieving its
political goals. There were indications of this earlier – the Nanded
blasts in which the RSS was allegedly involved, the Thane blasts for
which activists of the Sanatan Sanstha have been arrested, and the
deaths of two Bajrang Dal activists while making bombs in Kanpur were
among the most prominent cases. But over the past fortnight or so,
there has been one revelation after another and the same organisations
have been cropping up in the course of investigations – Bajrang Dal,
VHP, Abhinav Bharat, Shri Ram Sena, Durga Vahini, etc.
These organisations are quite open about their ideology and
activities. In interviews to the media, members of Pune-based Abhinav
Bharat, the organisation under the scanner for the Malegaon blasts,
have openly admitted that they subscribe to the ideology of violence.
Himani Savarkar, niece of Nathuram Godse and married to V D Savarkar’s
nephew, who is the the President of Abhinav Bharat says, "We must
strike back...why can’t we have a blast for a blast?" She justifies
the actions of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and others, saying, "All that is
happening today is a reaction from the Hindus. I don’t believe in the
philosophy of turning the other cheek if someone slaps you."
Simultaneously, the Hindu right denies that these acts are terrorism
at all, branding them as ’patriotic acts’. To quote Pramod Muthalik,
founder-chief of the Shri Ram Sena, "There is nothing called saffron
terror and those who say it exists will be destroyed."

One might dismiss Abhinav Bharat and their ilk as belonging to the
lunatic fringe of the Hindutva right, but the reaction of the RSS and
its affiliated organisations to the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and
Lt Col Purohit gives cause for concern that many of its functionaries
subscribe to the same kind of ideology. There are reports that the RSS
has decided to back Pragya Thakur and other Hindu radicals, since
their cause is ’just’. The BJP, initially embarrassed by the arrests
and the release of photographs showing Pragya Thakur (an erstwhile
Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activist) hobnobbing with BJP
President Rajnath Singh and other bigwigs, has now gone on the
offensive. The thinking within the party seems to be that this can be
converted into electoral benefit in the upcoming polls, and the
increasingly shrill rhetoric on the subject emanating from within the
BJP’s ranks is beginning to match that of Bal Thackeray, who recently
called for the formation of "Hindu suicide squads".
The BJP’s doublespeak on this subject does it no credit. Starting with
disowning Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and others arrested for the Malegaon
blasts, Rajnath Singh and others are claiming that they are all
innocent and accusing the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of bias. While
castigating the UPA government for being ’soft’ on terrorism and using
this as a major propaganda plank, doing a volte-face when activists of
its own affiliates are arrested for terrorism reveals that the party’s
oft-repeated commitment to rooting out terrorism is nothing but
politics of convenience. The BJP’s propaganda and demonisation of
Muslims had succeeded in creating a link between terrorism and Islam
in the public mind, but now that it has become clear that terrorism
has no religion, and that its adherents are to be found among the
fanatics of every religious persuasion, the BJP is essentially
demanding different standards for treating terrorists, depending on
their religious affiliations. Woven through all this is poisonous
rhetoric about the ’nation’, which only reveals the perverse nature of
the ’patriotism’ that the BJP subscribes to.

These double standards became clear when the issue of banning the
Bajrang Dal and the VHP came up subsequent to the anti-Christian
communal violence in Orissa and Karnataka. Then, as now, the tone of
the party was shrill and aggressive. Despite convincing evidence of
the involvement of the Bajrang Dal in the violence, the BJP, which is
the first to demand a ban on any Muslim organisation against whom
there is the slightest suspicion of involvement in terrorism, went on
the offensive on this issue. The North Goa MP and BJP President
Shripad Naik "challenged" the Congress to ban the Bajrang Dal.
Naik’s statements came in the context of the desecration of idols and
temples in Goa, a highly emotive issue that the party is seeking to
exploit. The desecrations, which continue to take place, are clearly
an attempt to create a communal divide. The Hindu right has been
saying that it is the work of Muslim extremists. But, as a number of
commentators have pointed out, the forces engaging in the desecrations
clearly have detailed knowledge regarding the various shrines and
their schedules, indicating that there may be ’insiders’ involved.
Jitendra Deshprabhu, the Goa Congress spokesperson, has directly
accused "satellite organisations" of the BJP like the VHP and Bajrang
Dal as being behind the incidents of desecration.

Given the possible involvement of elements close to the Sangh Parivar
in terrorist actions, the police needs to look into this aspect
seriously. The Bajrang Dal in Goa has been known for communal
propaganda and flagrant provocation. Also, Goa is the headquarters of
the Sanatan Sanstha, the organisation whose activists have been
arrested for the Thane blasts. With the ideological justifications for
Hindutva terrorism being trotted out by Sangh Parivar ideologues, it
would not come as too much of a surprise if saffron groups are found
to be involved in the desecrations in Goa.