Colour of terror

It is debatable whether Union home minister P Chidambaram should have used the words saffron terrorism, at a meeting of top police officials in New Delhi, to refer to the threat posed to national security by Hindu militancy. The BJP and the Shiv Sena have objected to the phrase and held up parliament’s proceedings in protest, claiming that the minister was identifying Hindus with terrorism and demeaning a colour that is traditionally associated with the religion. The government has usually avoided putting religious tags to terrorism and therefore could well have refrained from using the words saffron terrorism. But there is a problem of nomenclature; how are these terrorist actions to be described and differentiated? It is true that terrorism has no colour, creed or religion, but descriptions are important for understanding.

No one thinks there is an insult to or derogation of Islam or Sikhism when reference is made to Islamic or Sikh terrorism. Therefore the fuss made over the expression is political and the BJP should go beyond the preoccupation with words to recognise the problem. There is no doubt that a violent streak of Hindu militancy exists and the home minister was pointing to the problem. A number of incidents have taken place in the past months which show the involvement of groups like Abhinav Bharat,  Rashtriya Sansthan Manch and Sanathan Santha in acts of terror directed against Muslims or their religious places. The bomb blasts in Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, the Ajmer Sharif darga and at Malegaon in Maharashtra are some of them. The latest was the charging of 11 persons belonging to the Manch for the blasts in Goa last year. Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad has found evidence of conspiracy and violence on the part of these organisations which profess a militant Hindutva creed.

The BJP should not be seen as defending these organisations and their actions. When the Malegaon conspiracy came to light the party had sought to blame the investigative agencies and even defended the accused. But later it distanced itself from them and even the RSS had declared that it would not support any individuals mixed up with them. There is no reason to change this position. Hindu militancy should be fought like any other form of militancy.

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