'Hindu terror' politics had its genesis a decade ago

Last Updated 03 April 2019, 02:00 IST

The row between the BJP and the Congress over the 'Hindu terror' tag during the ongoing Lok Sabha poll campaign had its genesis nearly a decade ago when the then Home Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram coined 'saffron terrorism' against the backdrop of blasts in Samjhauta Express and some prominent Muslim religious places.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday criticised the Congress for coining the term 'Hindu terror', prompting a sharp reaction from the main opposition party.

"Congress used the term 'Hindu terror' labelled the peace-loving Hindus as there a single incident of Hindu terrorism?" Modi said at a rally in Wardha in Maharashtra.

The Congress accused Modi of speaking a lie, claiming that the term 'Hindu terrorism' was defined by his ministerial colleague and senior BJP leader R K Singh when he was the Union Home Secretary.

Modi had also claimed that it was Sushil Kumar Shinde, who as Union Home Minister used the term.

Chidambaram brought up the issue of what he called "saffron terrorism" while addressing the annual conference of the DGPs, and IGPs on August 25, 2010.

"... I wish to caution you that there is no let up in the attempts to infiltrate militants into India. There is no let up in the attempts to radicalise young men and women in India. Besides, there is the recently uncovered phenomenon of 'saffron terrorism' that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past...," Chidambaram had said.

The then home minister's statement that raised many an eyebrow came as the country witnessed blasts in a Maharashtra town Malegaon in 2006 and explosion of the Samjhauta Express in Haryana, blast at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and bombing at Ajmer Sharif Dargah, all in 2007.

However, the Congress quickly distanced itself from Chidambaram's comment, saying "terrorism does not have any colour other than black".

"Saffron or bhagwa or kesariya (Hindi equivalents of saffron) is not the issue here. The issue is terrorism. Terrorism does not have any colour other than black," Congress' then general secretary and head of the media cell Janardan Dwivedi said on August 28.

Dwivedi also said "saffron colour has been part of our ancient tradition and is associated with our freedom strggle".

Senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde, who succeeded Chidambaram as the Union Home Minister, on January 20, 2013, also waded into the row when he accused the BJP and the RSS of conducting "terror training" camps to spread "saffron terrorism" in the country.

"Reports have come during investigation that BJP and RSS conduct terror training camps to spread terrorism...Bombs were planted in Samjhauta express, Mecca Masjid and also a blast was carried out in Malegaon.

"We will have to think about it seriously and will have to remain alert," he said at a Congress conclave in Jaipur.

As his remarks came under attack from BJP and RSS, Shinde later said, "This has come so many times in the papers...It is not a new thing that I have said today."

"This is saffron terrorism that I have talked about. It is the same thing and nothing new. It has come in the media several times," he said.

To a question if it was Hindu terrorism or saffron terrorism, Shinde said, "This is saffron terrorism (that) I have stated."

A month later, Shinde had expressed regret for his comments in Jaipur.

In a statement on February 20, 2013, Shinde said his comments had created a misunderstanding. "It has been understood to mean that I was linking terrorism to a particular religion and was accusing certain political organisations of being involved in organising terror camps".

"I had no intention to link terror to any religion. There is no basis for suggesting that terror can be linked to organisations mentioned in my brief speech in Jaipur."

Shinde said "Since a controversy has been created on account of my statement, I am issuing this clarification and expressing regret to those who felt hurt by my statement. I will continue to perform my duties to the best of my ability to ensure harmony is maintained in social fabric of India."

Two days after Shinde's comments in Jaipur, Union Power Minister and BJP leader R K Singh, as the then Union Home Secretary, tried to justify Shinde's remarks.

Singh said on January 22, 2013 that at least 10 people having close links with the RSS and its affiliated organisations were named accused in various acts of terror across India.

"Yes, during investigations of Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah Sharif blasts, we have found names of at least 10 persons who have been associated with the RSS at some point or the other," Singh had said.

Singh also said "We have evidence against them... there are statements of witnesses".

After his retirement, Singh joined the BJP in 2013 and distanced himself from the phrase, saying he had never used it.

"The term saffron terror was coined by (then) Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. I never used that term," he said.

After joining the BJP, Singh also lauded the party for "its hardline orientation on issues of national security".

"BJP and its other associates like RSS never compromise on this. Other parties tend to compromise due to their vote banks," he had said in December 2013.

Singh became an MP in 2014 after fighting the Lok Sabha polls on a BJP ticket from Bihar. Later, he became a union minister in the Modi government.

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, who also faced accusations of having used the term 'Hindu terror', clarified he only mentioned 'Sanghi terrorism' and never coined 'Hindu terrorism'. He said terror activities cannot be defined on the basis of religion.

He also used the word 'Hindu fundamentalists' to describe right-wing terror. "Terrorism in the country arises from fundamentalists among the Hindus and the Muslims," he had said.

(Published 02 April 2019, 13:09 IST)

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