Friday, January 6, 2012

Interview: Hindutva terror has had a long gestation period

- Vicky Nanjappa

His book Godse's Children -- Hindutva Terror In India is creating quite a storm. The author, Subhash Gatade, (a leading member of New Socialist Initative NSI) is an engineer by training and a freelance journalist and translator by choice. He has written extensively on issues of communalism and Dalit emancipation.

His book focuses mainly on the phenomenon of Hindutva terror and their perpetrators. While discussing his book he also goes on to say that the term Hindu terror should never be used and instead it be called as Hindutva terror.

In this interview with Vicky Nanjappa, Gatade, firstly, discusses why many cases remain unsolved and adds that the job of the investigating agency has been highly unsatisfactory; secondly, he stresses that only continuous vigil by people would ensure that the law of the land remains supreme; and, thirdly, warns that we should be wary of the majoritarian mindset which dominates what is known as civil society of our country.

Tell us a bit about your book and how it has been received?

The book mainly focuses on the phenomenon of Hindutva terror which has made its presence felt in the first decade of the 21st century.

It is underlined in the beginning that all sorts of terrorisms may it be by state actors or non-state actors (which includes jihadi terror/Islamist terror/fassadi terror as well) need to be questioned, challenged and ultimately eliminated. It is broadly divided into five sections.

The first part deals with the historical background of the case and makes it clear that Hindutva terror is not a recent phenomenon.

Starting from the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, at the hands of Nathuram Godse, it also brings forth hitherto less reported incidents involving Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists in terror acts such as the Shikarpur bomb blast (Karachi, 1947, Economic and Political Weekly, July 8, 2006) which saw deaths of two pracharaks or the terror plot discussed by Rajeshwar Dayal, the first home secretary of United Province then in his autobiography (A Life of Our Times, Orient Longman, 1999) which exposed the sinister design of the RSS workers to organise a pogrom against Muslims in western Uttar Pradesh.
Referring to Veer Savarkar's historic monograph Hindutva (Delhi: Bharti Sahitya Sadan, 1989) which clearly differentiates between Hinduism and Hindutva ('Hinduism, is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva.Here, it is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism') the book emphasises the need to term the terror turn engaged in by majoritarian formations here as 'Hindutva terror'.

It underlines that similar to the differentiation between 'Islam as religion' and 'political Islam', we need to differentiate 'Hinduism as religion' and Hindutva as a political project.

The second part deals with particular cases of Hindutva terror and their perpetrators, for example an explosion in a gurukul in Gurgaon, RSS Pracharak Sunil Joshi's forays into terrorism and his murder by his own people, the Ajmer and Modasa bomb blasts etc.

This section also has chapters on the role of Sanatan Sanstha, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti in terror acts, or for that matter the Nanded bomb blast (April 2006) which really brought forth the systematic manner in which people associated with RSS and allied outfits were engaged in terror acts.

The third section throws light on the role of international linkages and networks of different Hindutva formations in collecting funds, mobilising resources and supporting the cause which has added further ferocity to this project.

The fourth section deals with how different benign-looking factors are creating a favourable ground for violent actions of Hindutva supremacists.

It deals with the 'new age gurus' who are subscribers to a militant Hindutva, or role of criminals for Hindutva and how new traditions are being invented to further the Hindutva agenda (Shastra Pujas: What is Religious about worshipping weapons?)

The last section focuses itself on the limitations of secular formations which have failed to anticipate this new terror turn in Hindutva politics.

It ends with underlining the Himalayan task which awaits the investigating agencies as they are yet to nab any of the masterminds, planners, financiers and ideologues of these terror attacks despite ample evidence.

As far reception of the book is concerned, I am glad to say that it has been well-received by the people. Looking at the number of emails I have received -- with a demand that it be translated into major Indian languages -- or reviews which have appeared here and there, the response could be said to be fabulous.

Perhaps this has also to do with the fact that it is the first book of its kind on this theme.

Is the threat by Hindu radicals higher for India when compared with Islam?

Every fanatic which claims allegiance to a faith and is ready to throw bombs on innocents or kill them indiscriminately -- supposedly to further the 'cause' of his/her version of religion -- or ever ready to turn into a human bomb at a crowded place is a threat to humanity.

We should see to it that law of the land is applied equally in all cases -- whether s/he belongs to a 'majority' religion or to a 'minority' religion.

As far as your question is concerned, one sincerely feels that it is difficult to quantify the relative threats. Remember the period when India witnessed Khalistani terrorism, which involved a fraction of the misguided youth of the Sikh community and the danger it posed to peace and tranquility in the country then.

Why has it taken so long for the police to crack down on this phenomenon called Hindu terror?

Please do not term it Hindu terror, it should be termed Hindutva terror. We should not accord any legitimacy to those people who want to tarnish the image of Hinduism by their anti-human acts.

The delay in unearthing the phenomenon could be attributed to many factors:

We should remember that this phenomenon took wings mainly in the post '9/11' ambience where United States, under the then President George Bush had unleashed its war against terror which turned itself into war against Islam.

Our rulers then who had always cherished the idea of Hindu rashtra found this ambience very conducive to their 'cause' and who lost no time in enacting measures which could please the US rulers.

This ambience must have emboldened the Hindutva fanatics -- part of the larger Hindutva family -- to go for this new terror turn wherein they could do the killing themselves and call the victims the perpetrators.

We should also not forget that not only the investigating agencies, but the police in this country appears to be partial when it comes to dealing with issues involving the biggest minority community.

A cursory glance at the Sachar Commission's report makes it very clear. The near absence of minority officers in premier investigating agencies must have impacted the probe at various levels.

The Samjautha Express, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and Ajmer blasts. Do you think all these cases will reach the logical end or would they just be political tools for any government in power?

One sincerely hopes that all these cases which have clearly shown involvement of Hindutva activists in terror acts reach the logical end. It would not be mere cliche to say that the future of India as a secular democratic country rests on just resolution of these cases.

Three factors are of key importance in these cases: It is expected that the Congress, which is leading the government at the Centre as well as many states does not dither on its commitment to the people of India which it formally made in its 125th anniversary celebrations held at Burari, Delhi (2010) as far as reaching the masterminds of this case and putting them to justice.

Secondly, the Bharatiya Janata Party's actions would be closely under scanner. Whether BJP, which lost the bid for power in 2004 and 2009 for its prevarication on the issue of secularism, would understand that 'faith based terrorisms' of every hue is equally bad and dangerous for smooth functioning of democracy.

Thirdly, a key role in this connection has to be played by the peace and justice loving people and formations in the country. They will have to emphasise through democratic means that law of the land remains supreme and there should not be any dillydallying on this score. Continuous vigil by people would ensure that these issues do not become political tools to settle scores.

You say that Hindutva terror has finally emerged and it was the Nanded blast which was the turning point. Do you think this was the beginning of Hindutva terror in India?

As I explained earlier, while bomb blast at the house of Laxman Rajkondwar, a longtime RSS activist on April 6, 2006, which killed his son and another activist, definitely brought to the fore this phenomenon, it cannot be said to be the beginning of Hindutva terror.

In fact, Hindutva terror has had a long gestation period in our country.

What would you call assassination of Mahatma Gandhi?

Definitely, it was an act of terror. According to Chunnibhai Vaidya, a renowned Gandhian from Gujarat, there were total six attempts on Gandhi's life during a span of 14 years which involved Hindutva radicals.

One can refer to other examples in the book, the point one wants to make is that the likes of Sadhvi Pragya, Lt Col Srikant Purohit or Sunil Joshi cannot be considered exceptions; they are carriers of the 'Godeseian legacy' in Hindutva politics.

Do you think the RSS is involved in such incidents of terror? And if yes, why is it not being probed enough?

How does the involvement of a particular organisation in particular heinous acts be deciphered? There could be two ways to understand it.

Firstly, one traces the actual perpetrators/executioners of these acts who are part of such an organisation, then declare that the particular organisation is very much involved in these acts.

Secondly, one lays hands on decisions taken by the highest leadership of the organisation which exhorts/appeals its followers to engage in such acts supposedly to further the 'cause'.

As far as terror acts such as Mhow (1999), Bhopal (2002, 2003), Nanded I (April 2006) and Nanded II (Feb 2007) to the likes of Malegaon I (Sep 2006) and Malegaon II (Sep 2008), Kanpur (August 2008), Tenkasi (2007) and many of their ilk are concerned, you will find that participation of activists of RSS or its affiliated organisation has been noted and first information reports have also been lodged underlining their involvement.

Coming to the second layer, many accused have pointed fingers to few senior leaders of RSS for their tacit support to their work. The likes of Assemanand, Bharatbhai or accused in the first Nanded bomb blast etc, have even shared how they were exhorted by them to engage in such acts.

A very senior leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad was in touch with Lt Col Purohit and the transcripts available with Anti-Terrorism Squad Maharashtra in connection with Malegaon II bomb blast tells us how he met with him to in a hotel in Mumbai.

The book quotes many such incidents widely reported in the media.

While the RSS has formally denied that it is involved in such terror acts, it remains to be seen how such a strict hierarchical organisation can explain 'waywardness' of so many of its activists.

How do you rate the job done by the investigating agencies regarding this aspect?

It has been highly unsatisfactory. It is beyond a sane person's comprehension that why the intelligence agencies or security people in the country have not taken up the task in the right earnest.

A serious lacunae in the investigations is that these agencies have refused to 'name' organisations involved in such terror acts and have always tried to 'individualise' the cases.

Do you feel that these cases would go under the carpet if the BJP came to power?

Look at the way BJP has handled acts involving Hindutva terrorists. Wherever it has been in power earlier, one tends to conclude that its approach has been far from professional.

An impression has gathered that it has 'used' such acts to further stigmatise/terrorise the minority community. Independent analysts have noted that terror acts by Hindutva fanatics could be unearthed only when BJP exited from power (Ajmer bomb blast, Samjhauta Express blast etc) or whenever Congress -- with all its weaknesses -- held the reins of power (Nanded I and II, Malegaon I and II, Thane, Margaon, Goa etc).

The classic case of Sunil Joshi's forays into terror acts is worth underlining. This RSS pracharak, along with his colleagues was found to be involved in bombing of temples in Mhow ( late 1999s) or planting of bombs in Bhopal (2002 and 2003) when Ijtema -- a congregation of Muslims is held under the aegis of Tableeghi Jamaat.

Cases were registered against him and his band for these acts, but when Congress led by Digvijay Singh lost power in 2003 elections, and the BJP took over, all these cases were silently forgotten. If proper action could have been taken in these cases, one could have saved many innocent lives later.

Take the case of Modasa blasts which occurred within few hours of Malegaon blast (September 2008) in similar circumstances and manner. Looking at the similarity of the cases, Hemant Karkare, the then chief of ATS Maharashtra, offered some help to his Gujarat counterparts, but it was refused.

Now with renewed investigations, one discovers that it was the same terror module which executed the blast. That is why the Narendra Modi-led government in Gujarat was not ready to unearth the real culprits.

If you have noticed all these incidents, the first information that always trickles in blames either the Students Islamic Movement of India or the Indian Mujahideen. Only a few years later does the other angle to it come out. Why do you think this is the case?

I have discussed many related aspects to your present query in your question 'Why has it taken so long for the police to crack down on this phenomenon called Hindu terror?' and also regarding 'role of security agencies as well'.

I would like to add only two points. It is high time that one seriously looks into the composition of security and investigating agencies, and ensure that it is made more diverse, more representative of our multi-religious, multiethnic, multilingual country, to avoid any unnecessary spins to investigations.

We should also be wary of the majoritarian mindset which dominates what is known as civil society of our country. Can we imagine any country in the world which calls itself the biggest democracy and where genocides/carnages are easily forgotten and the chattering classes are ready to turn a new leaf?

 Look at Nellie massacre (Assam, 1983), Anti-Sikh riots (Delhi, 1984), Hashimpura (Merrut, UP, 1986) or killings of innocents in the aftermath of Babri Mosque demolition (1992-93) or the Gujarat carnage (2002). 

You will find to your dismay that 'peace' has been definitely restored but justice still eludes the victims.

The death of Sunil Joshi has remained a mystery. What is your reading of this incident and who do you think murdered him and why?

A close look at Joshi's political journey makes it clear that he was one of the 'pioneers' of the terror turn in Hindutva politics.

He, along with his close group (which are still absconding) was found to be involved in bombing temples in Mhow and adjoining regions in Malwa in Madhya Pradesh, and blaming it on Muslims, to precipitate riots since the late 1990s.

He was the key person in planting bombs in Bhopal (2002 and 2003) as well as Ajmer and Mecca Masjid. If one believes fellow pracharak and terror-accused Assemanand's confession, he had only arranged 'manpower' for the Samjhauta Express blast.

The fact is that after a period when police pressure started mounting up as he was the key player, he planned to surrender, which was not liked by the masterminds of this terror project.

They perceived the threat to their whole gameplan in his surrender and it was decided to finish him. As facts stand today, only his close colleagues have been chargesheeted in the media.

It is high time that NIA also digs up into the case to unearth who else in the establishment facilitated 'silent burial' of this case earlier despite the fact that the state was ruled by BJP all these years.

You say that the RSS has promoted the culture of violence. Do you squarely blame the organisation for the emergence of Hindutva terror?

It is not my discovery that the RSS has promoted a culture of violence. Take a look at many reports of commissions which looked into riots in different parts of the country after independence, and you will find what has been said about it.

In fact, after assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, this is what the government communique issued on February 4, 1948 said which announced the ban on RSS:

...the government has, however, noticed with regret that in practice members of RSS have not adhered to their professed ideals.

Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by the members of the Sangh. It has been found that in several parts of the country, individual members of the RSS have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunitions.

They have been found circulating leaflets, exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and military.

Coming to its 'own role in the emergence of Hindutva terror' is concerned, as I explained earlier, the investigating and agencies will have to give a categorical answer to it.

Only they will be able to tell whether the likes of Devender Gupta and many of their ilk, who are at present cooling their heels behind bars for their alleged involvement in different terror acts, were acting on their own, as what one analyst calls as 'rogue elements' in the highly hierarchical organisation or they were instructed to do so by the top bosses.

At this juncture, one should also underline that incidents of Hindutva terror have also involved activists of many other fanatic organisations as well.

Look at the manner in which activists of Sanatan Sanstha, Hindu Janjagruti Samity were found to be involved in terror acts in Thane, Panvel (2008) or Madgaon or Sancole (2009) and how chargesheets have been filed against them.

Only few days ago, there was even a raid on Sanatan Sanstha's head office near Panaji in Goa.

We have also been witness to groups such as Arya Sena in Western UP which had organised attacks on mosques and Madarsas. (NDTV, June 7, 2002).

Do you think RSS leader Indresh Kumar managed to get away?

As of now, it does appear that he has managed to get away.

It needs be reminded here that last year when the Ajmer, Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta Express blast investigations were on, there were reports in a section of the press (Mail Today) how 'Gehlot would do a Togadia to Indresh' referring to Ashok Gehlot's earlier stint at power in Rajasthan, when he had managed to apprehend Praveen Togadia, for his role in the trishul distribution ceremony.

But as things stand today, it appears that Congress despite its formal commitment to reach the masterminds of Hindutva terror, has decided otherwise.

Hindu radicals claim that it is the inaction of the government against Islamic terror which has led them to carry out such incidents. Do you agree that this is the only theory or is there some larger goal involved?

Let me make few things clear at the outset. Every fanatic has to provide a rationale for her/his heinous act. If the Lashkar-e-Tayiba promises a young recruit that his act would bring him closer to god, for a Hindutva radical any such act would bring their 'cause celebre' namely Hindu Rashtra closer.

But by merely parroting the need for Hindu Rashtra, it is not possible for people to prepare them to kill 'others'.

A Hindutva radical finds it convenient to package his murderous game in the 'action-reaction' play, where you kill the other as he is ready to kill you and the government is looking the other way.

There is no doubt that this action-reaction theory has many takers in our country. One even finds that many liberal-looking people also subscribe to this theory.

I find it completely bogus and mischievous. As I discussed earlier, the international ambience in the aftermath of 9/11 has definitely helped such violent acts.

It is high time that peace and justice loving people in this part of the world get ready to understand how terrorism of every hue presents a menace to democracy and are ready to fight the fake demons sitting in the minds of the people.
Source: Rediff News


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