Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hindutva in Karnataka: Experiments in Terror

- Subhash Gatade

Note: This article is a chapter of the book ‘Five Years of Saffron Rule in Karnataka’ Edited by Ambrose Pinto S.J., Manak Publications, Delhi, P. 338, 2013

..Here it is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an "ism" it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious system. But when we attempt to investigate into the essential significance of Hindutva, we do not primarily and certainly not mainly concern ourselves with any particular theocratic or religious dogma or creed..

(V.D. Savarkar, Hindutva, Delhi: Bharti Sahitya Sadan, sixth edition, 1989, pp3f)
I

Violence and terror are an integral part of any exclusivist organisation professing allegiance to a particular faith. In fact, violence or fact of violence and its domineering presence pervading all spheres of social-political life is a guarantee to consolidate the 'faithful', discipline the dissenter and further marginalise the 'other.' This part of South Asia where the unfolding project of democratisation - undertaken after the exit of the colonialists - has faced many hiccups seems to be a fertile ground for proliferation of such formations.

One is witness to the emergence/further consolidation of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist groups - trying to further bulldoze Tamil aspirations - in Sri Lanka, or the likes of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad exerting influence cutting across boundary lines or the likes of HuJi, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh - who were once synonyms of terror few years back - trying to regroup their forces in neighbouring Bangladesh. India, which never forgets to pat its back for 'successful democratic transition' has had its own share of violent groups engaged in furthering their own exclusivist agenda. While not much is heard of the Khalistani (Sikh nationalist) groups these days, which had created furore in eighties and nineties; activities and actions of Islamist groups get regular coverage. Hindutva supremacist groups are also found engaged in similar terror acts which are no less deadly or barbaric.

It has been more than a decade that this phenomenon of Hindutva terror - much bigger phenomenon than previously envisaged with- has raised its head again which saw many avoidable deaths. Here we witness activists, workers, Pracharaks of the 'cause' collecting arms, storing explosives, engaging themselves in arms training and making elaborate plans to put it at crowded places to have maximum impact. As noted in a statement by human rights activists, another disturbing aspect of this phenomenon, is that "[f]or long prejudice has ruled investigations, obscuring the role of organizations and their multiple affiliates in planning and executing of attacks and bombings in the country...The agencies, showing their abject bias, instead chose to pursue the beaten track of investigating Islamic terrorist organizations — despite clear evidence pointing in the opposite direction."


The aim of the present write-up is neither to take a broad overview of this spectrum of fanaticisms - who are a threat to humanity itself - nor to provide a detailed summary of the phenomenon of Hindutva terror. The aim is also not to go into its genesis or its long history - their role in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi - or stockpiling of bombs in the Karachi head office of RSS (Ref. RSS in Sindh, Economic and Political Weekly, 8 July 2006) or the way they had made elaborate plans to attack minority dominated areas by turning RSS offices into storehouses of weapons in the immediate aftermath of partition (Ref. Rajeshwar Dayal, A Life of Our Times, Orient Longman, Delhi, 1990, pp 93f) - but one would like to focus oneself on its recent resurgence. After making few general comments on the various aspects of this terror turn in Hindutva politics one would like to focus one's attention on their activities in Karnataka.


As a caveat it would be opportune here to make two clarifications in the beginning itself : All sorts of terrorisms may it be by state actors or non-state actors need to be questioned, challenged and ultimately eliminated. One 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.

II

The investigating agencies suspect involvement of Hindutva activists in as many as 16 explosions across the country. For laypersons, it may appear that such terror attacks organised in different parts of the country is the handiwork of some disgruntled, rogue elements belonging to RSS, Sanatan Sanstha, Sri Ram Sene, little known Arya Sena or similar organisation who yearn to make India a Hindu Rashtra. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

A careful look at the unfolding dynamic makes it clear that this 'terror turn' is a very carefully drafted strategy by the Hindutva formations which had decided to slowly to move from their prime strategy of ‘terror of riot’ to ‘terror of bomb’. They discovered that the older strategy was no longer paying rich dividends at the pan-India level, and the new strategy was more appropriate for the following reasons:
  1. It was in tune with the times as ‘terrorism’ had been made a global phenomenon, and was inculcated in the psyche of the people world-over by the reactionary forces.
  2. In the name of security of the country, it was possible to rope in sympathisers in the intelligence, the Executive and the Judiciary for the ultimate project of building Hindu Rashtra, and blackmail even the vulnerable political opponents.
  3. It created fear in the hearts of all citizens.
  4. It required fewer people’s participation, and also carried less risk for the perpetrators.
  5. It also helped victimise the victims further through arrests and torture.
  6. It helped create wider divide in the name of religion.
  7. The tag of terror could be pinned on Muslim community, thereby consolidating the image of ‘evil other’ – a must for moving the society towards authoritarianism and ultimately thrusting fascism.
  8. It had wider reach, and helped in faster consolidation of people behind them.
Photo Source: Indianrealism
 One can see it as a result of two processes – one national and the other international. The universal condemnation of the Hindutva brigade for aiding and abetting Gujarat carnage 2002 definitely forced the Parivar to revisit the politics of riots. There was growing realisation that engineering communal riots would not pay the desired political dividends but would rather nullify the political gains accrued through communal politics. Another factor which favoured this new modus operandi of the Hindutva brigade pertained to the ‘new common sense’ foisted on the people by United States post 9/11. The ‘war against terror’ launched under its aegis had strong overtones of undue targeting of a particular community and its religion namely Islam.


III

Karnataka happens to be the first state south of Vindhyas, where Hindutva forces could come to power on their own (May 2008). And as expected they used the opportunity to make Karnataka an experimental lab for furthering its politics and establish its anti-secular agenda.

Within months of the ascension of the BJP government there were orchestrated attacks on churches by Bajrang Dal activists and the complicity of the state government was evident as it did not take any stern action against the perpetrators. Civil rights groups have also written about the cultural policing undertaken by self styled vigilante groups who started to police social interactions between members of different religious communities such as boys and girls or how they target women in particular and laid down norms with respect to public spaces they can occupy and the clothes which they can wear. One can cite innumerable other instances of violence by the Sangh Parivar, and other Hindutva supremacist groups, its attacks on section of the media which is not pliant, the collusion or inaction of the State machinery. But it is equally important to look '..[a]t the mechanisms employed by the Sangh Parivar to gather sizable sections of people behind it in the execution of its design."(See 'From Kandhmal to Karvalli: The Ugly Face of Sangh Parivar', March 2009)

And it would not be incorrect to state that the way the various Hindutva formations - Sri Rama Sene, Hindu Jagran Vedike, Hindu Jannajagriti Samithi, Sanathan Sanstha, and affiliated organisations of Sangh Parivar have used 'terror of the bomb' to move towards what can be called 'the stage of an armed offensive to realise their fascist objectives' - has not received the attention which it deserves. They have cleverly used the presence of a sympathetic government in the state to organise camps to give their cadres training in arms and ammunition, they have exploded bombs and tried to put the blame on the 'others', they have stored explosives and transported to different places to use it for similar terror attacks and are in position to start a 'riot' albeit after a payment. (Rent a Riot, Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 20, Dated May 22, 2010). It is disturbing to note that all such acts and actions have been seen in isolation and conscious elements in the society have largely failed to join the dots and this despite the fact that fanatic elements have been quite blunt in their acts and proclamations. Consider this interview of Pramod Mutalik, leader of Sri Ram Sene (’We are training youth to fight terror’ November 10, 2008. www.rediff.com) wherein he had revealed how they are running training camps:

..Rediff: You have been accused of inciting communal violence with your inflammatory speeches. Also, there is an allegation that you have set up Hindu terror training camps.

Get your facts right, mister. First and foremost these are not terror training camps. We call them Anti Terror Squads. Training is imparted to youth to become more patriotic. We ensure they imbibe values such as patriotism and national feeling. Whoever calls these terror training camps are free to come and see it and they will realise the truth.

Rediff: I have a photograph of your boys posing with guns...

These pictures are of ordinary training camps. These guns are not meant to harm the people. It is just a way of training people to fight against terrorism.

Rediff: You mean an eye for an eye?

Did I say that? Let me make it clear that we do not believe in eye for an eye theory. We are not anti-national elements. Just because a section of some community believes in bombing places and killing people, that does not mean we too are into the same thing.

Rediff: So apart from instilling patriotism as you claim, what else do you do at the camps?

We have 700 boys training under us. What is the strength of our police force? It is nothing compared to the number of terrorists that are being bred in the country. Bharat Mata is our own country and we have a sense of responsibility towards our nation. The boys in our camps are being trained to help the police. We help in collection of intelligence and spreading awareness. Tell me, is there anything wrong in that?...

Few months back a section of the media reported about how a 'terror plot was foiled and explosives were seized from a car near Brahmavar' near Udupi, Karnataka. As usually happens in all such cases the followup of this incident was not reported, despite the fact that the person carrying the explosives happened to be activist of some Hindutva organisation (Terror plot foiled, explosives seized from car near Brahmavar, by CD Network Thursday, 10 May 2012 10:16, www.coastaldigest.com) :

Udupi, May 10: A possible terror attack was foiled on Wednesday with the recovery of huge quantity of explosives and detonators from a car near Brahmavar in Udupi district. The Brahmavar police seized explosives from Ganesh Prasad, a resident of Shiriyar village, at Jambur in Yedthady village coming under the limits of Brahmavar police station. It is learnt that Ganesh Prasad was an activist of a Hindutva outfit.

Superintendent of Police M B Boralingaiah informed media that the police had seized 16 gelatine sticks, six detonators, and one kg of gunpowder. The suspected terrorist was carrying the detonators and gunpowder in a car without permit, when he was caught by the police at Yedthady.

The value of the seized items including the car was estimated at Rs 75,000. A case had been registered.

Whether we will ever get answers to the query that who had directed Ganesh Prasad to carry 'huge quantity of explosives' and what was the game plan ? Who else was involved in the conspiracy? Imagine whether the response would have been similar if the carrier of explosives would have been belonging to one of those minority communities.

If Ganesh Prasad was carrying explosives to create disturbances in and around Udupi, his 'friends' in Sindagi were found to be engaged in hoisting Pakistani flag to trigger a riot few months back.

IV

Replaying 'Malegaon' in Karnataka With a Difference :Bombs Replaced with Home-made 'Pak Flag'

Sindagi, a small town 60 km to the east in Bijapur district of Karnataka reached national headlines on 1 st January 2012. No it was not because the town had organised an all night gala to welcome New Year which had prompted the news-cravy TV channels to post their OB vans there. Neither had it witnessed any natural calamity which -tragically- brings places into limelight these days.

In fact, no sooner than this town of around 30 plus thousand people with a mixed population of Hindus as well as Muslims wokeup to their routine activities came the news that a Pakistani flag was fluttering at the tehsil office. Excited, terrified people had started slowly trickling to the tehsil office to witness the 'scene.' Whispering had already started about the perpetrators of this act. The 'usual suspects' were under scanner at least in the minds of those who had gathered there. And by the time shops opened up members of different Hindutva organisations - Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Sri Ram Sene, Bajrang Dal - had gathered near the tehesil office, raising provocative slogans, and they even tried to damage public property. The protesters blocked the road and hurled stones at buses .Few youngsters in the crowd seemed to be extra active who were rather provoking the crowd assembled there to take 'direct action' against the 'traitors'. Thanks to intervention by the local police the situation did not take a turn for the worse, and it managed to pacify the agitated crowd which was ready to take law into their hands.

The very next day bandh call given by pro-Hindu organizations at Sindagi town in the district on Monday received good response. A huge procession was organised on the main streets of the town led by their local leaders demanding district administration to identify culprits who hoisted Pakistan flag in the tahashildar office premises and take action against them at the earliest. All business establishments remained closed due to bandh call. School and colleges declared holiday. Political parties and various organizations extended support to the bandh. Clashes between police and the agitator also occurred in some places.

The investigating team formed by Mr Rajappa, Superintendent of Police, led by DSP S P Muthuraj and assisted by Police Inspector Siddheshwar, Chidambaram and Babagouda Patil also had its task cut out. And within three days the real culprits behind the incident were produced before the media. When the police held a press conference to present the real terrorists, people were in for a big shock. They were those very youngsters who were leading the protests the other day. The hooded photographs of these jeans wearing youth - namely Rakesh Siddaramiah Mutt (19), Anil Kumar (18), Parashuram Ashok (20), Rohit Eshwar (18), Sunil Madiwalappa (18) and Mallangouda Vijaykumar (18) all students of colleges in Sindagi and Bijapur - appeared in one of the newspapers the next day.

According to the investigating team during their search for clues they discovered that a two wheeler scooter was parked at the tehsil office at around 3.30 a.m. on 1 st January. When the team contacted the two people who were riding the scooter that day, they told the police that they were returning from New Year celebrations that day and saw Anil Kumar and Arun Waghmore at the tehsil office at that time. According to these witnesses both of them looked scared when spotted and asked them to go away as police was on the lookout.

The jury is still out about the organisation which designed this operation. Officially, the police have maintained that it was the handiwork of Sri Ram Sene led by Praveen Muthalik, whereas district unit of the Sene has denied their group's involvement. They even held a press conference to say that the accused belonged to RSS and even released several pictures to prove their point. They even alleged that the police was under tremendous pressure not to drag the name of the RSS into the issue.

Well placed police sources, told the Hindu that the entire incident was carried out at the behest of an elected representative of the BJP, whose political agenda was to foment communal disturbances in the district. The sources added that the elected representative had instructed his supporters to destroy all evidence of his involvement, including photographs of the protesters and the banners of the organisation.

("Pakistani flag hoisting was a Hindutva plot" The Hindu, 11th January 2012)

Former CM of Karnataka and JD(S) leader H D Kumarswamy shared with the media similar version of the whole incident. "I am told the RSS was behind the incident. It is shameful that the BJP is trying to create communal unrest for political gains." It was worth noting that '[n]either the BJP nor the RSS reacted to the allegation' (Mail Today, January 6, 2012).

It need be noted that this was not the first incident of its kind involving Hindutva fanatics in this region of Karnataka. There have been similar incidents earlier also. e.g. the same region witnessed an incident of defacing a statue of Vivekananda and a desecration of a temple sometime back which was followed by hate campaign spread by Hindutva organisations against Muslims, without any evidence. It was in 2008 also a Pak flag was hoisted in the Tipu Sultan circle.

There is no doubt that if the police or the home department is keen then it is possible for it to apprehend the criminals, but their hands are normally tied and are made to follow "His Master's Voice": In this case as well it would not have proved difficult for it to discover the antecedents of these college youths and verify claims/counter claims by various Hindutva outfits. One does not know whether they could undertake such investigation or not.

At another level it could also be argued that it actually does not make much difference either. As there is enough evidence in the public domain itself how these outfits 'help' and 'serve' each other supposedly to 'further' the cause. e.g. We know that since the BJP came to power in Karnataka it has bestowed its support to Sri Ram Sene in very many ways - the first and foremost has been withdrawal or dilution of cases which were lodged against them for their various acts of violence in different courts of the state.

To borrow from lawyer and political commentator A. G. Noorani, a 'division of labour' exists between all such outfits.Prof Shamsul Islam, in his foreword to the book 'Godse's Children' (Pharos Media, Delhi 2013, Page 14) also throws light on this modus operandi of RSS.

The central publication of the RSS, Suruchi Prakashan, Delhi published a book in 1997, titled Param Vaibhav Ke Path Par, penned by Sadanand Damodar Sapre.. It contained details of more than 40 organisations created by the RSS for different tasks, but more importantly it described how many of these organisations are run in a clandestine manner for hidden agendas...For instance, it used Hindu Jagaran Manch (HJM) for attacking Christians in late 1990s and when public opinion, media and Parliament seemed to turn against it, RSS denied any relation with HJM. However, according to this publication, HJM was created by RSS as admitted in the above mentioned publication:

From the point of view of Hindu awakening this kind of forums [like HJM] at present are active in 17 states with different names like "Hindu Manch" in Delhi, "Hindu Munnani" in Tamilnadu, "Hinduekjut" in Maharashtra. These are forums, not associations or organisations, that's why it is not required to have membership, registration and elections.

The whole incident and its exposure within such a short time provides an opportunity to look at the way media treats such cases and how it is complicit in 'othering' and 'stigmatising' of people and communities.

When the incident happened the media, especially the Kannada newspapers and channels, had tried to project Sindagi flag-hoisting as the handiwork of the Muslim fundamentalists and attempted to whip up communal frenzy. Most of the regional and the national news papers published the news in the front page in a bold letters. Some newspapers even portrayed the miscreants as Pakistani agents without bothering to verify the facts. And when the police bust the conspiracy hatched by the Hindutva terrorists except "VARTHABHARATHI" most of the newspapers carried the news on its inner page.

The 'Sindagi fiasco' where Hindutva terrorists made a self goal demonstrates once again that they and their ideologues suffer from poverty of ideas. There have been umpteenth occasions where they were caught engaged in terrorist act trying to 'impersonate' the 'other'. It is important to revisit all such instances, wherein we get to know their 'plan of creating trouble' by 'dressing up as Muslim' or 'looking like Muslim', which they have done quite extensively. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they have been adopting this tactics since pre-partition days. The book 'Param Vaibhav Ke Path Par' provides details of this technique as well. It would be opportune here to quote the book itself:

Swayamsevaks had posed to have adopted Musalman religion in order to gain the confidence of Delhi Muslim League for knowing their conspiracies. (Sadanand Damodar Sapre, Param Vaibham Ke Path Par, Suruchi Prakashan, Delhi 1997, p. 86)

V

If the Sindagi flag hoisting programme badly misfired on the perpetrators themselves, the arrest of Prasad Attavar, - for being financial conduit and operations man for the underworld operative and extortionist Ravi Poojary - a senior functionary of the right wing Sri Rama Sene in March 2010 brought to the fore the way Hindutva brigade 'outsourced' its 'dirty works' to 'bad elements.' (Sene man held for links with underworld don, March 3, 2010, Indian Express)

Attavar had earlier gained notoriety for the assault on women in Amnesia - a bar in Mangalore - under the specious claim that they wanted to defend Indian culture. Everybody knows how this ‘moral policing’ by the Sri Ram Sene goons had reached national headlines and it had also resulted in a counter campaign which involved lot of people from what is known as ‘civil society’.

As far as Ravi Poojary was concerned police records showed that he happens to be a very active extortionist having base in Mangalore and Bangalore. Of late he had also been trying to stake a claim to being self-styled Hindu don. Earlier he was involved in a long-standing turf battle with Bannanje Raja, who is also based abroad like Ravi. Over claims on real estate, construction and hotel business etc. He was behind the killing of Naushad Kasim, a well known advocate from Mangalore and an activist of one of those human rights groups.

The sting operation ‘Rent a Riot’ done by Tehelka and Headlines Today had caused lot of stir in May 2010. In this particular operation the fake artist (Tehelka reporter) was seen talking to Ram Sene’s Pramod Mutalik to stage a riot for a art exhibition as he wanted to become famous. This operation also brought into sharp focus the trust Pramod Muthalik shared with Prasad Attavar. The tapes made it evident that Muthalik was not keen to get into the nitty-gritty of discussing money matters with the ‘artist’ as he was careful about his public image. In order to fix the price the price for vandalising the art exhibition, the ‘artist’ was asked to contact Sene’s other trusted lieutenants and the chief among them was Prasad Attavar.

While Prasad was a free man when the first meeting took place, he was arrested soon after but that did not become a hindrance in their meetings inside the jail also. As the report in ‘Mail Today’ (‘Rent a Riot, 14 th May 2010) tells us, Attavar had enough clout to arrange meetings within the jail compound by bribing officials. Two meetings were held at Mangalore jail and another at the Bellary jail. Despite being in custody Attavar conducted a freewheeling discussion on how Sri Ram Sene could be hired to stage a riot.

Excerpts of Muthalik's conversation with the reporter:

Reporter: Main chahta hun sir mujhe popularity mile or popularity milegi to mera business bhi badh jayega..agar aap kahen to main ..aap mujhe ek dayera bata de ..ki itna kharcha aa jayega ..itne ladke honge ..itna advo..matlab vakilon ka..hum log to complaint hi nahin karenge ..kyunki wo to hamari understanding hai...to sir lekin ye hai ki aap mujhe jo batayenge main advance aapke yahan chod kar ke jaunga uske baad aapko kahunga ki ye sir pura aa gaya hai aub sir kaam kar do (I want to gain popularity, so that my business does well, If you could tell me how much? That there will be so many men? so many lawyers? We won't complain? Because of our understanding. But what you term as the advance will be paid to you fully and only then will I tell you to go ahead and do the job)

Muthalik's response, "Mangalore main kar sakte hain.( It can be done in Mangalore.)"

Muthalik then said that to fix a price for such an operation, he needed to contact Prasad Attavar and Vasanth Bhavani -- the head of the Sene's Bengaluru unit.

The reporter then managed to get access to Attavar, who is currently in jail. The reporter met Attavar twice in Mangalore jail and once at the high security jail in Bellary.

Prasad Attavar's conversation with the reporter:

Reporter: 15 lakh dega hum aapko ( I will give you 15 lakhs)

Prasad: Haan? (huh!)

Reporter: 15 lakh dega (Will give 15 lakhs)

Prasad: Nahin wo main calculate karke kal main aapko batata hun kitna paisa chahiye (I will calculate the amount and tell you by tomorrow)

Reporter: Ladka kitna hoga? ( how many men will you have)

Prasad: Pachas (50)

Reporter: 50 ladka hoga jo tod fod danga type karega? (50 men who will indulge in a riot?)

Prasad: Haan bilkul wo ye sub kiya na pub ka same aisa hi ( Yes it will be similar to what happened at the Mangalore pub)

One remembers how there were demands from a broad cross section of polity to arrest Pramod Muthalik when the sting operation ‘Rent a Riot’ became public. It is different matter that after initially expressing surprise over this exposure the Karnataka government did not do much to bring to book the culprits.

VI

Hindutva terror has struck Karnataka. The Karnataka police arrested nine persons with Sangh Parivar links for allegedly setting off a bomb in the court of the junior first class magistrate in Hubli May 2008. They were also accused of planting a live bomb on the Dharwad-Belgaum road. This point to the presence of Hindutva terror suspects in the state.

The police had initially blamed SIMI for both the Hubli court blast and the planting of the live bomb. (Mailtoday 13 Jan 2009)

Very few people would remember the bomb blasts in Hubli (Karnataka, May 2008) courts when preparations were on for the coming state assembly elections? These blasts which took place on a holiday did not witness any causality although they extensively damaged the court premises. But the most important part played by these blasts was the atmosphere it created in favour of the BJP.

As it always happens after any such mysterious sounding blasts, many innocents belonging to minority community were illegally detained and quite a few among them also were booked for their ’role’ in the blasts. The police had promptly claimed that ’sleeper cells belonging to LeT and SIMI’ had executed the blasts. Such news happened to be 'godsend opportunity' for the Sangh Parivar and had tried to exploit the bomb blasts in its favour. The former Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, had even used the bomb blasts case to attack the Congress led UPA government at the centre for ’soft-pedaling the issue concerning terror’ and accusing it of responsibility’ for the increase in terrorist activities in the country’.

The Hubli bar association had followed many other bar associations in different parts of the country to immediately pass a ’unanimous’ resolution that they would not defend any ’terrorists’ supposed to be involved in the blasts. And when a conscientious lawyer named Ibrahim Jalagir tried to file bail application on behalf of the detained he came under organised attack. His office was vandalised and he along with his colleague were badly beaten up by these hoodlums.

And when the BJP government was firmly in the saddle and the accused in the bomb blasts case had already spent months together behind jails, had come the news which was definitely not soothing to the ears of the saffron commanders. The IGP of North Karnataka Ragavendera Auradhkar addressed a press conference telling the media that the mysterious bomb blasts which had struck the Hubli courts were the handiwork of a criminal gang led by one Nagraj Jambagi.

One does not know what was the reaction of the 'patriotic' lawyers then, when Jambagi and his gang members who had been closely associated with the Hindutva brigade had appeared before the court. Definitely they could not have pretended ignorance about the activities of these criminal-terrorists when the whole area knew about them.

According to the IGP it was the same team which had planted a bomb on the Belgaum-Hubli highway in the year 2008.However, this bomb failed to explode as it was raining heavily. After high drama, the bomb squad had finally retrieved the bomb. In fact Nagraj had led the gang which was also involved in seven murder cases in North Karnataka and several cases of abduction also. Interestingly the police had stumbled upon this gang while investigating the murder of a Bagalkot businessman. Reporting about the incident, Indian Express had written (13 Jan 2009):

“A Karnataka dacoit with links to a radical Hindu rightwing group has confessed to having carried out the Hubli district court bombing of May10, 2008. The blast took place as the first phase of polling for the Karnataka Assembly elections was on - in a magistrate’s courtroom where cases against top SIMI leaders including Safdar Nagori were scheduled to be heard two days later.”

(Dacoit with Hindu Outfit links behind Hubli blast)

Police had also seized live bombs, gun powder, lethal weapons, Rs 11.08 lakh in cash, gold, silver and two motorbikes from them. Apart from Nagaraj Jambagi (24), a resident of Heggur Plot in Bilagi taluk; the arrested persons include Ramesh Pawar (24), Basavaraj Diggi (22), Manjunath Binjawadagi (19), Deepak Govindakar (28), Lingaraj Jalgar (24) - all from Bagalkot; Basavaraj Rugi (20) of Honakuppi village in Gokak taluk; Hanamanth Sainasakali (22), and Channabasappa Hunasagi (35) of Indi taluk in Bijapur.

Of course although the police did not seem to be forthcoming on divulging the political connections of the group and sharing the important information about its alleged Sri Ram Sena connections anyone familiar with the Hubli-Dharwad region would have many other details about the gang of criminals, their political affiliations and their other deeds.

Many residents of Bagalkot have been witness to the Trishul Deekshe ceremony in the area wherein many of the arrested had wholeheartedly participated. For the uninitiated it may be told that VHP international secretary Praveen Togadia had popularised this trident-wielding programme as part of mobilising Hindus. Nagaraj Hollbasappa Jambagi, the gang’s leader had also been closely associated with Sri Ram Sene, (SRS) a ’saffron front’.

A social worker from Hubli told ’Mailtoday’ (Jan 13, 2009) that the:

'[b]ombings were part of an effort to set up a militant Hindutva organisation.’ "Jambagi is the right hand man of SRS chief Pramod Mutalik (known as Karnataka’s Togadia), who is setting up a Rashtra Raksha Army. He does not believe in the police or the armed forces. His people are given weapon’s training. There are several such groups here. They had a five-day training camp in Koodala Sangama recently."

It may be known that Pramod Mutalik happened to be the former Convener of the South India Unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and of the Bajrang Dal. He was dismissed in 2005-06 following inflammatory speeches made by him on the Baba Budan Giri issue and is presently the founder and National President of the Rashtriya Hindu Sena and of the Sri Ram Sene, active in Karnataka.

Few months back when Karnataka witnessed anti-Christian violence. Sri Ram Sene had publicly claimed credit for the attacks and desecrations of Christian churches, schools and convents and thereafter for the attacks on protesting Christian youth, women and children by invading Christian properties. This open violence had forced Christians taking to blocking the streets in protest against police complicity and inaction against the fanatics.

The fact that the Karnataka happens to be a BJP ruled state where the police allegedly face political pressure and were unwilling to go on record about the Sangh Parivar links of the accused, the establishment would not be too willing to expose the real connections of the criminal-terrorists. Taking into consideration this dilly-dallying on part of the government organisations who had been fighting for communal harmony have raised a strong demand ’to arrest the National President of SRS Pramod Mutalik'. (Hubli court blast: Demand to arrest Sri Ram Sene chief, S.O. News service, Tuesday, 13 January 2009):

“Koppal: There was a strong demand in Koppal by All Progressive confederation (Pragati Sanghatana) demanding the state to arrest the National president of Shri Ram Sena Pramod Mutalik immediately whose organisation is responsible for the blasts carried out in Hubli court.

Speaking on the occasion, the State president of Karnataka Sauharda Vedike Basavraj Suli bhavi said that Pramod Mutalik is responsible for creating an atmosphere of disharmony and hatred in the state. He is a liability in a peaceful and his organization can cause a lot of harm in the society. His organization is involved in Hubli court blast and a failed attempt to blast the NH Bridge in Dharward. It is very much possible that the Shri Ram sena is positively involved in this...”

He also expressed his anger that only the activists are arrested and not the chief of the Shri Ram Sena. It should be noted that Pramod Mutalik was an active activist of Bajarang dal earlier, later he left that organisation to form Shri Ram Sena. He also had declared that he will form a suicide bomber for which he already has enrolled many of them.

With pressure building up for his arrest, Pramod Mutalik has flatly denied any knowledge of Jambagi and his gang. Much on the lines of his Sangh veterans who were put on the defensive when their links with Sadhvi Pragya and others in the Malegaon bomb blast case became apparent, he declared that they do not hold SRS membership, although he promised legal aid to the accused. . It is a different matter that none from the Sangh Parivar network maintains any membership register which suits them in dissociating the ’parent organisation’ from any wrongdoing of its associates. Inadvertently or so Pramod Mutalik was imitating his other Sangh Parivar veterans especially BJP leadership which had denied any knowledge of the Malegaon accused but had readily agreed to defend them. He was even ready to ’start an agitation to defend them.’

The report which appeared in Indian Express (13 Jan 2009) further added that according to IGP Auradkar Jambagi had procured the bombs from one Hanumant Sainsakali. A 22 year old technical diploma student from Indi on the Maharashtra border. It is worth noting that investigations in the aftermath of the bomb blasts in the Hubli courts had shown that the bomb was similar to the one used in the May 18, 2007 blast at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid. Jambagi was later killed supposedly by his own colleagues in a prison brawl. Unconfirmed reports suggest that since he had threatened to expose the wrongdoings of the Hindutva higher-ups, he was eliminated in an operation which looked like a ‘brawl’.

One needs to remember that when the Malegaon investigations had started, involvement of Hindutva terrorists in similar incidents had also come under scanner. The Mecca Masjid blasts as well as blasts in Samjhauta Express which had remained unsolved were further investigated. Although initially the ATS Maharashtra had not deciphered any connection with Karnataka with the Malegaon blasts as of now there seems to be a qualitative change in the picture. Karnataka connection to the Malegaon blast is also being explored.

The startling exposure in the Hubli court case occurred at a time when a team from ATS, Maharashtra was camping in Karnataka to hunt for one Pravin Mutalik. According to a report filed in the Times of India (TOI, Jan 18, 2009, ATS team in Karnataka to nab suspect) Mutalik could be ’one of the three bomb planters in the Malegaon case.’ "As per our investigation Mutalik was very much present in Malegaon along with wanted accused Ramji Kalangasara and Sandeep Dange.’ Mutalik was termed as a technical expert.

There is no denying the fact that Hubli, which happens to be a small town situated 425 km northwest of Bangalore, and which had remained more famous for many stalwarts of Hindustani and Karnataka classical music living in its environs, is a pale image of itself today. No lover of classical music would have ever imagined in their wildest dreams that a day would arise when it would be witness to a music of a different kind.

But as things stand today Huballi (Hubli’s new name, the name Hubballi literally means "Hu" - flower and "Balli" - creeper in Kannada.) seems to have metamorphosed into ’birthplace’ of Hindutva terror in Karnataka and a strong link in the emerging pan Indian network of Hindutva terror.

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Subhash Gatade is a New Socialist Initiative (NSI) activist. He is also the author of Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India, and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India

1 comments:

Pangala Nagendra Rao said...

The author claims so many things about Hindu terrorism without even investigation agencies failed prove any of them. He also cleverly gets blind on terror acts by Islamic fanatics, Christian missionary illegal conversions in the same place where he talks about bajarang dal attacks etc.. I would have credited this if it talks about facts rather than self claimed allegations..

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