"The Buck Stops Here " talk show of NDTV anchored by Ms.Barkha Dutt had an interesting discussion on August 25,2010, on the passing reference to the recently noticed phenomenon of "Saffron Terror" made by Shri P.Chidambaram, the Home Minister, while inaugurating a conference of Directors-General of Police at New Delhi the same day.
2.The discussion was balanced and free of accusations and counter-accusations. It was refreshing to note that all the participants, including Shri Swapan Dasgupta, shared the concern of Shri Chidambaram over this phenomenon. There was no attempt to deny the fact that some Hindu elements, known to be close to the ideology of the Hindu nationalist group, are suspected of involvement in acts of terrorism against members of our Muslim community and that there was a need for a thorough investigation into this.
3.The debate, while refreshingly balanced and free of ideological polemic, was incomplete in some important respects. I myself , in my writings and speeches, have refrained from naming this phenomenon "Saffron" or "Hindutva" or Hindu terror since I felt that such characterisations could politicise the investigation and prosecution and aggravate the divide between the Hindus and the Muslims. I , therefore, prefer calling the phenomenon "Hindu reprisal terrorism".
4. In the relations between the Hindus and the Muslims, there have always been acts of reprisal during communal riots in different parts of the country, but those were acts of reprisal committed in the heat of the moment at the height of the riots.What we have been seeing since the Malegaon blasts on September 8,2006, are some pre-meditated acts of reprisal by some members of the Hindu community against Muslim soft targets. These are deliberate acts meant to punish Indian Muslims for the acts committed by some Pakistani terrorist organisations sponsored by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)----- with or without the help of Indian Muslims belonging to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
5.The Malegaon blasts of September 8,2006, constituted in my view the first act of reprisal terrorism by some Hindus against innocent Muslims. While almost everybody was blaming the ISI and its Pakistani surrogates for the blasts, in an article written on September 10,2006---two days after the blasts--- I said inter alia: " While one should not be surprised if the Malegon blasts also turn out to be the work of jihadi terrorists, one should not rule out at this stage the possibility of the involvement of non-Muslims, keeping in view the long history of tensions between the Muslims and the Hindus in Malegaon.....It also needs to be underlined that any ill-advised actions by angry elements of the Hindu community to give vent to their anger over the continuing acts of terrorism, by indulging in reprisal attacks against innocent members of the Muslim community would be detrimental to our national interests and could contribute to an unbridgeable divide between the two communities. The Government should act with equal firmness against whoever indulges in acts of terrorism/, irrespective of the community---Muslim or Hindu--to which he or she belongs. There cannot be one law for the Muslims and another for non-Muslims ."
( http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers20%5Cpaper1945.html )
6. Subsequently, I wrote as follows in my book titled "Terrorism---Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" published in June 2008: "The conventional wisdom was that the Muslims were now being deliberately targeted by the jihadi organizations in order to provoke them against the Government and the Hindus. I do not subscribe to this wisdom. It is important to keep an open mind while investigating these targeted attacks on Indian Muslims and one should not jump to the conclusion that the LET or the HUJI must have been involved. We owe it to our Muslims, most of whom have kept away from Al Qaeda and other pan-Islamic organizations, to see that these cases of targeted attacks on Muslims are thoroughly investigated instead of coming to a facile conclusion that jihadi organizations must be behind them."
7. Two aspects of the phenomenon of Hindu reprisal terrorism worry me. The first is the attempt of the Hindus allegedly involved to punish the Indian Muslims for the acts of the ISI and its jihadi surrogates. The second is the alleged involvement of some ideologically motivated members of the security forces in these reprisal attacks. One saw a worrisome combination of religious and military elements coming together to hit out at our Muslim community. This showed the beginning of a possible ideological penetration of sections of our security forces by Hindu nationalist elements.
8. There are many---including myself--- who have long been saying that we will not be able to deal with jihadi terrorism unless we hit out at Pakistan, but , at the same time, we have been strongly advising against any retaliatory action in our own territory against our own people who are perceived as being sympathetic to the ISI-sponsored jihadis from Pakistan. The investigations into the Malegaon blasts and some other incidents have brought out that there are possibly elements in our security bureacracy who seem to believe that acts of reprisal against our own Muslims would be as justified as retaliatory attacks against Pakistan. This is a dangerous idea that needs to be eradicated ruthlessly.
9. As I had pointed out in a recent article, US investigators seem to believe that jihadi organizations from Pakistan were involved in the terrorist attacks in the Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad and on the Samjotha Express. If they are correct, the contention of our investigators that some of the arrested Hindus were involved in the Mecca Masjid blast stands disproved. Our investigators are still to make a headway in the Samjotha express case. The contradictions in the conclusions of the US and Indian investigators show that while there may be prima facie evidence against the arrested Hindus in some of the cases, there are others in which the evidence is not strong enough.
10.There is a need for a three-pronged action by the Government----- firstly, a thorough investigation of the pending cases against the arrested Hindus and their prosecution, if warranted; secondly, reconciliation of the differences in the Mecca Masjid case and , thirdly, action against serving and retired members of the security bureaucracy who encourage openly or covertly acts of reprisal against our Muslim co-citizens. ( 26-8-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )