Wednesday, August 25, 2010



"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 ."
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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: )



The secular Awami National Party (ANP) led Government of Khyber Pakhtunkwa and the nationalist organizations of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan have issued separate appeals to the international community for assisting them to meet the tremendous loss of lives and economic damages suffered by them due to the current floods in Pakistan.

2. Their direct appeals to the international community were triggered off by their fears that the bulk of the assistance amounting to US $ 800 million pledged by the international community at the special session of the UN General Assembly on August 19,2010, would be utilized by the Pakistan Government to assist the flood victims in Punjab and Sindh to the detriment of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.

3. There are already indications of discrimination against the people of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. While the Federal Government in Islamabad has been liberally issuing visas to volunteers of Western humanitarian relief organizations to do flood relief work in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunwa, severe restrictions have been imposed on the issue of visas to foreign relief workers wanting to work in Balochistan and Gilgit- Baltistan. The presence of a large number of foreign relief workers on the ground will ensure that an independent estimate of the damages suffered by the people and the assistance required by them will reach Western Governments and audiences so that they can ensure that the needs of these areas are not ignored by the Federal Government. In the absence of independent foreign humanitarian workers in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, the international community will not be able to correctly assess their requirements and assist them.

4. While there is some understanding in the international community of the need to monitor the utilization of the aid being given to ensure that all the affected areas get their due share, no proper mechanism has been laid down for this purpose. The Western preoccupation has been on three pre-requisites. Firstly, to ensure that there is no corruption in the handling of the aid amounts. Secondly, to prevent the flow of any part of the assistance into the coffers of the terrorist organizations. And, thirdly, to pay adequate attention to the needs of Khyber Pakhtunkwa and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which constitute the Pashtun belt, in the hope of thereby weaning the local people away from Al Qaeda and the Afghan and Pakistani Talibans. Aware of the interest of the West in assisting the affected people of the Pashtun belt, the Federal Government has so far not imposed any curbs on foreign humanitarian workers enjoying the confidence of their Governments going to these areas.

5. Despite this favourable attention to the Pashtun areas from the West---particularly from the US--- there are strong fears even in Khyber Pakhtunkwa that the Federal Government might divert the bulk of the assistance to Punjab and Sindh. It is for this reason that the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkwa has made a direct appeal to the international community to take note of its requirement and to directly assist the people of the State. The “Dawn” of Karachi wrote on August 21: “It is the first time after the adoption of the 18th Amendment that a provincial government totally bypassed the Federal government in seeking direct foreign assistance. The move also exposed differences between the centre and the province over the rehabilitation plans.”

6. As part of this exercise to seek direct assistance from the international community over the head of the Federal Government, the ANP-led Government of the province convened on August 20 a conference at Peshawar attended by representatives of many foreign diplomatic missions in Islamabad and non-Governmental humanitarian relief organizations. The “Dawn” has quoted Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial Information Minister, as saying as follows: “It is our prerogative as the 18th Amendment has given us constitutional powers to undertake this initiative.” The paper has quoted another ANP representative, who has not been named, as saying: “The provincial government has been pushing federal authorities to hold this conference immediately, but they appeared reluctant.”

7.Taking advantage of the interest of the West in assisting the Pashtun victims, the Government of the province has directly contacted the representatives of the Western Governments and non-governmental organizations and sought relief and reconstruction assistance worth US $ three billion.

8. The affected people of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan find themselves ignored by the international community. The Western non-governmental workers have been kept away from these areas by the Federal Government. Since the Balochs and the people of Gilgit- Baltistan, who are largely Shias, have kept away from Al Qaeda and its affiliates, their plight has not evoked much interest in the international community.

9. In a direct appeal to the international community, Mr.Abdul Hamid Khan of the Balawaristan National Front of Gilgit-Baltistan has stated as follows: “ 52 people have died and 160 rendered homeless in the village Qamrah of occupied Gilgit Baltistan region, and 22 have died, 40 rendered homeless in village Talas, 45 died and 70 injured in Giyes of Diamar. Similarly, in Talas 22 people were killed and 40 houses destroyed while in Hotoo, Rondu, Darel, Tangir, Botogah, Khinar, Thor, Hoodoor,Babusar, Gini, Hunza Nagir, Chhamoogardh Colony of Konodas and Skarkooi, Gilgit, Ghowadi Baltistan, Yasen, Gulaper, Isshqaman, Damas, Ginday, Sandhi, Hondoor, Dahrkoot, Mastuj, Booni, Garam Chashma, Yarkhoon in Chitral, and Koli and Pattan in Kohistan over 500 people have lost their lives whereas, more than half a million have become homeless and nearly 50,000 families have completely lost everything, including land, shelter, livestock and all means of living".

10. The Army, which maintains an iron hold over Balochistan despite the supposed presence of an elected Government there, has seen to it that Balochistan would not be a beneficiary of the assistance funds and that the real extent of the damages in Balochistan would not be known to the outside world. It thus wants to punish the Balochs for waging their freedom struggle.

11. It is important for the Government of India to take the following steps:

* Participate actively in UN and other international conferences to mobilize assistance for Pakistan in order to highlight the damages suffered by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan and stress the importance of assisting them adequately.
* Interact with non-Governmental organizations from these areas and assist them.
* Establish contact with the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkwa and offer to make a contribution to their flood relief fund.
* Encourage non-Governmental humanitarian relief organizations of India and the Indian diaspora abroad to assist the people of these areas and make suitable contributions to these organizations . ( 25-8-10)

( 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: )