Analysis

Religion & Terrorism

It is not the first time that persons linked with saffron brigade have been taken into custody for several terrorist operations. Nor is it the first time that they have been accused of indulging in communal and/terrorist activities. The nation-wide riots incited by “Hindutva-campaign” linked with Babri Masjid’s demolition may be recalled. The same is true of these elements’ role during the Gujarat-carnage. In this context, the alleged role of these extremists in a series of terrorist incidents, including the Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta Express blasts, cannot be delinked from their communal intention of targeting Muslims. This point is suggested by the sites selected for terrorist operations and the hard fact that Muslims were earlier blamed for the same. The saffron brigade extremists apparently engaged in a two-pronged strategy targeting the Muslims. They selected points where Muslims were expected to be victims and also be arrested as alleged terrorists. There is nothing new about this communal bent of extremist elements linked with saffron brigade.

What, however, cannot be ignored is that this “strategy” had the country’s police and investigation authorities follow wrong leads for a considerable period of time. They were literally “hoodwinked” into holding innocent persons as responsible for terrorist incidents, solely (it seems) because of their religious identity as Muslims. Now, aren’t these respected authorities also responsible for not playing a judicious and objective role while investigating the terrorist incidents, for which extremists linked with saffron brigade and not Muslims (held earlier) are allegedly responsible? This is, however, one side of the issue - religious identity of Muslims is not a reason from any angle of their being linked with terrorism. This also suggests that the concerned authorities paid little attention to whether there was sufficient evidence against Muslims taken into custody.

It is well known that Islam stands for peace. Equally pertinent is the fact that it is erroneous to link any religion with terrorism. Nevertheless, at the time, “news” about such blasts hits headlines, the virtually routine pattern of rounding a few Muslims as suspects and linking them with external elements is followed. The limited role played by media also stands out. The media persons tend to consider what they are told by police spokespersons following blasts and arrests as the “real” news. Little attention is paid to lack of evidence against the persons then taken into custody. The fact that till the judiciary pronounces the arrested persons as guilty, they are expected to be viewed as “innocent” is also virtually ignored. The flaw in this approach has been exposed with evidence and confessions leading to persons associated with saffron brigade being held as responsible for several terrorist incidents. Amazingly, the media is keeping a close watch on “confessions” made by these persons, particularly Swami Aseemanand. While the media must be credited for not pushing such “news” to the backburner, one remains perplexed on the difference in the approach when innocent Muslims were held earlier for the same incidents. Greater importance was given to what certain “authorities,” right-winged politicians said and also to their being linked with external elements. Whether the persons (Muslims) then held confessed or not was practically ignored. Why? Simply because the media took what the police and investigating authorities said as the “correct” and “final” verdict and/or the arrested persons happened to be Muslims. Or because with the initial arrests having been made, the terrorist incidents lost news value for media persons. Maybe. What stands out is little attention being given to charges being proved against those held probably in context of undue noise made regarding Islamic terrorism in the West and also in India.

Just as Islam cannot be linked with terrorism, the same may be said about Hinduism. While there is nothing wrong with disclosing the religious identities and political affiliations of the persons allegedly held for series of terrorist incidents, it is erroneous to label their crimes as Hindu terrorism. Saffron brigade does not represent the entire Hindu community. Whatsoever may be the linkage of the few individuals taken into custody for terrorist incidents with saffron brigade, their turning to terrorism, extremism and/or communalism does not reflect the mindset of the entire Hindu community in India or abroad. Yes, there definitely does prevail a tendency to easily brand a suspect Muslim as an Islamic terrorist. Little attention is paid to the fact that he, whether an actual or just a suspect terrorist, is not from any angle the representative of all Muslims. He alone is to be blamed and charged for his actions and not the rest of his community. The same may be said about a few Hindus, linked with saffron brigade, arrested for terrorist-cases. Terrorism indulged in by persons associated with saffron brigade has been exposed. This, however, does not justify the usage of the label- Hindu terrorism, a trend that is picking up in certain places. Notwithstanding the religious identity of persons held as alleged terrorists, terrorism must not be allowed any religious labelling! 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2011 on page no. 14

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