How 'Hindu terror' proved to be fake

The BJP, often identified with Hindu interests, has long maintained that the idea is unnatural.

 |  5-minute read |   18-04-2018
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It has been increasingly, even disappointingly, clear that much of what passes for secularism in India is disguised minoritarianism or, even worse, outright anti-Hinduism. This is quite distressing, not to speak of ironic because it is still not entirely clear exactly who or what a Hindu is.

In 1966, over 50 years ago, chief justice of India, PB Gajendragadkar, writing on behalf of a five-member Constitution Bench, had observed: “We find it difficult, if not impossible, to define Hindu religion or even adequately describe it.”

Common knowledge

Continuing in this vein, 10 years later in 1976, the Supreme Court, disposing of another case, noted, “It is a matter of common knowledge that Hinduism embraces within itself so many diverse forms of beliefs, faiths, practices and worships that it is difficult to define the term ‘Hindu’ with precision.” Yet, when it comes to branding Hindus as “terrorists”, everyone seems instantly to know and agree upon who a Hindu is. The branding, it would seem, is more important than any evidence to support it.

No wonder the BJP, often identified with Hindu interests, has been long maintaining that the idea of “Hindu terror” is unnatural. For instance, 10 years ago, LK Advani, speaking at an election rally in Chandigarh, accused the Congress of raising the bogey of "Hindu terrorism": “For vote-bank, the Congress coined the term Hindu terrorism (after the Malegoan blast), but the BJP never used terminology like Muslim terrorism.” What has changed since then?

For one, the Congress is no longer in power. Its control of the state, its machinery, the press, the intellectual class, and so on, has waned. It is no longer in position to control the dominant narrative. “Hindu” or “saffron terror” was allegedly its ploy to continue, on the one hand, to divide and rule.

On the other hand, it was also part of a much larger narrative to equalise and relativise all religions, faiths, and traditions as equally good or, more often, equally bad. The latter deriving, expectedly, from atheistic, materialist, and modernist ideologies such as Marxism and certain forms of “hard” secularism.

Advani’s 2008 comments show the influence of such ideologies when he says, “A terrorist is a terrorist... whosoever is the criminal he must be punished, irrespective of his religion.” While this is sound advice, it ignores how certain religious traditions have been much more susceptible to extremist indoctrination and violence.

This is most unfortunate because, though all religions, in their ideal state, are valid ways of reaching the absolute, in their actual, practical manifestation, they are not equally peaceful or plural. To distinguish between precept and practice is, therefore, fundamental to any comparative analysis of religions.


Media coverage

These issues come to the fore with renewed urgency now that justice K Ravinder Reddy, presiding over a special anti-terror court, recently announced his “not guilty” verdict in the 11-year-old Mecca Masjid bomb blast case. On May 18, 2007, a powerful pipe bomb had killed nine and injured 58 men gathered for Friday prayers at the 400-year mosque in Hyderabad’s old city.

“Prosecution (NIA) could not prove even a single allegation against any of the accused and all of them stand acquitted,” reported JP Sharma, counsel for the chief accused, Swami Assemanand, after the trial judge acquitted him and the four others accused.

But what the media covered was the judge’s resignation after delivering the verdict, rather than the substance of the judgment. Asaduddin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which many consider a rabidly communal party, predictably attacked the verdict on Twitter:

“The NIA didn’t pursue the case as expected from it /was not allowed by political masters.” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, in turn, hit out at the Congress after the verdict for “defaming” Hinduism, especially targeting former finance minister P Chidambaram for using the term “saffron terror”.

True secularism

Does this mean that no Hindu can be a terrorist? No. But given the nature of Hinduism, to brainwash and programme large numbers of its adherents to attack others will not be easy. As justice Gajendragadkar had observed in his judgment, “Unlike other religions in the world, the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet, it does not worship any one god, it does not subscribe to any one dogma, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances, in fact, it does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion or creed.”

Hindu nationalism, whether dubbed as Hindutva or political Hinduism, should neither lose sight of nor tamper too much this aspect of our way of life. Fanaticism hurts Hindus as much as it does others. At the same time, Hindus must also see through various conspiracies to divide and discredit them, including the largely false and fabricated narrative called “Hindu terror”. British colonial authorities, by introducing religious and caste tags in their 1871 Census unleashed a monster which we have not yet learned to tame.

True secularism will neither favour minorities nor distort the traditions of the majority to demonise the latter. Hindus must see through such ploys while resisting the urge to go to the other extreme in becoming anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, or against any other tradition. To be pro-dharma is more important than to be anti-anything or anybody.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Why Amazon Echo and Google Home are a threat to data privacy


Makarand R Paranjape Makarand R Paranjape @makrandparanspe

The writer is director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. The views are personal.

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