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'Hindu terror': what does it mean?

Mounting evidence against the alleged role of extremist Hindu groups spawned the phrase, which has drawn criticism from right-wing politicians and religious groups.
An Indian police officer stands guard to maintain peace between Muslims and Hindus.
An Indian police officer stands guard to maintain peace between Muslims and Hindus.

NEW DELHI // India's war on terrorism has become a war of words as the term "Hindu terror" has sparked a growing debate as it is used more and more in the media. Mounting evidence against the alleged role of extremist Hindu groups behind attacks targeting Muslims have been called "Hindu terror" or "Saffron terror". The phrases, unlike the term "Islamic terror", which is used widely in India, have drawn criticism from right-wing politicians and Hindu groups.

"It's an insult to Indians if the term 'Hindu terrorism' is used," said Tarun Vijay, a spokesman for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India's Hindu nationalist and main opposition political party. Mr Vijay claimed Hindu society has a history of being inclusive and tolerant, and there was no proof that the militant groups accused of the attacks could be described as being motivated by religion. "How can we call Hindus as terrorists? There is no evidence that these groups had any religious agenda," he said.

However, the Central Bureau of Investigation is investigating 10 cases of attacks that it believes have ties to fundamentalist Hindu militants. In one of the more high-profile cases, CBI investigators in April arrested several members of Abhinav Bharat and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and charged them with attacks in 2007 on the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad that killed nine, and the Ajmer Sufi shrine in Rajasthan state that killed three and left dozens wounded.

"Hindus can never be branded as terrorists, particularly if their activities are not against the Indian nation. So far, not a single Hindu has been convicted in terror activities in India. Nobody should be allowed to use the term 'Hindu terror'," said Vinod Bansal, a spokesman for Vishva Hindu Parishad, a Hindu nationalist group. Mr Vijay said the BJP equally deplored the use of word "Islamic terror" but held Muslim groups responsible for making Islam synonymous with terrorism.

"There is a difference between Islamic terrorism and Hindu extremism. There are Hindu radicals like Maoists in India which engage in violence but they don't claim that their acts of violence are in the name of Hinduism, contrary Lashkar-i-Toiba and al Qa'eda claim violence is prescribed by Islam," he said. But Muslim leaders in India say this logic is ludicrous. Moulana Arshid Madani, the president of Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, one of the largest Muslim organisations in India, said that some attacks on Muslims are the work of Hindu extremists and groups such as the BJP should not feel insulted by the term "Hindu terror".

"Of course, they should be termed as Hindu terror groups and they should be banned. Isn't it [as great] an insult to India when Indian Muslims are branded as terrorists? Why has the BJP and VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] remained silent, when 180 million Muslims were termed as Muslims terrorists?" Mr Madani said Muslims in India have been made victims twice over by the terrorist acts committed by Hindu militant groups.

"Dozens of innocent Muslim youths were arrested and tortured by police in Hyderabad and Mumbai for the blasts carried out by Hindus," he said. "They were made terrorists in front of the whole country; they lost their jobs and dignity. For us every individual is a terrorist who kills innocents," he said. Many Hindu commentators said that if a militant group is fuelled by communal hatred or fanatical religious zeal, it should be reflected in how they are described.

"If they take up the gun in the name of Hinduism then they are definitely Hindu terrorists, and similarly if Muslims claim they are killing people for a Muslim cause, they are terrorists," Madhu Kishwar, editor of Manushi magazine in Delhi, said. "The aim and the cause of the group is very important in categorising them as terrorists." Praveen Swami, a journalist based in New Delhi and a terrorism analyst, agreed, saying there is nothing wrong in labelling attacks by Hindu groups as "Hindu terror".

"Terrorism by a Hindu group represents a particular ideology based on Hinduism. I don't think there is anything wrong with it." @Email:foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Updated: July 28, 2010 04:00 AM



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