In the 16-year period since the destruction on December 6, 1992 of the historic Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh (UP), by a Hindu mob, Hindu terrorism has grown alarmingly in India. Police and anti-terrorism experts have discovered an unholy alliance of so-called Hindu holy men and army personnel behind the terror campaign in India that has killed more than 150 people this year alone. Although the hapless Muslims are the immediate suspects after every incident, they have only marginal involvement. The terror campaign has now engulfed Christians as well, 600 of whom have been killed since the year 2000.
The arrests in mid-November of 10 people including a serving army officer, lieutenant colonel Shrikant Purohit, and Mahant Amritanand Dev alias Dayanand Pandey, a self-styled Hindu priest from Kanpur, by India’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for their involvement in the Malegaon blast of September 29 has shocked India’s security establishment. Investigators discovered that it was under Pandey’s instructions that colonel Purohit procured RDX explosives from an army depot that were used in the Malegaon blast, a small town in Maharashtra state that killed five people.
“Pandey was present in all the pre-blast meetings in Bhopal, Jabalpur and Faridabad, monitored operations meticulously and was also responsible for arranging the finances that came in through illegal channels,” an ATS source revealed to the media. Pandey, a dropout from the National Defence Academy, has links with other military personnel as well. Investigators are now questioning suspects for the May 2007 blast at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad that left 14 dead and 50 injured; the attack in February 2007 on the Samjhauta Express train between India and Pakistan that killed 68 people; and the April 2006 twin blasts at New Delhi’s Jama Masjid.
The Hindu terror campaign is not random; it is part of an organized campaign to force Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism. Hindu fascist outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bhajrang Dal, whose ideologies are patterned on the Nazis’ concept of the “pure race”, operate freely terrorizing Muslims and Christians forcing them to become Hindus or face death. Not being a proselytizing religion, there is no established method of conversion so Hindu fascists have concocted a strange process: people must shave their heads as a sign of sacrifice, and drink from a foul mixture of water and cow dung. This is meant to purify them! Those who refuse are doused with kerosene and set on fire.
Historically, Muslims have suffered the brunt of the Hindu fanatics’ violent attacks. It does not matter what party is in power, Muslims are viewed as the enemy because India was partitioned into two states — India and Pakistan — in 1947. Hindu fascists view Muslims as Pakistan-sympathizers; more critically, they insist that they were born Hindus but converted to Islam, hence their campaign to bring them back “into the fold,” or to force them to leave India altogether. If Muslims do not accept either, then they must face death. It is not merely the ignorant Hindus that hold such views; Hindu leaders have propagated these ideas for decades. For them, India can only be a Hindu State: they use the name Hindustan (land of the Hindus) for India. Others, like Bal Thakeray, head of Shiv Sena, have openly called for acts of terror against Muslims.
The horrors that followed the destruction of the Babri Mosque in 1992 or the pogroms that were perpetrated in Gujrat in 2002 in which thousands of Muslims were burnt alive while the state government headed by Narendar Modi expressly forbade the police from helping, are still fresh in the minds of Muslims. Now several new twists have been added to this campaign. One is the fake encounters the police have with alleged terrorists. On September 19, for instance, two Muslim youth were executed in one such “encounter” near Jamia Milia University. Three other Muslims were arrested and deliberately covered in Arab headgear to conjure up the image of the “Arab/Muslim terrorists.” An enterprising photographer filmed this to expose the dirty tricks the police, under instructions from the home ministry (responsible for law and order), were indulging in. The incident became a national scandal, more so because the two Muslim youths were executed at close range. This has been the case for hundreds of others — doctors, engineers, professors, technical experts — killed or swallowed up by the thousands of jails in India. And of course, the students’ group, the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) that was banned in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in 2001, has been similarly targeted.
But these pale in insignificance to other, more troubling developments. Over the last year, a number of bomb blasts have been traced to Hindu terrorists even though they are the most vocal in demanding the arrest of the “perpetrators” that they insist are Muslims. For instance, the February 24 bomb blasts in the RSS office and the bus stand in Tenkasi (Tamil Nadu state) were blamed on Muslims. These were given wide coverage in the Indian media and the clear impression created by the demands of the Sangh Parivar was that “Muslim terrorists” were responsible. The Tamil Nadu police, however, did not fall for the bait. A special team led by Kannappan, DIG Tirunelveli range, arrested three persons, all of them Hindus: S Ravi Pandian, a cable TV operator, S Kumar, an auto driver, both from Tenkasi, and V Narayana Sharma of Sencottai, all Sangh Parivar activists. Sharma had assembled 14 pipe bombs in the office of Ravi Pandian, according to media reports.
Last April, the Malegaon police raided a pathology laboratory located in the basement of a private hospital. They recovered a revolver, RDX explosives and fake one thousand rupee notes. Three Hindu terrorists, Nitish Ashire, Sahab Rao Sukhdev Dhevre and Jitendar Kherna were arrested according to a report in the Bombay-based Urdu Times of April 18, 2008. Kherna is the owner of the Smith Pathology Laboratory that is situated in the basement of More Accident Hospital of Camp Area from where the explosives, a gun and fake currency were recovered.
Similarly, a series of bomb blasts in Jaipur on May 13 were traced to a Hindu woman named Meena who had promised Rs.100,000 to a rickshaw driver, Vijay, to carry out terror attacks. A police officer confirmed they were looking for the woman. On June 16, the Maharashtra Police arrested two people from Navi Mumbai in connection with a series of bomb blasts in the area in which seven people were injured. The ATS swooped down on the Sanatan Ashram (a Hindu temple) and nabbed two men, identified as Hanumant Gadkari and Mahesh D. Nikam. Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare said the two belonged to the Hindu Jan Jagriti Manch (HJJM) and between February and June were responsible for three bomb blasts in the Navi Mumbai area.
Then there was the email message claiming responsibility for the Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Surat bomb blasts that killed 49 people and injured more than 200 others last July, by a hitherto unknown group, the “Indian Mujahideen.” It was traced to an upper class apartment complex in Mumbai, where a 48-year-old American missionary, Kenneth Haywood, lived. The IP address for the “Indian Mujahideen” email was also traced by the police to Haywood’s laptop. He was merely questioned, not detained and he left the country. Who exactly was Haywood and what was his mission? Why was he allowed to leave the country without the police completing their investigation and charging those responsible for the multiple bomb blasts of July?
Even in light of these revelations, Hindu fascists have continued with their killing spree of innocent Muslims. On October 12, for instance, a Muslim family of six that included three children, one a two-year-old, were burnt alive in their mud hut in a village near Hyderabad. The attack occurred after clashes between Hindus and Muslims had left four people dead and 15 injured. “It is a beastly and barbaric act,” said Andhra Pradesh state Home Minister, K. Jana Reddy. Were the culprits arrested? Appeals by Muslim leaders for help have gone unheeded.
Such attacks have now extended to the Christians as well but not because the American Christian missionary Haywood was responsible for an email following the July bomb blasts. They blame missionaries for converting low caste Hindus into Christians. The rigidly structured Hindu religion condemns people to a fixed status in life that they cannot change no matter how much progress or education they may acquire. At the top sit the tiny minority of Brahmins; at the lowest end of the social scale are Shudras and Dalits, people that are forced to clean toilets and who because they are considered unclean, cannot use the utensils of the Brahmins or draw water from the same well.
When these oppressed people seek escape in other religions, whether Islam or Christianity, they are targeted by upper caste Hindus. In 1999, an Australian missionary Graham Steins, who had been working in Orissa for three decades treating lepers in remote tribal areas, was burnt alive with his two sons as they slept in their jeep. The boys were visiting their father at the time.
Last September and October, there were anti-Christian riots in six Indian states. “It was set off, people [in Orissa] say, by the killing on August 23 of a charismatic Hindu preacher known as Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, who for 40 years had rallied the area’s people to choose Hinduism over Christianity,” according to Somini Sengupta of the New York Times (October 13). “The police have blamed Maoist guerrillas for the swami’s killing. But Hindu radicals continue to hold Christians responsible,” Sengupta wrote. “In Kandhamal, the district [in Orissa state] that has seen the greatest violence, more than 30 people have been killed, 3,000 homes burned and over 130 churches destroyed, including the tin-roofed Baptist prayer hall.” Catholic priests and nuns have been dragged out of their homes, stripped naked and the nuns gang-raped.
Despite such attacks, the Western world has remained largely silent over Hindu-perpetrated crimes. One can imagine the uproar that would have erupted if Muslims had indulged in such ghastly killings of Christians. Why is India being treated with such kid gloves? As it is an emerging economic power, with a 300-million people middle class flush with cash, the West wants to sell to this huge market. While India has joined the space race by landing a craft on the moon, down on earth, there are also 390 million Indians living in absolute poverty, according to the Indian government’s own figures in 2005. Indian rulers are not shy to go with the begging bowl to international donors despite boasting a hi-tech industry that is earning billions of dollars annually.
India also has the fourth largest army in the world; its navy is larger than that of Australia’s. India is also a member of the G-20, a group of 20 countries that represent the industrialized as well as developing countries. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in Washington to attend the G-20 summit on November 15. The West wants to cultivate India, hence not only the deference toward it but also the supply of military and nuclear material. The US, that leads the crusade against Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, has signed an agreement to supply nuclear fuel to Indian nuclear reactors without any of its military purpose reactors coming under international inspection.
It is because of India’s economic and military clout that countries like Britain refuse to bar Hindu fascists from visiting the country despite their well-established links with anti-Christian violence in India. Quoting Faiz Rahman, chairman of Good News India, the Times of London wrote on November 20, “The going price to kill a pastor [in India] is $250 (£170).”
A spokesman for the All-India Christian Council said, “People are being offered rewards to kill, and to destroy churches and Christian properties. They are being offered foreign liquor, chicken, mutton and weapons. They are given petrol and kerosene.”