This Article is From Oct 20, 2009

Saffron terror: Myth or reality?

New Delhi: The term Hindu Terror was born in September 2008, in the wake of the Malegaon blast, which left five people dead. Hemant Karkare - who would later become a 26/11 hero - the head of the Anti-Terrorism Squad in Maharashtra, said there were extreme elements within the Hindu community.

"The car that was used in the Malegaon blasts was registered in the name of Pragnya Singh. There were many attempts to destroy evidence in this car and hide ownership", Karkare said after the Malegaon blasts.

And suddenly, a young woman in saffron robes, with short cropped hair, called Sadhvi Pragya, became a new and unexpected face of terrorism. Along with her, a serving army officer, Lt Col Prasad Purohit and a shadowy group called Abhinav Bharat, were also implicated.

It was a debate that tore the political establishment down the middle. Not just the saffron BJP, but the Congress too has resisted action against several right wing Hindu groups.

Take the present controversy in Goa. A scooter used to trigger the blast on October 16, was linked to the Sanatan Sasntha, a Goa-based right wing Hindu group. Among its followers is the Goa Transport Minister Sudheen Dhavlikar's wife

In 2008, the Karkare's ATS had recommended that theSanatan Sanstha be banned, after its activists were arrested for their involvement in blasts in Vashi, Thane and Panvel. The police have also accused the Sanstha of instigating communal violence in Sangli and Miraj in Maharashtra.

But the state government has refused to act on the proposal.

The Sanstha on its part says it has nothing to do with violence. Abhay Vartak, spokesperson of the Sanatan Sanstha said: "We are educated people. We have been working for the last 10 to 15 years for our religion."

The police say extremist Hindu groups are spreading in influence all along from Goa to Malegaon. And, they say, whatever term you use for them, they have to be treated as a serious security threat.