Wardha is famous for the village of Sevagram, so named after Mahatma Gandhi chose to make it his home from 1936 to his brutal assassination in 1948. Even now, thousands of people inspired by his ideals make a pilgrimage to Sevagram to pay homage to him. This is the district where Modi chose to communalize terrorist attacks. At an election rally in Wardha three days ago, he asked his audience "Is there a single incident in the history of thousands of years of Hindus engaging in terrorism? How can a community known for peace, brotherhood and harmony be linked with terrorism? Tell me, weren't you deeply hurt when you heard the term 'Hindu terror'?"
Was it just coincidence that Modi made this outrageous statement in Wardha, or was it to enthuse his cohorts in the Sangh Parivar and the extreme right to launch a more polarizing election campaign, with the message that for him, the Prime Minister of India, Nathuram Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi, could not be termed a terrorist? After all, the world knows that Independent India's first terrorist was a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse, whose ideology was nurtured in the schools of the RSS which he joined in 1930.
A peace-loving community, a community that believes in brotherhood, can get destroyed when those in power patronize, promote and give protection to an ideology and multiple groups created by that ideology to use violence in the name of protecting religion. It is not the religion to be blamed. It is the promoters of that sectarianism. Does identifying the terrorist group the killers belong to mean that one is branding the entire community as being terrorist? Not in the least.
It hardly needs to be stated that any government committed to the safety and security of its citizens must come down hard on all acts of terror, regardless of the religious garb the terrorists may seek to use. Any government which fails to do so, but instead seeks to selectively deal with acts of terror, does a great disservice to the country.
Take the example of Pakistan to understand the consequences of such short-sighted politics. In spite of incontrovertible evidence of the terrorist attacks on India by groups based in Pakistan, the government of that country has over several decades defended these groups. As a result, the country has become a safe haven for them, challenging the safety and security of its own citizens.
Malala Yousafzai was shot at and grievously wounded by the Tehrik-e-Taliban because they believed she, a young schoolgirl, threatened their version of Islam. Over 63,000 people have been killed by terrorist violence in Pakistan over the last two decades; the victims believed in Islam; the terrorists killed Islamic believers in the name of Islam. How would the terrorists be described? They are terrorists motivated by extremist Islamicist ideologies promoted by organizations like the IS, the Taliban, Jaish-e-Mohammed and a host of others with the same roots. While it is true therefore to say that terrorists have no religion, it is equally true to say that terrorists are motivated to commit their gruesome acts by ideologies which promote a sectarian view of a particular religion.
In India, we have witnessed acts of terror in the name of religion. It is not confined to any one religion. We have had acts of terror in the name of Islam. We have had violence organized in the name of Khalistan. The government is particularly sensitive to this - recently, it delayed talks with Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor issue because it had included a known sympathizer of the Khalistan platform as a member of the Pakistani delegation. We have had violence committed in the name of protecting the Hindu religion. Who killed Govind Pansare, Kalburgi, Dabholkar and Gauri Lankesh? Who is responsible for the deaths of innocents in the series of bomb blasts from the Mecca Masjid blasts to the Malegaon blasts to the Samjhauta Express blasts? Each and every one of them is linked to groups who believe in the ideology of Hindu fanaticism, who have direct or indirect links to the Sangh Parivar. They are Hindu fanatics and to call them so is not to be anti-Hindu, it is to tell the truth and to rouse the peace-loving people of India who believe in harmony, to act in time to prevent the Talibanization of India by those who fraudulently claim to act in the name of the majority. And unlike our neighbour, these terrorist groups have never had State support, they have been isolated and dealt with.
India has been and is united against all these acts of terror, regardless of the religious garb the terrorists use to justify their acts. But today, it is India's great misfortune that it has as a Prime Minister a man who can find ways even to divide people in their resistance to terror attacks on an utterly communal agenda.
The record of the Modi Government in defending the accused in such acts of terror such as in the Samjhauta blast or the Malegaon blast by deliberately weakening the case of the prosecution is shameful and a subversion of judicial processes. The judge in the NIA special court in the Samjhauta bomb blast case had to state that he was pained to give the judgement of acquittal of all the accused in a case in which 68 persons including children lost their lives because the "best evidence" was not produced by the prosecution. This utter failure of the NIA, the premier agency to protect national security from acts of terror, by ensuring the conviction of those guilty, was not a case of "the law taking its own course".
It was reportedly a decision taken soon after the Modi Government took power in all the terror cases in which groups linked to Hindutva ideologies were involved. This was first revealed in the Malegaon case when a senior prosecutor, Rohini Salian, said she was asked by a senior officer in the NIA to "go soft" in the case against the accused belonging to an extremist Hindu organization called the Abhinav Bharat. She was later taken off the case. The links with this group with a series of terrorist acts from the Mecca Masjid blast to the Malegaon blast and the Samjhauta blast case were well-established by the previous investigations.
The Sanathan Sanstha, another Hindu fringe organization, has been identified as having links in the terrorist acts which killed Pansare, Kalburgi, Dabholkar and Lankesh. Yet no action has been taken. They too perhaps are confident that just as in the acquittals of Aseemanand and company, the prosecution in their cases also will be such so that the "best evidence" is not presented.
At the time of elections, this communalization of terror is another method used by the BJP leadership to run away from the questions that are uppermost in people's minds. When youth ask where are the jobs you promised us, when kisans ask why has the rate of our suicides increased so much under your regime, when workers ask why did you take away our rights to suit the demands of your big business friends, when women ask where is the security you promised us, when Adivasis ask why are you evicting us from forest land, when Dalits ask why did you throw us into jail for demanding our dignity, the ruling party has one answer: your religion is in danger.
In a few days, the elections will start. As reports surface of their internal surveys showing the erosion of their support in state after state, BJP leaders get ever more desperate in trying to use the communal card. While it is too much to expect them to put an end to a toxic election campaign which harms national interests, it is surely not too much to believe that it is the voters of India who will give them a befitting response.
Brinda Karat is a Politburo member of the CPI(M) and a former Member of the Rajya Sabha.
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