It is not surprising to see the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in dispute with the term ‘Hindu Terrorist’. The term has been introduced by the Indian media after the recent arrest of five activists of the Hindu Jagaran Manch (HJM), an Indore-based Hindu extremist group and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a former national executive member of BJP’s students wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The arrested persons were allegedly part of the September 29 bomb blasts in the Muslim localities of Malegaon in Maharashtra and Modasa in Gujarat. In an obvious attempt to mislead the investigation, the perpetrators in Malegaon had placed bombs in a motorcycle and parked it below the now-defunct first floor office of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) while the motorcycle used in Modasa had Islamic stickers on its seat. The terror attack is still under investigation by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
The arrest of the Sadhvi has particularly embarrassed the parent body Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its political wing BJP. Photos and video clips of the Sadhvi, seen with prominent BJP leaders including party president Rajnath Singh are widely circulated in the media. As a damage control measure, the RSS and BJP have started to blame the arrests as an ‘ultra-secularists’ ploy, voraciously defending the ‘malicious’ attempt to ‘assail the majority community’ with the terrorist tag. At the same time they have neatly washed off there hands by denying any link with the Sadhvi. However, expelled BJP heavyweight leader Uma Bharati has sprung to the Sadhvi’s defense saying she was shocked to see the BJP disown the Sadhvi and quipped: “they had no problems in using her when they wanted to”.
One of the most virulent forms of terrorism in our times seeks the cover of Islam. It calls its murderous campaign ‘jihad’, thereby trying to justify itself in the eyes of pious God-fearing Muslims. – L. K. Advani, My Country, My Life
The biggest threat the country is facing today is ‘jihadi terrorism’ – Rajnath Singh
It is our adversaries, and not us, who are misrepresenting that the fight against terrorism is fight against Islam and the Muslim community. – L. K. Advani
I want to assure the people that if they vote the BJP led NDA to power at the centre then we will bring a strong law against terrorism to crush the morale of the terrorists who seek to operate in India. – Rajnath Singh
Relating to the choice of words, the BJP has started blaming the media for ‘double standard’. However, along with ‘Hindu Terrorist’ the media is also frequently using the term ‘Islamic Terrorist’ and ‘Islamic Terrorism’. The internet space is flooded with this term, prominently in the pro-Hindutva websites and blogs, even in the ‘reader’s forum’ pages of RSS mouthpiece Organiser. The conscience of the BJP leaders never felt the obligation to openly register a protest against it and was more than happy to relish this media service as it was creating a negative public opinion concerning the Muslim community. How come the media is blamed now for ‘double standard’? Is it not in fact the BJP’s ‘double standard’ tactic to remain mute about ‘Islamic Terrorist’ and proactively oppose the term ‘Hindu Terrorist’?
Why are the BJP so upset by the development?
The first reason is purely ideological. As per their core RSS teaching, the BJP believes that the word ‘Hindu’ is synonymous with the nation. Therefore, the use of the term ‘Hindu Terrorist’ is a direct ‘insult and abuse’ to the Indian Nation and therefore anti-national. This view is best reflected when the BJP spokespersons say that no Hindu can ever be an extremist.
Secondly, the BJP predicts that the development might hinder their meticulously crafted grassroot propaganda (with the muscle of RSS machinery) that all Muslims are potential terrorists – the party blueprint to incite Hindu sentiments on the eve of the next Lok Sabha polls. They are worried that their political opponents now have got a potent weapon against them. Also, in the minds of a vast majority of India’s plural society, the development has reconfirmed their assertion that one of the major cause of terror attacks which has sprung up in different parts of the country is the reaction to a malicious brand of politics practiced in India in the name of ‘nationalism’– the politics of hate.
BJP leaders are therefore proactive to voice their pristine view on terrorism and terrorists. According to them, irrespective of his/her religion or cast, a terrorist is simply a terrorist. Then why link terror with a particular religion? As always, the BJP is emulating their characteristic rhetoric of a calculated ambiguity. They are intensely opposing the ‘Hindu’ tag but not explicitly opposing the words ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ tagged with terrorism. Not a single statement issued by the party has specifically said that they are also against the term ‘Muslim Terrorist’.
BJP’s five point defense strategy is simple:
1. Not to use the term ‘Muslim Terrorism’ directly from public platforms. Instead, use ‘Jihadi Terrorism’ or ‘Islamic Jihadi’.
2. To proclaim with determination that no Hindu can ever be an extremist.
3. To intensely counter the term ‘Hindu Terrorist’ from all forums with the pretext that BJP have always believed that terror has no religion.
4. To be clamorous about homegrown jihadi cells; ‘terrorist factories’ of Azamgarh and SIMI. Link all terror attacks with Pakistan (which the Parivar considers to be a terrorist state) and Bangladesh, and constantly harp on about Bangladeshi infiltration. Talk about bringing a robust law (even stronger than POTA) against terrorism to crush the morale of the terrorists if BJP led NDA is voted back in power.
5. Diminish all secular voices by calling them ‘pseudo secular’ or ‘ultra-secular’. In response to all political adversaries, constantly go on saying that they are all ‘appeasing’ the minority community just to gain the minority votes.
The BJP leadership has strategized that persisting on these five points will facilitate a duel purpose. In one way it will help the party to craft a pan-Indian image, comfortable to various political partners and the section of the Hindu public who are not yet prepared to sanction a militant Hindu programme. Simultaneously it will also keep its cadres assured that the core Hindutva schema – building the Hindu Rashtra, is preserved as a hidden agenda which will be exposed in proper time.
This moderation to channelize its core Hindu nationalist and anti-Muslim position through a more agreeable ‘patriotic’ and ‘anti-foreign enemy’ (Pakistan, Bangladesh and jihadi terrorism) approach is largely due to the BJP’s coalition building compulsion. In his detailed study 'The BJP at the Centre', the French scholar Christophe Jaffrelot has noted that, “The moderation of BJP does not follow a linear trend but represents merely a phase reflecting its capacity to alternate moderation and extremism”. (Emphasis added) Party strategists think it to be a more pragmatic approach by which the party will build an acceptable mask in front of the public at the eve of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. As famously disclosed by the former BJP theoretician K.N. Govindacharya that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was presented as a mukota (mask), today, the whole party is in the finishing stage of a process to conceal behind a mask covering its Hindutva face.
One thing is for sure – this strategy is not to persuade the Muslims of India. It is actually intended for a different audience – the millions of (pseudo!) secular minded Hindus of India who still condemn the hateful ideology and agenda of the BJP. To bring them into their fold through its coalition allies, the BJP with the approval of RSS had already dropped contentious issues like Ram temple construction, abolition of Article 370 and imposition of a uniform civil code from its ‘national agenda’. This is why the 1999 election manifesto of BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) promised a ‘moratorium on contentious issues’. While justifying this new discourse and change of their political line, the top leaders of BJP had brought into play big words like ‘commitment to good governance’, ‘responsible party, alive to the interests of all section or society’ and ‘no place for an ideological party in India today’. A steady supply of skillfully practiced ambiguous words and more words has become a definite characteristic of the party.
The BJP leaders and spokespersons have mastered the art of twisting political jargon according to the demand of the situation and blending them in an ambiguous manner into their rhetoric. The one word ‘pseudo’ is a most endearing word in the Sangh lexicon and the users have almost turned the word into a cliché. It is been freely used against any person who disagrees to the ideology or opinion. The hydra-headed Parivar affiliates are even using the word within the brotherhood to tweak each other. The great Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also not spared and called a ‘pseudo Hindu’ by Acharya Giriraj Kishor, the senior vice-president of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) the religious and proselytization wing of RSS, when the Vajpayee led NDA government did not give priority to facilitate building the Ram temple in Ayodhya. BJP’s cerebral makeup has been perfectly exposed by the lawyer and constitutional expert A.G. Noorani: “Deceit and deception are integral to the RSS-BJP strategy”.
The leadership of BJP considers the Indian public as fools.
This blogger in a previous post has argued that terrorism primarily emerges from socio-economic reasons that create a feeling of frustration and grievances within a section of the society. This frustration and grievances lead towards aggression and is modified into a political tactic when the section starts believing that no other means will affect the kind of change they desire. Its method and strategy generally follows a similar line of committing acts of violence but with variable causes and targets that depends on whose point of view is being represented.
Terrorism is a deeply complex subject and cannot be connected with religion alone. The BJP is deceitful while propagating the same thing today. It remains as a fact that equating Muslims with terrorism is totally a RSS-BJP making – an integral part of their wider Hindutva agenda.