Saffron terror is a neologism used to describe acts of violence motivated by Hindu nationalism. The acts are allegedly perpetrated by members, or alleged members of Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Abhinav Bharat. However, in some cases the motivation for the acts has not been clearly determined, and in others it has been determined to be unrelated to Hindu nationalism. The term comes from the symbolic use made of the saffron color by the Hindu nationalist organisations.
The first known use of the term "Saffron Terror" is from an 2002 article in Frontline. However it was in the aftermath of the 29 September 2008 bomb blast in the predominantly Muslim town of Malegaon in Maharashtra that it came to be used widely. In late 2008, Indian police arrested members of a Hindu terrorist cell allegedly involved in Malegaon blast. The blame for several of these attacks has been placed on radical Islamist groups; one group, which calls itself Indian Mujahedeen, claimed responsibility for several attacks.[relevant? ] Former Home Minister of India P. Chidambaram urged Indians to beware of "Saffron terror" in August 2010 at a meeting of state police chiefs in New Delhi. Since making that remark, a Hindu Swami in the Patan district has filed a defamation lawsuit against Chidambaram, saying that the saffron colour is symbol of Hindu religion and that saints across the country wear attire of the same colour. The Swami also said that saffron was a symbol of peace, sacrifice and God, and that Chidambaram has hurt the sentiments of Hindus by linking the symbol with terrorism. On 6 September 2010, a Gujarat court ordered a probe into the use of the term by Chidambaram. Chidambaram was also criticised by members of his own party (the Indian National Congress) for the use of the term, with Congress spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi claiming "terrorism does not have any colour other than black".
The saffron colour appears in the party flags of various national parties of India like the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janatha Party. Saffron-coloured flag is commonly seen in most temples in India. Buddhist monks typically wear saffron robes as a symbol of wisdom. It has been debated that the term "saffron terrorism" is a misnomer considering the historical descriptions of the saffron colour compared to the definitions of terrorism. Saffron is the colour of the upper band of the Indian National Flag. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who was India's first Vice-President and second President, described the saffron colour as follows.
The term "saffron terror" has been called a "myth" by the journalist Balbir Punj who claims that it is an invention of the Congress party to demonise their political opposition as "terrorists". Similar views have been expressed by other journalists in India. Bahukutumbi Raman, a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), criticised the term as a tool for political posturing toward the Muslim minority.[dubious ] Kanchan Gupta and Swapan Dasgupta, have accused investigators of making statements using "saffron terror" to the media to promote the agenda of the Congress. Raman accused the media of measuring Muslim and Hindu suspects by different yardsticks.
The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) president, Rajnath Singh, spoke of a "political conspiracy" aimed at the "vilification of Hindu saints and army officers in the name of Hindu terrorism". In 2010, the internet whistleblower organisation WikiLeaks released US embassy cables in which The US ambassador to India scornfully dismissed suggestions by an Indian minister that the death of Hemant Karkare, a senior anti-terrorism investigator killed by Islamist militants during the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was somehow orchestrated by Hindu extremists. The term "saffron terror" was prominently used by some Congress party members in this campaign, most prominently by Digvijay Singh. The BJP criticised these statements and filed a complaint with the Election Commission of India citing it as a violation of the Model Code of Conduct for political parties. The Election Commission issued a show-cause notice to Digvijay Singh on this complaint. The Hindu spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also criticised it saying that it is a myth and insult to Hindu religion, which he said is the most tolerant religion.
Alleged acts of saffron terror
Hindu extremist organisations have been accused of involvement in terrorist attacks like 2006 Malegaon blasts, Mecca Masjid bombing (Hyderabad), Samjhauta Express bombings and the Ajmer sharif dargah blast.
2007 Samjhauta Express bombings
Twin blasts shook two coaches of the Samjhauta Express around midnight on 18 February 2007. Sixty-eight people were killed in the ensuing fire and dozens were injured. It has been allegedly linked to Abhinav Bharat, a Hindu fundamentalist group. In November 2008, it was reported that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) suspected the attacks were linked to Prasad Shrikant Purohit, an Indian army officer and member of Abhinav Bharat. Purohit himself claimed that he had "infiltrated" the Abhinav Bharat. During an army's Court of Inquiry, 59 witnesses stated to the court, along with Officers who testified, that Purohit was doing his job of gathering intelligence inputs by infiltrating extremist organisations. On 8 January 2011, Swami Aseemanand, a pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), confessed that he was involved in the bombing of Samjhauta express, a statement he later claimed to have made under duress. Aseemanand claimed that he was tortured to give a false statement.
There have also been allegations that Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible for the bombings. The United States declared Arif Qasmani, a Pakistani national and alleged 'LeT financier', to be the chief coordinator of the 2006 train bombing in Mumbai as well as the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, and labelled him an international terrorist via the United Nations. As of 2013, nobody has been convicted for the crime in India.
Ajmer Dargah attack
The Ajmer Dargah blast occurred on 11 October 2007, outside the Dargah (shrine) of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan, allegedly by the Hindutva organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its groups. On 22 October 2010, five accused perpetrators, of which four said to belong to the RSS, were arrested in connection with the blast. Swami Aseemanand, in his confession, implicated the then General Secretary Mohan Bhagwat for ordering the terrorist strike. Bhavesh Patel, another accused in the bombings, has corroborated these statements but later said that the Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde forced him to implicate the RSS leaders. Some other senior Congress leaders were also mentioned.
2008 Malegaon blasts
On 29 September 2008, three bombs exploded in the States of Gujarat and Maharashtra killing 8 persons and injuring 80. During the investigation in Maharashtra, a Hindu group was alleged to have been involved in the blasts. Three of the arrested persons were identified as Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu. All three were produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Nashik, which remanded them to custody till 3 November. On 28 October, the Shiv Sena, came out in support of the accused saying that the arrests were merely political in nature. Lending credence to this, the party chief, Uddhav Thackeray, pointed out a potential conflict of interest in political rivalry as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) controlled the relevant ministry. NIA, National Investigation Agency, has found no evidence against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and it has recommended the court to drop all charges against her.
The Army officer Prasad Shrikant Purohit was also accused of being involved in the blast. His counsel alleged that he was being falsely framed for political reasons because he has intelligence data of a sensitive nature pertaining to the operations of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, which could embarrass some quarters.
Mecca Masjid bombing
The Mecca Masjid bombing occurred on 18 May 2007 inside the Mecca Masjid, a mosque in Hyderabad. Fourteen people were reported dead in the immediate aftermath. The National Investigation Agency, Central Bureau of Investigation and Anti Terrorist Squad (India) questioned former members of the RSS On 19 November 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation produced Swami Aseemanand before the court in connection with the Blast. But later he has retracted the confession citing the mental and physical pressure to provide that confession. The Special investigation Team (SIT) of Hyderabad Police arrested ‘south India commander’ of the LeT, identified as Shaik Abdul Khaja alias Amjad, from Afzalgunj area of the city. Police said that the arrestee was linked to Mohammed Abdul Shahid Bilal, key suspect in the bombing.
The South Asia Terrorism Portal, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, the National Counter-terrorism Center the United States, and the United Nations reported that Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami was actually behind the attacks while excluding involvement by any Hindu group. Noting this, security analyst Bahukutumbi Raman has questioned "the two different versions that have emerged from Indian and American investigators." The South Asia Terrorism Portal cited Vikar Ahmed as a main suspect in the blast. Mohammed Abdul Shahid Bilal, former chief of HuJI’s Indian operations, is also regarded as a key suspect in the Mecca Masjid bombing. Later he was shot by unknown gunmen in Karachi on 30 August 2007.
Members of Abhinav Bharat have been alleged to have been involved in a plot to kill Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh President Mohan Bhagwat, allegedly with the help of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Headlines Today released a recorded video tested by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory which indicated the uncovering of an alleged plot to assassinate the Vice-President of India Hamid Ansari. Tehelka also released alleged audio tape transcripts of main conspirators of Abhinav Bharat, which indicated involvement of Military intelligence officers with the Abhinav Bharat group, in their January 2011 edition.
The Indian Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh said that at least 10 people having close links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliated organisations were named accused in various acts of terror across India.
According to released documents by WikiLeaks, Congress(I) party's general secretary Rahul Gandhi remarked to US Ambassador Timothy Roemer, at a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister of India at his residence in July 2009, that the RSS was a "bigger threat" to India than the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Panchjanya recorded that the statement showed that Gandhi "is totally unaware of the history of Hindutva as well as the concept of nationalism." At The Annual Conference of Director Generals of Police held in New Delhi on 16 September 2011, a special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) reportedly informed the state police chiefs that Hindutva activists have either been suspected or are under investigation in 16 incidents of bomb blasts in the country.
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