Saffron terror are acts of violence that have been described as being motivated by Hindu Nationalism. 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 association of the colour saffron with Hindus.
The first known use of the term "Saffron Terror" is from an 2002 article in Frontline in reference to 2002 Gujarat Riots. 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 alleged Hindu terrorist cell allegedly involved in Malegaon blast. 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. Former Home Minister of India P. Chidambaram urged Indians to beware of "Saffron terror" on 25 August 2010 at a meeting of state police chiefs in New Delhi. Since making the remark, a Hindu Swami in the Patan district has filed a defamation lawsuit against Chidambaram, saying the saffron colour is symbol of Hindu religion and saints across the country wear attire of the same colour .Tirth also said that saffron was symbol of peace and 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 Indian National Congress and 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 term saffron terrorism is a misnomer considering the historical descriptions of 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.
Bhagwa or the [deep] saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work.
— Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
The term has been called as a "myth" by the journalist Balbir Punj who claims that the term is an invention of the Indian National Congress party to demonise their political opposition as "terrorists". Similar views have been expressed by other journalists in India Bahukutumbi Raman, 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 dismisses 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. 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 confessed that he was involved in the bombing of Samjhauta express, a statement later found to be obtained under duress. Aseemanand claimed that he was tortured to give a false statement.
Other alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba to be responsible. United States declared Arif Qasmani, a Pakistani national and allegedly '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 after approaching the United Nations about it. 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, India allegedly by the Hindutva organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its groups. On 22 October 2010, five accused, of which four allegedly belonging to the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh were arrested in connection with the blast. CNN-IBN has reported that it was Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde who forced Bhavesh Patel to implicate Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat and senior leader Indresh Kumar in the terrorist strike. It is also reported that other senior Congress ministers and leaders were also involved.
2008 Malegaon blasts
On 29 September 2008, three bombs exploded in the States of Gujarat and Maharashtra of India killing 8 persons and injuring 80. During investigation in Maharashtra, there were allegations of involvement of a Hindu group 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 Nashik Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court, which had remanded them to police custody till 3 November. On 28 October, the Shiv Sena, in Saamna, came out in support of the accused saying the arrests were merely political in nature. Lending credence to this, party chief, Uddhav Thackeray, pointed out a potential conflict of interest in political rivalry as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) controlled the relevant ministry. His editorial also condemned an attack by NCP party workers on a VHP office in Nashik following the arrest of the sadhvi.
Prasad Shrikant Purohit was also accused of being involved in the blast. His counsel alleged that Purohit was being falsely framed for political reasons and that he could even be eliminated by the ATS because he has intelligence data of a sensitive nature pertaining to Students Islamic Movement of India and Inter-Services Intelligence operations, which could embarrass some quarters. NIA, National Investigative Agency, has found no evidence against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and it has recommended the court to drop all charges against her.
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 tapes 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 R.S.S. 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 General 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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