First Person | Weep India Weep

At least now deny terrorism the cloak of religion

Ghazala WahabGhazala Wahab

Never before have issues of internal security and terrorism been as undermined as they have been done in the last few weeks. The entire debate on security, the multifarious nature of terrorism and strengthening of the response mechanism has been reduced to two words by the political class: Hang Afzal. What does it say about India as a country that for the biggest Opposition party and the man who would be prime minister, one fringe person has become symbolic of the nation’s commitment, or lack of it, to ensure security of its people. How much more will issues of national security and national integrity be trivialised at the altar of electoral politics before it is understood that certain subjects should be beyond party politics. Now that we are faced with a new threat, in the form of extremist-Hindutva forces, in addition to the already existing extremist-Islamic forces, it is absolutely critical that Indian political class rise above petty, short-terms objectives. Today, terrorism is not a threat to life and property alone but to the very fabric of Indian nationhood.

There has always been a school of thought that believed that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the most dangerously divisive force in the country. From time to time, the divisiveness has been cleverly couched in educational, social and cultural activities. By assiduously keeping out of politics, the RSS has remained an almost invisible umbrella under which groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bajrang Dal and so on were born and nurtured. And all these years it insidiously penetrated the educational stream in the country (which shapes not only the mind but prejudices too), starting with nursery schools and gradually even colleges.

Such has been the reach and success of the RSS-run educational institutions that one constantly bumps into professional people who have, at some stage or the other, been to one or the other of these schools, colleges or post-graduate institutes. They hold their prejudices (especially against the Muslims who remain outsiders for them) very deeply despite their station in life. It is no secret what version of history is taught in these institutes or what lessons in patriotism are imparted to the young impressionable cadets. There have been several reports from time to time about how the government should exercise better control over the education imparted at these institutions. Given how secretive and shadowy RSS has been and that it has been banned by the government in the past, it is a wonder that during its non-banned phases, government has not insisted upon greater transparency and accountability.

The RSS need not be a terrorist organisation, because what it has been doing and envisages to do is even more destructive then what a mere terrorist attack can do. It has succeeded in converting a large number of people (fortunately, they are still a minority) to its line of exclusivist and divisive thinking, so much so, that the BJP today is convinced that raising the Hindutva banner once again will get it the winning votes. Despite former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee admitting that not sacking the Narendra Modi government was a mistake, Modi has consistently been the BJP star campaigner, even in Delhi. The purported prime minister to be, Lal Krishen Advani, has hitched his political fortunes onto the suspects in the terror strike in Malegaon, even when the investigations are on. He has obviously been advised that this move will propel him to the top job. So unlike the last campaign where the BJP was sticking to economic issues by way of India Shining, today the biggest totem is terrorism, with ‘hang Azfal’ being Advani’s clarion call in his public meetings.

Instead of getting worried and doing some soul-searching about the long term impact of RSS making inroads in the Indian armed forces to such an extent that the officer who takes an oath to protect his motherland indulges in acts of war and sedition against the state for the sake of religion, the BJP has reduced the discussion to Hindu terrorist versus Muslim terrorist. That RSS holds sway over certain officers of the armed forces has been well-known for a while now, given the numbers who flock to the BJP after retirement. But at least, they abided by the honour of the office they held and the uniform they wore as long as they were in service. But the recent Malegaon incident has robbed us of this comfort as well. So far we had to contend with the prejudiced sections among the police, now the spectre of this prejudice creeping in the last bastion of nobility looms.

At the time of writing this piece on November 27, the gun-battle was still going on in Mumbai following the terrorist attack the previous night. Will this attack still be called terrorism or an act of war will have to be seen, but whatever it may be, one thing is clear, terrorism cannot be fought by reaping electoral harvest over the dead. Is it at all possible that in this season of electioneering, we do not trivialise these anti-national activities?


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