The contrast and disconnect between the pulse of ordinary Indians and its political class can’t be more glaring. Just when the Indian government is struggling to put the slowing economy back on track and a sufi festival is spreading the message of love and brotherhood, India’s home minister has triggered a thoroughly gratuitous controversy.
Terrorism is terrorism and no ideology can justify it – this is a stand India has been espousing relentlessly in the UN and other international fora, but Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde wants to save the country from what he calls “Hindu terrorism.” In a country with around 800 million Hindus, such a callous description could only trigger rage and heartburns. India’s chief opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has rightfully protested against the remarks and managed to extract an apology. But the apology can hardly mitigate the sense of hurt and could only exacerbate misgivings about the government’s sincerity in addressing pressing problems the country’s aam admi (ordinary people) face day after day. For one thing, rapes and sexual assaults continue despite the massive outrage in the wake of the horrific brutality inflicted on a young physiotherapist over two months ago. And the country has all-too-real security problems that require urgent upgrade in policing and intelligence gathering. This is no time to indulge in empty ideological posturing or scoring political brownie points. One is only hoping that the home minister is sincere when he expressed regret for his “Hindu terrorism” remark Feb 20.
“Since a controversy has been created on account of my statement, I am issuing this clarification and express regret to those who felt hurt by my statement,” Shinde said. The minister insisted that his statement in Jaipur last month has created a misunderstanding. “It has been understood to mean that I was linking terrorism to a particular religion and was accusing certain political organizations of being involved in organizing terror camps. I had no intention of linking terrorism with any religion. There is no basis for suggesting that terror could be linked with the organisations mentioned in my brief speech at Jaipur,” Shinde said. “I will continue to perform my duties to the best of my ability to ensure harmony is maintained in the social fabric of India,” Shinde added.
Speaking at the Congress “chintan shivir” (introspection session) at Jaipur last month, Shinde had said: “Whether it is BJP or RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), their training camps are promoting Hindu terrorism,” he had said.
The BJP has struck a conciliatory note by accepting Shinde’s statement expressing regret over his Hindu terror remarks, but the RSS, a rightwing Hindu organization that is considered as the ideological parent of the BJP, is in no mood to forgive. “Shinde Jaipur comments were derogatory n defamatory. He merely regretted. He shud hv apologised. Also shud hv condemned Pak terrorists…(sic)”, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav tweeted on Feb 21.
“Can we expect d hon’ Home Secretary 2 again defend his boss as he did after Jaipur and state dat his statement was also not based on facts? (sic),” he added. Poured venom on india using his utterances. Also now, what wl d Congi leaders like Digvijay n Mani Aiyer say? Wl they also regret? (sic),” Madhav said.
The BJP, on its part, has warned the home minister not to repeat such “baseless and malicious” remarks. “We accept this regret from the Home Minister but this ought to have come much earlier. Shinde’s comment against the RSS and the BJP was totally unwarranted, baseless and malicious,” BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said. “We hope and trust that Shinde will be cautious in his comments about nationalistic organisation like the BJP and RSS in future and not repeat this again,” he added. The party spokesperson added that Shinde’s remarks must have “gladdened the hearts” of terrorists based in Pakistan. Hafiz Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks known for his vitriolic anti-India rhetoric, has welcomed Shinde’s Hindu terror remarks. Surely, India’s home minister can do without such admirers.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.