India’s anti-minorities bias is so strong that it has failed to acknowledge the threat posed by Hindu radicalism. The state’s pro-Hindu stance has made it paralytic to tackle this extremist phenomenon. The Indian establishment’s response to Hindu nationalists has rarely exceeded mild disparagement.

The Indian Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, surely deserves appreciation for mustering the courage to publicly acknowledge the ground reality of growing Hindu extremism and named the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)  among around two dozen entities, for harbouring, practicing and promoting it. There has been confirmation, as indeed expansion, of his remarks by Home Secretary R.K. Singh, as well as External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. It is not a revelation; it is just an acknowledgement, at the political level, of an open secret.

On the heels of the Home Minister’s statement, Singh elaborated that at least 10 persons involved in a spate of terror attacks in different parts of the country had links with the RSS or its affiliated organisations. He said: “Yes, during the investigation of Samjhauta Express, Makkah Masjid and (Ajmer) Dargah Sharif blasts, we have found at least 10 names, who have been associated with the RSS at some point or the other.......We have evidence against them. There are statements of witnesses.” In the same vein, he made public the names of these 10 persons: one dead, six arrested and three absconded. The names included high-caste Hindus that is the hardcore constituency of RSS and BJP.

Khurshid too endorsed Shinde’s statement, maintaining that it was based “entirely on facts” made available by investigating agencies. “Let me just say this to you very clearly that our stated position, that is shared fully by the Home Minister and past Home Minister, is based entirely on facts as the investigative agencies have made available to the government,” Khurshid said. More important are his remarks that terror has no religion and colour. This backing for Mr Shinde came amid BJP calls for his resignation.

These statements are a breath of fresh air, as previously the entire focus of the Indian leadership had been on maligning Pakistan on the issue of terrorism. Despite the fact that they are excessively being criticised by the RSS and BJP, yet New Delhi seems to be on the self-correction path. The Congress government is now under a lot of pressure to recant Shinde and his accusations. But it should stand firm and launch a comprehensive process of investigation into these matters.

The RSS and BJP are sister organisations; both advocate an extreme rightwing version of Hinduism and have no love lost for minorities, as well as moderate Hindus. Indeed, it was the RSS that was part of the conspiracy leading to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination for his supposed bias towards Muslims and it has not moderated its views since then.

The BJP, which is the second largest political party in the country, has ruled by dividing India along religious and sectarian lines. As the RSS, through the BJP, forms an alternative government of India, this involvement shows that Hindu terrorism is becoming a part of the accepted norm in its mainstream politics. It also negates the Indian claims of secularism and tolerance and respect for all religions.

Apart from the RSS and BJP, a number of organisations, like Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, Abhinav Bharat (Pride of India), Rashtriya Jagran Manch (National Revival Forum), Sri Ram Sena (Army of God Rama), Hindu Dharam Sena (Army for Hindu Religion) and Sanatan Sanstha (Eternal Organisation), are known for having launched violent attacks against Muslims, Christians and other minorities.

The driving force behind Hindu extremism is Hindutva, a doctrine evolved over the years along the lines of Nazism and Fascism to re-establish the supremacy of one race (Brahmin caste) by insisting on Varnashrama (caste system), imposing Sashtras (Vedism), creating a common language (Sanskrit), devising a common culture (Bharatiya Sanskriti), and enacting common laws based on Manu and Vedanta.

In 2002, the BJP government banned the Muslim group, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), citing the its charter that seeks to establish sharia rule in India and the terror charges some of its members were facing. The Tehlka fame journalist, Ajit Sahi, carried out extensive investigations and came out with a startling finding that most of the terrorism-related cases against SIMI activists were fabricated. But the RSS remains at large; it also campaigns very openly for a Hindu state in India and its members perpetrate violence against Muslim and Christian minorities. It is this mindset that breeds a mob psyche, which has led to incidents like massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, demolition of Babri Mosque and persecution of other religious and ethnic minorities.

There are nearly 150 million Muslims in India, but according to official statistics, only 4 percent are graduates, 5 percent have public employment, an overwhelming majority remain locked out of public institutions and their access to government loans and education is severely restricted. From demographics to diet, personal laws to places of worship, Muslims are suspected in everything they do. The Indian state has failed appallingly in its obligations to Muslim citizens. It is unfortunate that the Hindu right gets away so easily by routinely humiliating them.

India has been using the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir to show scant regard in which it holds Pakistan, despite its recent efforts to appease New Delhi, most notably the grant of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status. The recent heightening of tensions was because of India’s aggression on the LoC that was followed by an exercise by the IHK police to prepare the people for nuclear, biological and chemical attacks.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the subcontinent is that terrorism flows only one way, i.e. from Pakistan to India. New Delhi’s recognition that right-wing political parties in India may be training terrorists was, indeed, long overdue.

For the sake of justice, the Congress-led government should sincerely probe the incidents that have led to the massacre of minorities in India, and also counter the RSS and BJP claims that they are being victimised by political opponents. However, if the two parties are found guilty of instigating terrorism and violence in the country, it should not surprise many locally and internationally. The mindset of Hindu right towards the minorities is not expected to change soon; nevertheless, the government’s distancing itself from them is a welcome change!

The writer is a retired air commodore and former assistant chief of air staff of the Pakistan Air Force. At present, he is a member of the visiting faculty at the PAF Air War College, Naval War College and Quaid-i-Azam University.    Email:khalid3408@gmail.com