The dark side of Hindu nationalism?
The slow peeling of the onion around the involvement of Hindu militants in the Malegaon and Modasa bomb blasts last month in the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in September has shown a murky network of religious radicals that may have both implications for India’s politics as well as its anti-terrorist policies.
For years, bombs in India have mostly been blamed on Islamist militants. Even attacks on mosques were often blamed on Islamists seeking to spark communal tensions between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims.
Both national and international press have focused on the growing Indian-born Islamist militants who are trying to attack the Indian state.
A widespread crackdown on suspected Islamist militants following the bomb attacks this year that killed scores of people in several Indian cities led Muslim leaders to accuse authorities of conducting a witch hunt and reinforcing stereotypes about their community
But the recent revelations of possible involvement of Hindu militants in some bomb blasts show that the Indian state could be soon fighting a anti-terrorist war on two fronts. Five people were killed in the Malegaon and Modasa blasts that hit the two Muslim-dominated towns within minutes of each other on Sept. 29.
In a thoughtful article in the Mail Today, Manoj Joshi wrote that a series of mysterious and unresolved attacks in recent years that, with hindsight, may have been the work of Hindu militants.
What is also worrying for India are the links of former army officials in the Malegaon attacks. They have been arrested as part of what police say is a “larger conspiracy.” How deep does this Hindu militancy go?
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be uneasy with these revelations, with reports the suspected in the blasts are linked to the BJP youth wing.
BJP president Rajnath Singh has defended one of the accused in the Malegaon. blasts, breaking a party line that saw the party condemn terrorism and allow the law to take its course.
But outspoken comments by Singh are hardly likely to benefit a party that is fighting crucial state elections this year, seen as a dress rehearsal for general elections due by May, 2009.
Only a month ago the BJP appeared to be on the offensive, attacking the ruling Congress government over its failure to stop serial blasts around Indian cities that have killed scores of people.
Now it appears more on the defensive, uneasy about the possibility Hindus are involved in terrorism.
One thing appears certain. As elections approach, the question of how India deals with violence from its Hindu or Muslim militants will come to the forefront.