Friday 30 December 2011


In a curious convergence of views, policymakers—regardless of the party in power—administrators/police and journalists appear to be united in the belief that to put the activities of Hindu militant organisations under the scanner, in the way their Muslim counterparts are, would somehow upset the social balance.Take the Bajrang Dal, the 12.5 lakh strong (official figure) armed youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliate of the RSS, with units across the country. From the destruction of the Babri Masjid
in 1992—after which it was briefly banned—to the post-Godhra massacres in 2002, and the violence it routinely wreaks on Christian tribals in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, it has provided enough evidence of its appetite for bloodletting.

Today, once again, the Bajrang Dal—which had kept a low profile after the fall of the BJP-led NDA government in 2004—is in the news, thanks to a range of violent activities across the country. Whether providing muscle to the Amarnath agitation in Jammu, terrorising Christian tribals in Orissa, making bombs of lethal intensity in Kanpur or building a terror network across Maharashtra, it all appears to be part of a day's work.
The question now being asked, especially by civil rights organisations, is: is it time to ban the Bajrang Dal again? Queried on the subject—especially in the context of Orissa—Congress spokesperson and central minister Ajay Maken hesitated to go beyond saying: "For the first time after the post-Godhra violence, we have met the President to demand a CBI inquiry. If such an inquiry finds the organisation is the culprit, then its recognition has to be taken away."The Dal's activities in Orissa and in the Jammu region have been dubious enough to warrant investigation, if not action. In Orissa, it has been at the forefront of the current violence against Christian tribals, following the murder of a VHP leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, by Maoist groups. The toll has been huge: reports say 558 houses and 17 places of worship have been burnt in riots, and 12,539 people have taken shelter in 10 relief camps. That, in itself, should warrant action by the state.

In the Jammu region, the Bajrang Dal's activities have been less well-documented. But police sources say it provided the muscle for the violent Amarnath agitation. In May 2004, Surendra Jain, the VHP all-India secretary of the Bajrang Dal, admitted in an interview that the organisation had members who worked "undercover" in Hindu-dominated villages in Jammu, Poonch, Doda and Rajouri. They had penetrated, he said, the village defence committees set up to combat terrorism without fellow committee members knowing anything about their allegiance to the Bajrang Dal. An IPS officer familiar with the BD's activities told Outlook, "Purely civil society organisations could not have sustained an agitation of such intensity without the help of the Bajrang Dal and the VHP."

Even more sinister is the way in which over the last four or five years the Bajrang Dal has begun to change its methods of operation—from group violence to covert violence patterned on international terror groups. The most recent instance came to light when on August 24 this year, two Bajrang Dal activists, Rajeev Mishra and Bhupinder Singh, died while making explosive devices.Kanpur zone IGP S.N. Singh told journalists that investigations by UP's Special Task Force had revealed "plans for a massive explosion". The police had recovered 3 kg lead oxide, 500 grammes red lead, 1 kg potassium nitrate, 11 countrymade grenades, several bomb pins, seven timers and batteries from the scene of the blast. The countrymade hand grenades were similar in shape and size to those used by the defence forces.

In police raids on Bhupinder Singh's Lajpat Nagar photo studio and his residence, the police found a diary and a hand-drawn map of minority-dominated Ferozabad. The police is also exploring the possibility that the explosives and the grenades were intended for use during the month of Ramzan, as the map has markings of at least five spots—possible targets. Apparently, exit and entry points were marked, and a small, marked rectangle matches with the location of the town's railway station.

The Kanpur case is, of course, still being investigated. But the latest issue of Communalism Combat runs an article by activist Teesta Setalvad which makes the shocking revelation—on the basis of documents accessed through the RTI Act—that the CBI diluted a detailed and damaging investigation by the Maharashtra ATS on a similar incident in Nanded in Maharashtra in 2006, where two Bajrang Dal activists died while making explosives. The painstaking ATS investigation established the presence of a large Hindu terror network across the state.

The Nanded bomb blasts of April 4-5, 2006, at the residence of RSS worker Laxman Rajkondwar killed two Bajrang Dal/VHP workers, Naresh Rajkondwar and Himanshu Panse. These investigations revealed that the bomb blasts at Nanded and in other Maharashtra towns, Parbhani, Jalna and Purna, were no ordinary crimes—the Dal had been assembling bombs to target mosques, camouflaging their entire operation to resemble a terror operation run by Muslims, including disguising themselves as members of the minority community. Diaries, documents, maps and mobile telephone numbers were also unearthed from the houses of the accused.

The ATS investigations also revealed that three dozen-odd Bajrang Dalis from all over Maharashtra were trained in Pune, while another 100 from all over India were similarly trained in Nagpur. The men who trained the Dal's cadres included retired officers of the country's military and intelligence services.

Today, all the guilty are out on bail. The CBI has watered down the entire case. For instance, the two ATS chargesheets accuse 11 persons of being part of a criminal conspiracy involving terrorist acts. But the CBI, ignoring the forward or backward linkages to the explosion at Rajkondwar's house, has held the six accused present (and who died or were seriously injured in the incident) as collectively responsible only for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and certain offences under the Explosive Substances and Arms Act—in short, it did not include any terrorism link.

Clearly, there is enough to suggest a cover-up and a reluctance to even examine the possibility of a nascent Hindu terror network. A police officer familiar with the subject told Outlook:"While it may be true that an organisation like the Bajrang Dal is not yet as powerful in its capacity to make bombs as other terror groups, it has the knowhow. For instance, in Gujarat in 2002, 500-600 bombs went off—a majority were linked to Hindu organisations. In Orissa, the police have legally recorded a conversation between two local BJP leaders about how violence in that state will help the party politically. These are all links that need to be examined." Isn't it time to act?

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