Going soft on saffron extremists?
Nobody would disagree with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he, during his “Mann Ki Baat” programme on June 26, described 1975 Emergency period as the “darkest night for democracy”.
But Modi’s critics will not be wrong if they charge his government with introducing a ‘soft’ version of Emergency by taking contradictory stands on some crucial issues. Its biggest example is adoption of double standards on anti-terrorism issue and his party hotheads’ divisive actions.
During his visit to Saudi Arabia in April, he stressed the need to “delink” religion from terrorism. But while condemning linking of religion with terrorism, the ruling establishment has been trying to dilute cases against Sangh Parivar’s extremist Hindu bodies allegedly involved in terror acts.
The latest examples are the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts case and February 18-19, 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts which killed 68 people, mostly from Pakistan and injured 12.
In the Malegaon bomb blast case, Mumbai’s special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on June 28 rejected the bail plea of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur who was one of the accused.
Some weeks back, the NIA had given a clean chit to Sadhvi on the ground that it did not have enough evidence against her and five others and, therefore, dropping cases against them.
The NIA stand was reversal of its stand taken before the Modi government came to power. Then the NIA and the Maharashtra Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad had declared that they had enough evidence against Sadhvi and other right-wing extremist Hindus.
After the clean chit given by the NIA, Pragya applied for bail which the NIA Special Court has now rejected making adverse comments.
It is evident that the government has been making efforts to get the Sangh Parivar’s hardline affiliates who have been facing terror charges, off the hook. This was also revealed by Rohini Salian, the Special Public Prosecutor in the Malegaon blast case.
A few weeks back she had revealed that soon after the BJP came to power she was told by an officer of the NIA, who would not discuss the Pragya case over phone that she needed to “go soft” in the case. It was a message he was passing on, Salian said.
Denial of bail to Pragya puts focus on the NIA’s shoddy probe, which may become its modus operandi in handling other terror cases the Sangh Parivar’s affiliates are facing.
For instance, in the 2007 Samjhauta Express bomb blast case being heard by Panchkula Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court, 19 prosecution witnesses have already turned hostile.
The happenings of the last two years follow the RSS getting appointed its loyalists considered mediocre as heads of some of the national institutions of excellence.
These appointments evoked wide criticism including protests from those to serve whom these institutions were set up. Its three examples were the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as FTII chief, Pahlaj Nihalani as Censor Board Chief and cricketer Chetan Chauhan as chief of NIFT.
Their standing in their respective professional fields needs no comments! The law of sedition which governments have been using against its opponents has also been called into question by various quarters.
Several Supreme Court judgments have held that allegedly seditious speech and expression may be punished only if the speech is an “incitement” to “violence”, or “public disorder”.
The media has been carrying reports about curbing of dissenting voices, charging the ruling leadership with indulging in politics of vendetta and launching of sedition cases against its critics including some national universities students unions leaders.
No such action has, however, been taken against the BJP leaders including some ministers, MPs, MLAs and their sycophant babas, sadhus and sadhvis who have been making hate and provocative statements which tend to incite violence.
Instead of the government taking action against ‘dignitaries’ including Subramanian Swami making provocative speeches, the prime minister told a TV channel anchor last week “I would like to tell the media not to make heroes out of those people who make (divisive) comments”.
But, besides sermonising the media, Modi himself won’t take action against his own party leaders who have been making provocative and divisive speeches. Prominent among such “dignitaries” are yoga guru-cum- politician-cum business tycoon and BJP’s nominated Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swami.
Ramdev who has been making hate and incendiary speeches recently said but for the law he would have beheaded lakhs of people who refused to chant “bharat mata ki jai”. But ignoring the Supreme Court’s views on seditious speeches and expression of “incitement” to “violence”, the government has not taken any action against him.
The biggest example of Ramdev’s violating the law was his trying to flee in a woman’s attire from Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on June 6, 2011 when the police raided for arresting those holding the function in violation of the prohibitory orders.
When newsmen asked him about his act of shedding the saffron attire and posing as an injured woman in trying to escape from the protest site following the police crackdown, Ramdev justified his act saying “It was not a sign of weakness to be in a woman’s dress. A mother gives birth to a man.”
Two hours after slipping from the stage in a woman’s attire he was caught posing as an injured woman wearing a white salwar suit with his head covered with a dupatta.
He was pretending to be moving with the support of two women around whom he put his arms. These developments coupled with the attempts being made to polarise country’s plurality, particularly of the biggest populous state of UP, may prove costly to the saffron party in the five state assemblies elections to be held in 2017.
“The faith is not the problem. The problem is the faithful.” The saying by the American author Robert Ferrigno is applicable on Indian politicians.
* In a startling revelation, Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor in the Malegaon 2008 case has revealed that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had asked her to go “soft” in the case after the NDA government came to power. Salian said she got a call from one of the officers at NIA last year who didn’t want to speak everything over the phone but instead wanted to meet her.
* Modi was present on an occasion representing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) point of the view on the subject. As the debate began, Modi delivered a shocking remark stating that despite the activities which had been going on, the Indian media was so caught up in “pseudo-secularism” that they were afraid of using the term “Islamic terrorism”.
* Many believe that Modi has to outgrow his own prejudices. If extremism by a bunch of Hindus cannot be described as saffron terrorism then neither can one label the activities of al-Qaeda and ISIS as Islamic terrorism. The process of racial profiling which, according to them, has to be halted and the first person who needs to change his mentality is Narendra Modi.