Sunday, February 23, 2014

Unending Amnesia over Hindutva Terror

ASEEMANAND’S “description of the plot in which he was involved became increasingly detailed. In our third and fourth interviews, he told me that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS — all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time. Aseemanand told me that Bhagwat said of the violence, ‘It’s very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.’

“Aseemanand told me about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. In a tent pitched by a river several kilometres away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi. Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, ‘You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.’

This comes from a reportage titled “The Believer: Swami Aseemanand’s Radical Service to the Sangh,” by Leena Gita Raghunath in the February 1, 2014, issue of magazine The Caravan.


That ‘law is an ass’ is a phrase which was used first by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist. In a completely different context today, however, it finds a deep resonance in this part of South Asia. And nothing illustrates this better than the predicament of what is popularly known as Hindutva terror.

Unprecedented is the manner in which persons who supposedly have been planners, masterminds, funders of the whole operations have been allowed to go scot-free; the way in which one finds the acquittal of the accused in case after case; the audacity with which a supposedly secular government has declined to ban proto-fascist organisations who were found to be involved in criminal terrorist operations; and the apathy with which the media, which call themselves the watchdogs of democracy --- have preferred to soft-pedal the threat it poses to the foundations of the republic itself.

And the less said about the curious case of Lt Col Purohit, the better it is. This gentleman, who was with the Military Intelligence Wing, is languishing in jail since the last more than five years as an accused and key figure in many terror attacks, involving many RSS and other Hindutva activists, but has yet not been suspended by his bosses. Today he is in an unenviable situation of the kind the world has rarely witnessed, where he is regularly receiving his salary with all the doles involved. (As an aside, it need be mentioned here that this information was made available to the outside world by one of his co-accused himself --- a former army-man Ramesh Upadhyaya --- who filed an RTI application to get the information.) And the Supreme Court has blocked the National Investigating Agency (NIA) from questioning him.

But the most urgent thing on the agenda is the fresh revelation that top leaders of the Hindutva brigade were not only very much in the know of this violent phase but were in fact its real patrons.

In her reportage quoted above, Leena Gita Raghunath has provided details of her four interviews with Assemanand in a span of more than two years, which bring forth this lesser reported aspect. The total duration of these interviews ran into 09 hours and 26 minutes

It is widely reported that Assemanand, who started to work with the RSS since his childhood and later focused his activities on an organisation called Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is a present on trial on charges which include murder, criminal conspiracy and sedition, in connection with three bombings which caused 82 deaths. His name also finds mention in two other chargesheets involving two other blast cases, but he has not yet been formally declared an accused. Together, these five attacks killed 119 people.


This man who, according to the author of the said reportage, “is perhaps the most prominent face of Hindu extremist terrorism,” is happy that he has been ‘kept in the same cell as Gopal Godse,’ and by his “….own account, hosted planning sessions, selected targets, provided funds for the construction of IEDs, and sheltered and otherwise aided those who planted the bombs.”

Describing his meetings with the RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat and one of its key leaders, Indresh Kumar, Aseemanand told the author the following:

“Then they told me, ‘Swamiji, if you do; this we will be at ease with it. Nothing wrong will happen then. Criminalisation nahin hoga (It will not be criminalised). If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.’ ”

She also describes how the “Chargesheets filed by the investigative agencies allege that Kumar provided moral and material support to the conspirators, but they don’t implicate anyone as senior as Bhagwat. Although Kumar was interrogated once by the CBI, the case was later taken over by the NIA, which has not pursued the conspiracy past the level of Aseemanand and Pragya Singh.”

It is important to note that despite the criminal-terrorist role played by Aseemanand, to date neither the RSS nor the BJP have disowned him for his role, nor have they taken back the award (Special Guruji Samman) which was given to him for his ‘meritorious service to the Sangh’ which was awarded to him on the occasion of the birth centenary of M S Golwalkar (2005). Aseemanand also confessed to The Caravan that RSS-affiliated lawyers are providing his legal aid.

According to a press release issued by editor and executive editor of The Caravan, Mr Anant Nath and Dr Vinod K Jose, respectively ---
“Knowing the national relevance of the sensitive information that Aseemanand revealed to The Caravan journalist in an interview which was conducted with the full consent of Aseemanand, we place these facts in front of the public, along with a tape recording and transcript of parts of the conversation that mention Mohan Bhagwat.”


This is not for the first time that such allegations have been raised against leaders of RSS. Many of those activists of RSS or other Hindutva organisations, who are behind bars for their role in different terror acts, had shared with the investigating agencies their interaction with top leaders of RSS, especially Indresh Kumar, during different phases of the work or the instructions allegedly given by him or the mobilisation of funds he supposedly did for these terror acts. But this is probably for the first time that Mohan Bhagwat --- a third generation RSS worker and its present supremo --- has been directly indicted by one of the accused.

All of us have been witness how the RSS reacted to the allegations against Indresh which first emerged in late 2010 and how it closed ranks behind him. Dharnas were organised in different parts of the country to protest the ‘anti-Hindu’ UPA dispensation at the centre which is on a ‘witch-hunt mission.’ In an unprecedented move, the Sangh supremo Mohan Bhagwat also participated in one such dharnas.

An important fallout of these dharnas was that all the talk of Indresh Kumar’s ‘imminent arrest’ just died down. Neither the investigating agencies seemed keen to interrogate him nor the ruling party at the centre appeared keen to take the investigations to their logical conclusion despite the political resolution adopted by the Congress party at Burari (2010) to launch a “full probe into the RSS's alleged terror links.”

Leena further adds: “An officer at one of the investigating agencies, on the condition of anonymity, allowed me to inspect a secret report submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The report requested that the MHA send a show-cause notice to RSS authorities, asking why the organisation should not be banned in light of the evidence against them. The MHA has not yet acted on the recommendation.”

She also describes the obstacles faced by the NIA in pursuing the cases. For example, the Supreme Court restrained the agency from interrogating Pragya Singh in the murder of Sunil Joshi in July 2012, on the specious ground that the case’s FIR was filed before the inception of the agency.

One does not know how the trials in these case would proceed and for how long.


But the most important point on the immediate agenda is whether there would be fresh investigations to interrogate and nab the real planners whose faces this exposure by Aseemanand makes quite clear. Whether the UPA government which wears secularism on its sleeves would gather enough courage to go behind the planters or actual executioners --- in fact the real pawns in the game --- and go after the real masterminds? Would the Congress gather courage to confront all those higher-ups in the Hindutva brigade who ‘blessed’ this killing of the innocent to further their agenda of hatred and disharmony?

It was the fag end of the year 2010 when Rahul Gandhi had frankly admitted that “The risk of a “home grown” extremist front, reacting to terror attacks coming from Pakistan or from Islamist groups in India, was a growing concern and one that demanded constant attention” (quoted in The Indian Express, December 18, 2010). But we know very well that things did not move in the direction which his understanding entailed.

Definitely a lot depends upon the way the secular and Left forces react to the present situation. The deciding factor would be whether they would limit themselves to sterile criticism of the role of the ‘dynasty’ and its cronies or they would strategise in such a manner that such majoritarian forces, who are a danger to the very idea of the republic, are put on the defensive.

Aseemanand’s revelation could be a new starting point.

Subhash Gatade People's Democracy

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