The multiple raids organised by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and the arrest of three men affiliated to radical Hindu nationalist groups in Nallasopara and Satara, allegedly with a huge cache of explosives, has once again brought to the fore the role of some fringe groups in terror activities.
It is puerile to describe these misguided elements as Hindu or saffron terrorists just as it is inadvisable to see the terror activities of all Muslims as Muslim terror. Those who indulge in violence and subversion must not be identified by their religion. They are indeed the very antithesis of religiosity and must be dealt with as criminals.
Fundamentalism among Muslims has taken deep roots and led to mushrooming of terror outfits but while terror groups among Hindus are rare, there is no room for complacency on that score.
It is heartening that though there are BJP governments both at the Centre and in Maharashtra, the ATS of Maharashtra has had no qualms about identifying the terror activists and taking steps to bring them to book. In the process, if the police version is to be believed, a major conspiracy to organise terror attacks in the state has been averted with the three arrests.
It is a hard reality that gangs opposed to cow slaughter have been active in Maharashtra and their activities insofar as they impinge on the rights of others need to be nipped in the bud. Among the three suspects arrested was one Vaibhav Raut, allegedly a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti. He is also believed to be a sympathiser of the right wing Sanatan Sanstha which is allegedly involved in the murder of three rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi and the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Another accused, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar from Satara is a member of the Shri Shivapratishthan Hindustan whose chief Sambhaji Bhide had been booked in two criminal cases in connection with violence near Bhima Koregaon on January 1 by Pune police. The third accused, Sharad Kasalkar was arrested along with Raut from his residence in Nallasapara. Live crude bombs and gelatine sticks were allegedly recovered from the accused.
Significantly, information passed on by a Special Investigation Team of Karnataka police probing the murder of Gauri Lankesh is credited with having played a key role in the arrests.
Union Home Minister in the erstwhile UPA government, P Chidambaram, had disturbed a hornet’s nest when he urged Indians to beware of ‘saffron terror’ at a meeting of state police chiefs in New Delhi in 2010. Among others, even the then Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi had objected to this usage, saying that terrorism did not have any colour other than black.
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While most terror attacks have been traced to Muslim groups, a few like the Malegaon blasts, Ajmer Dargah terror attack and the Samjhauta blasts were initially attributed to Hindu nationalists.
It would be appropriate, however, that communal sentiments ought not be aroused by assigning Muslim or Hindu terror tags to terror incidents.
The ATS arrest of the three persons who were allegedly making bombs for subversion must be investigated thoroughly and deterrent punishment meted out to the culprits if their role is proved.
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A proven terrorist is a terrorist who deserves no shielding. It is unfortunate that trial in most terror cases is delayed inordinately. Swift action is indeed the need of the hour. There must be no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or religion.
The credibility of the prosecuting agencies and personnel needs to be above board. Extremist organizations that perpetrate terror must be banned or brought to book through other means. Terror of all hues must be put down with a heavy hand.