The UPA Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, is but the umpteenth to repeat in public the notion of “Hindu terrorism” and to apply it to the RSS and BJP. Predictably, the RSS and BJP react furiously. They say they have nothing to do with Hindu terrorism, and that the lone Hindu terrorist Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi and hanged 63 years ago, was not a member.

Nathuram Godse

To start with the last point: ideologically, Nathuram Godse had remained an RSS man, singing an RSS hymn to Mother India on his way to the gallows. His brother Gopal Godse testified in several interviews, including to myself, that Nathuram had emphasized his quitting the non-political RSS (for the political party Hindu Mahasabha) in order to provide the RSS some breathing distance to his own inevitably demonized person. His non-membership was an organizational technicality, but ideologically, he had remained with the RSS. That way, at least, Gopal liked to pull the leg of the “soft” RSS and its even softer political party, the BJP. However, I think Nathuram’s non-membership was essential in the one respect that is crucial here: if he had been a full RSS man, his superiors would have told him not to commit the assassination.

No matter what its ideological position, the RSS was first and foremost an organization. It had a purpose, and considered itself important to the realization of that purpose. So, it wanted to safeguard itself. Now, the crackdown on the RSS and other Hindu organizations after the Gandhi assassination in 1948 was perfectly foreseeable. On the other hand, Gandhi was discredited by his non-resistance against the Partition and its attendant calamities. The Hindu movement had been proven right and had the wind in the sails. The assassination changed all that completely: the grip on society by Jawaharlal Nehru and his secularism was enormously strengthened while the Hindu movement was marginalized and thrown back for decades.

It is unlikely that the RSS felt suicidal and would want to bring this setback on itself. An RSS member would have thought of the consequences to the organization and the wider Hindu movement. Only a non-member, ideologically on the same wavelength as the Hindu nationalists but organizationally a lone wolf, could commit this murder. In the RSS, the widespread anti-Gandhi sentiment was suppressed by the even higher consideration of the Sangh’s own welfare. But Godse made himself the instrument of this much wider sentiment, shared by many suffering Hindus who had never been near the RSS. That is why leftists who blame the RSS for the murder of Gandhi are wrong.

For the same reason, they are wrong in associating the RSS or the BJP with terrorism. More than any other organizations in India, the RSS and its allies know that if anything happens, they will get the blame. Even they are not stupid enough to smash their own windows by engaging in terrorism. But numerous Hindus are on the same Hindu nationalist wavelength without being members, and some of them may be tempted by hit-and-run alternatives rather than by the characteristic discipline of the RSS. I have already remarked that many Hindu initiatives are seeing the light of day without any RSS affiliation. That counts for those disappointed with the weak-kneed policies of the RSS, or with its anti-intellectual inclination, or with its appeasement of the non-Hindus; but it may also take the form of nuclei of militants who want “direct action”.

Suspicion

Now fast forward to the present. Does it exist at all, Hindu terrorism?

On the scale and the level of organization of Muslim terrorism, it of course does not exist. It is a figment of the secular imagination. Not even of Hinduphobia, because the secularists have no genuine “fear of Hindus”. They fear the Muslims (which makes them, in their own terminology, “Islamophobes”), not the Hindus. Indeed it is because they have a real fear of the Muslims but only pretend to fear the Hindus that they bend over backwards to please the Muslims and not the Hindus. Yes, the Hindus are capable of rioting in the streets, generally when provoked, but willful violence against persons, groups or property by purposely prepared groups is rare, if existent at all. It has so far not been their favourite modus operandi.

Smaller-scale acts of terror, such as arson of Muslim religious buildings (or of the jeep of the Australian missionary Graham Staines, with three people inside) or the targeted assassination of religious leaders, have been alleged. Some famous court cases have led to nothing, but other incidents have been reported that seem genuine cases of “Hindu terrorism”. Thus, in Panjab, the so-called Shiv Sena has been accused of targeting some Khalistani leaders.

The Azad Sangathan has been mentioned as targeting Muslims in Haryana, and likewise the Sanatan Sanstha in Maharashtra. Church burnings in Manipur have been blamed on Hindus. The Bengal revolutionary movement against the British, the Abhinava Bharat society, has been refounded. Those who take this trend seriously fear that though small now, it might signal a wave of the future, when “Hindu terrorism” will be a large and endemic problem. It is therefore important to address it at the root.

There may be reasons not to believe the allegations by the biased media, but when Hindus I know testify from their personal contacts that “Hindu terrorism does exist”, I tend to believe them. It is but the factual tip of a verbal iceberg: the pro-violence messages I receive all the time on the internet, often from Gujarati businessmen raised on a diet of Gandhian non-violence but wizened up by real-life experiences with Islam. Hindus who make the move from this mouse-clicking violence to actual terrorism are very rare, but more than zero.

The one thing that can be said in defence of Hindu terror is that it proves Hindus are not dead yet. Like the Sangh Parivar, where numerous people are dedicating themselves to making a success of projects and policies that may of may not be rightly-inspired, the as yet little-studied Hindu terrorists are sacrificing for the Hindu cause. As it happens, they are mindlessly sacrificing other people’s lives thinking this will further the interests of Hindu society. There are better ways, requiring more intelligence and a more persistent sense of direction, so one hopes that their primitive enthusiasm can be transmuted in a more constructive direction.

Logic behind terrorism

Supposing it exists, what is the logic behind Hindu terrorism? What makes a Hindu conclude that terror is the solution? Several factors combine.

Firstly, Islam is comfortable with violence, has no scruples about it, and uses it on a large scale. This is being confirmed every day, from Nigeria and Mali through Afghanistan and Pakistan to Xinjiang and southern Thailand. Some hot-blooded Hindus conclude very logically that, at any rate, violence is a language Muslims understand.

Secondly, the government is not protecting Hindus. In West Bengal, it sides with the illegal Muslim immigrants against the Hindu Samhati. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, Hindus are permanently exposed to petty acts of terror, from eve-teasing through abduction and forced marriages to Muslim to torture and murder; the Indian government fails to raise its voice, let alone use its influence. Bangladesh owes its very existence to India and is an indigent country dependent on foreign aid; it should be easy to get its government to prevent anti-Hindu terror; yet this is not happening. Hindus are increasingly desperate.

Thirdly, whenever Islam commits acts of terror, the secular elite (in India like in the West) is superficially making “religion” in general guilty, thus allotting guilt to Hinduism when judging crimes committed in the name of Islam, with Hindus as the victims. In reality, there are occasional terrorists in other religions, from Guy Fawkes in Catholicism and Yigal Amir in Judaism to Nathuram Godse in Hinduism, but Islam is violence-prone and terror-minded with an unprecedented systematicity and therefore on a much larger scale. Unlike Hinduism, Islam was founded by [Due to India's tyranny on free speech, we regretfully edit this line to stay clearly within the boundaries of a baseless law by a willful Government].

More importantly here, the secular elite implicitly but unmistakably expresses a fascination with violence. When Communism was going strong, numerous intellectuals were Communist or were defending Communist regimes. Politicians were introducing policies inspired by Communism, such as India’s stifling licence-permit raj. As I remember, left-wing “city guerrilla” in Europe in the 70s and 80s was considered an object of fun, perhaps a bit misguided but fundamentally well-inspired. It never delegitimized the use of its language of “class struggle” in mainstream politics. The trendy intellectuals have blood on their tender hands.

When Islam replaced Communism as the most popular justification of violence, intellectuals and politicians started defending Islam. And the more it made headlines with acts of terrorism, the more they defended it. At no time were more mosques visited by politicians than after the attacks of 11 September 2001, in order to ensure Muslim communities that in the eyes of the ruling class, they had no connection with what “a few extremists” had done in their name. In India too, Muslims prove that violence works.

Thus, against the departing British colonizers’ and the Hindu majority’s opposition, the Muslim minority managed to force the Partition of India on all others by unleashing violence and making clear that the refusal of their demand would lead to even more violence. Incipient violence and the threat of more violence achieved the Shah Bano law, the banning of The Satanic Verses, and other small but symbolic gains for the Muslim community. More importantly, this creates an atmosphere where a confrontation with Muslim opinion on more consequential issues is avoided. Thus, the secular Congress Party does not dare to implement a Common Civil Code, an eminently secular reform enjoined by the Constitution and by the Supreme Court. Even the BJP, which had all along promised the enactment of a Common Civil Code, refrained from raising the issue when it was in power.

The assurance that the BJP regretted the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the assumption of an ideological low profile by the supposed Hindu nationalist party, not to say its “appeasement policies”, are all remote consequences of the fear of Muslim violence.

So, Hindus conclude that violence works. Secularists prove it to them.

Moral objections

I would raise the objection that violence remains morally problematic. First of all, violence overrules the compassion you should feel for its innocent victims. Even victims guilty as hell could be prosecuted in a court of law rather than murdered, that is the way of a society under the rule of law.

Secondly, the Just War Theory, formulated by Catholic philosophers like Thomas Aquinas, but enunciated and practiced much earlier in the Dhanurveda and the Mahabharata, lays down as one of the conditions of a Just War that all non-violent means of achieving your end should be exhausted. India as a democracy offers plenty of possibilities, of which the Hindu majority could make use if well organized. Unfortunately, the party that collects Hindu votes with promises of pro-Hindu policies has never delivered. But what have the terrorists done to change that party, or to come into the legislature through another party, or to apply any other instrument provided for in the Indian system?

Thirdly, another condition for the Just War is that there is a chance of victory. There is no point in shedding blood for nothing. But the people concerned have never to my knowledge devised a strategy and surveyed the field to see where the highest probability of victory lies. It is very unlikely that stray acts of violence will lead to any other result than needless bloodshed of innocents, the perpetrators on the gallows, and Hindu nationalism discredited even more. In my experience, very few Hindus are into Hindu activism for the sake of victory. Most of them do it to vent their emotions or get a kick of self-justification, and to hell with victory.

Strategic objections

Moral problems apart, this pro-violence philosophy suffers from a strategic shortcoming, viz. it evokes very different reactions depending on the elite’s pre-existing ideological bias. Thus, the passive approval of left-wing terrorism was not matched by an equal approval of right-wing acts of terror, e.g. the recent murders of Turkish immigrants in Germany were sternly condemned. The reason is that public opinion has been conditioned to judge left-wing violence in a supposedly commendable cause differently than real or alleged violence from the real or alleged right wing, committed in the service of a disapproved cause.

Che Guevara is on posters and T-shirts worldwide in spite of being a torturer and mass-murderer, because he was associated with a cause approved by the intelligentsia; any ideologically disapproved activist in his position would be treated as a proverbial criminal. Similarly, a show of sympathy for Muslim causes does not predict an equal sympathy for Hindu causes, regardless of whether Hindus take to terror or not.

As Herbert Marcuse, the New Left professor at Berkeley whom the leftist terrorists of the German Rote Armee Fraktion invoked, commented on their acts: terror (assuming in his Marxist philosophy that it is justifiable) can only be justified in a revolutionary situation, as a trigger for a general uprising. As an unpremeditated spontaneous act, it can only jeopardize the strategy of the revolutionary forces and play into the hand of the repressive authorities. Such a situation did not exist in the Germany of the 70s, and nor it exist in India today. In the present circumstances, stray acts of violence will not bring Hindu liberation closer.

Conclusion

    So, what to do? If Hindu terrorism doesn’t exist or is still marginal, it may become an acute problem. The reason is that Hindus are desperate, the number and aggressiveness of enemies is increasing, the callousness of the government is impressive, the ineffectiveness of the supposed pro-Hindu organizations has left them disappointed. So, by addressing these root causes of Hindu unrest, the threat of Hindu terrorism can be taken away.

Secularists could abandon their buffoonery and suddenly become even-handed. They could work with the Hindu nationalists for the eminently secular Common Civil Code, they could abolish the legal privileges of non-Hindu-majority states, they could apply Karl Marx’s dictum that “all criticism starts with criticism of religion” to Islam or Christianity for once. The Hindu organizations, while not committing Hindu terrorism themselves, are co-guilty of it by failing to provide the Hindu population with successes and hope for the future. They could defuse the threat of Hindu violence by suddenly turning effective and really pro-Hindu.

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Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst (°Leuven 1959) distinguished himself early on as eager to learn and to dissent. After a few hippie years he studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. After a research stay at Benares Hindu University he did original fieldwork for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism, which he obtained magna cum laude in 1998. As an independent researcher he earned laurels and ostracism with his findings on hot items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, the roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi's legacy. He also published on the interface of religion and politics, correlative cosmologies, the dark side of Buddhism, the reinvention of Hinduism, technical points of Indian and Chinese philosophies, various language policy issues, Maoism, the renewed relevance of Confucius in conservatism, the increasing Asian stamp on integrating world civilization, direct democracy, the defence of threatened freedoms, and the Belgian question. Regarding religion, he combines human sympathy with substantive skepticism.
Koenraad Elst

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