How delightful it is to see a term take shape, be born and then run on its own steam without any of those prescriptive single quotation marks. I’ve seen beauties like ‘pseudo-secular’, ‘Indian writing in English,’ ‘heavy metal’ and ‘ugly slags’ all start off shakily and then take glorious flight, liberated from those constricting single quotes. It’s like that scene from Forrest Gump where young Forrest runs like the wind from the bullies and in the process breaks free from his leg braces. The latest entry into this world of freshly baked terms fidgeting to become an everyday description is ‘Hindu terror’.
Before Shivraj Patil can say, “Who’s your Daddy?”, ‘Hindu terror’ will drop its tremerous qualifying quotes and become Hindu terror, the way Islamic banking exists without any punctuational fetters. But till a few weeks ago, I associated ‘Hindu terror’ with only one thing: the death-defying, laughing-at-the-face-of-word-counts editorials of The Hindu commenting against the India-US civilian nuclear deal. Now, with the Malegaon bomb blasts investigations trickling out suspects such as the mobike-straddling sadhvi, Pragya Singh Thakur, and Jai Jawans such as Srikant Prasad Purohit, Ramesh Upadhyaya and Sharad Kulkarni like pus in boots, ‘Hindu terror’ has been firmly put in the microwave.
Does ‘Hindu terror’ sound so very outrageous to you? Well, it should. After all, in a country where an overwhelming proportion of people happen to be of a Hindu disposition — many non-Hindus included — blowing up people and reacting in a tit-for-tat way so as to trigger off more tats is akin to Osama bin Laden masterminding an attack on Mecca hoping that a few apostates (preferably from the House of Saud) will be visiting.
Now, I really don’t know whether the September 8, 2006 bomb blasts that claimed 37 lives in Malegaon in Maharashtra, a hellhole inhabited by a Muslim majority, was the handiwork of agitated Hindus (in retaliation of the July 11, 2006 Mumbai serial blasts) or not. Come to think of it, neither does the funkily acronymed ATS — that’s Anti-Terrorist Squad, for the hormonally challenged. Considering that the initial suspects reeled in by the ATS were all from the ‘usual community’ — let’s just say that by that I don’t mean those belonging to the Presbyterian faith — it’s one helluva secularist swerve to then come up with a new batch of suspects who, as a collective, have little connection with ‘Pakistan’.
So why does ‘Hindu terror’ sound as fanciful as ‘Tropical penguins’ or ‘Sunni disco’? Are Hindus capable of terrorism? This was a question doing the rounds even in September 1908, when, under the aegis of Aurobindo Ghose, acts of nationalist terror directed against the British government were on full swing. The element of surprise can be clearly noted in the comment by the Lahore daily, the Punjabee: “That Hindu boys, Bengalis in particular, would be led to adopt methods and means so dangerous and desperate...would not have been even dreamed a twelve-month ago.”
Just after investigations into the Malegaon blasts started, the ATS had ruled out the involvement of ‘Hindu nationalist groups’. According to these Rambos, this was because RDX “is only available to Islamist outfits” and because Bajrang Dal activists had been earlier caught with crude bombs, nothing as “sophisticated” as the ones used in Malegaon. Tally that with the report by Muzaffarpur Superintendent of Police J.E. Armstrong made to the CID in 1917 in which he noted that both the British as well as the Bengali populace were struck by the “order and method” shown by members of various Hindu Bengali revolutionary groups, showing a “new sense of discipline” earlier not associated with “an undisciplined people”.
And therein lies the key to understanding ‘Hindu terror’. Its proponents — if they are really that and not just riding someone else’s surf — want to tell us that terrorism is no community’s monopoly. They want to tell us: Yes we can. Or more specifically: Yes we can too.