Should everything a home minister says be taken seriously? Normally, yes. Are our home ministers above playing politics? Not at all. Does our new home minister’s demeanour in any way convey the very grave and sensitive nature of his post? No!
Then, why do we go overboard when the ever-laughing Sushilkumar Shinde says anything important? Like he did just after the Hyderabad blasts, dropping a bombshell about prior intelligence, and then obfuscating his words. When a home minister says, minutes after a blast, that he had intelligence about it, it only means one thing: he didn’t act on it. If it was too general to be actionable, why mention it? To pass the buck to the state government?
Take for instance, the bombshell he dropped last month, and retracted later. Those who lauded him for announcing that the RSS and BJP were running “camps promoting Hindu terrorism’’ didn’t think it strange that he chose to make this serious announcement at a meeting not of policemen, Congress members. The question is: What has Shinde’s party done to control “Hindu terror”?
In 2006, when two RSS boys were killed and four others injured while assembling bombs in the house of an RSS member in Nanded, a wealth of information on saffron terror became available. The charge sheet filed by the Maharashtra ATS had all the details – training in making bombs, military style camps, et al. Who stopped the Congress-NCP in the state and the Congress at the Centre from pursuing these leads? Would the subsequent blasts to which Swami Aseemanand confessed, have taken place had the findings of the ATS been followed up?
Forget following up, neither the ATS nor the CBI which took over the case, thought it fit to apply the deadly law used against Muslim terror accused and Maoists – the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. So all the accused got bail. No Congress home minister intervened.
The name of RSS leader Indresh Kumar has been mentioned by several bomb blasts accused. Unlike the elusive Bhatkal brothers, Kumar is very much around. But why has he not been arrested?
BJP governments can hardly be expected to act against Hindutva terrorists. When LK Advani was union home minister, his government banned the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). In 1991, ten years before the ban, leading SIMI members in Mumbai had placed an advertisement in Urdu papers announcing setting up of a separate unit because they no longer supported the central SIMI leadership. They appealed to SIMI sympathizers to stop the organisation from taking a path that would prove “suicidal for the country and the community”. Did the Mumbai Police seize this windfall that had fallen into their laps?
The day this advertisement appeared, Sudhakar Rao Naik took over from Sharad Pawar as chief minister of Maharashtra. The same two Congressmen presided over the 1992-93 riots.
Had the Congress wanted, it could have isolated the militants within SIMI in 1991 itself. There would then have been no need to ban it 10 years later, nor to go on a spree of unjustified arrests of ex-SIMI members. Had it wanted, it could have nipped the saffron terror in the bud. That would have saved the lives of two sets of innocents — those who died in the blasts wrecked by Hindutva terrorists post-Nanded, and those wrongly arrested for them. Had the Congress done either of these, Muslims wouldn’t have been so embittered for so long.
But, for the Congress, extremism and terror, like anything else of national importance, are to be taken seriously only when some political gain can be made. That’s what should make us worried, not random announcements or their retraction by Congress home ministers.
The writer is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist