|Color of Terror: Saffron, Green or Black?|
By Ram Puniyani
|Can terrorism be labeled or given the prefix of a holy color associated with religious sentiments? This debate came to the surface with P. Chidmbaram stating, "There has been a recent uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts in the past. My advice to you is that we must remain ever vigilant and continue to build, at both Central and state level, our capacities in counter-terrorism," to the top policemen (August 25, 2010). There was a strong reaction to this from the Hindutva parties, parties working for the goal of Hindu Nation, BJP and Shiv Sena. The Congress spokespersons were also in a quandary, one of them supported the statement and the other one disowned it, saying that terrorism has just one color black. BJP spokesperson demanded apology. Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray demanded resignation of Mr. Chidambaram, while his father, the supreme dictator of Shiv Sena Bal Thackeray, demanded to know the color of bloodshed in Kashmir and Delhi anti Sikh violence.|
Chidambaram’s statement has a background of multiple acts of terror coming to light since the Malegaon blast of Sept 2008, when role of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey, and Swami Aseemanand came to surface. It was Hemant Karkre, Chief of Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad, who successfully unearthed the whole conspiracy by these saffron clad people. They had other associates in Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, Retired Major Upadhayay and many others, who are working for the goal of Hindu Rashtra. This blast was preceded by many similar one’s in which associates of Abhinav Bharat, Sanatan Prabhat and Bajrang Dal were suspected. Just to recall, when this conspiracy by all those inspired by the ideology of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ came to surface, there was a great discomfort in BJP-Shiv Sena RSS quarters. Shiv Sena mouth piece Samana stated ‘we spit on Karkare who is investigating this case’. On the other hand a major BJP leader stated that Karkare is anti National (Deshdrohi). Same Karkare was killed when the terror attack took place in Mumbai on 26/11, 2008. The real undercurrent of this complex story is yet to be unraveled and recognized fully, still the situation leading to the death of Karkare led the then minority affairs Minister A R Antulay to say that there might have been terrorism plus something, which led to the killing of Karkare the man investigating these terror blasts.
It is after this event that the word Saffron Terror, Hindu terror came to be coined and got wide currency. This prefixing of religion and a holy color of a religion came in the backdrop of wide usage of another word Islamic terrorism, Jihadi terrorism, the words coined by American media and picked up world over. Surely these terminologies Islamic terrorism and Hindu terrorism are misnomers. The word Jihadi Terrorism and Saffron terrorism have been used to describe a pattern in these acts of terror. Jihadi word was a deliberate concoction as Jihad does not mean killing, it stands for striving for betterment etc.
What about Saffron Terrorism, the term used by Chidambaram and many other scholars-activists-journalists? It can be explained in the context of this word, saffron, being high jacked by the believers of ‘Hindu Nation’, the believers of Hindutva, a political ideology using the identity of Hindu religion. One knows that to use the word Hindutva is fraught with dangers. It is a politics but gives the impression of being a religion. This word was coined by Savarkar, the ideologue of Hindu Mahasabha. As per him it means whole of Hinduness, race (Aryan) geographical area between Sindhu to Seas and Culture (Vedic). This was a word parallel to political Islam, which was made the base of politics of Muslim League. Muslim League used a green flag, Hindu Mahsabha used saffron flag. Later RSS from 1925 picked up the ideology of Hindutva to attain Hindu Rashtra.
In contrast to Indian tricolor, RSS insisted on using Saffron flag. Saffron color which stands for renunciation and devotion in Hindu tradition was usurped for political goals, the goals which were opposed to the goals of Indian National Movement. Indian National Movement was struggling for plural, secular democratic India, while the bearers of green flag, Muslim league wanted and Islamic Nation and those waving saffron flag wanted Hindu Nation, both these political currents were a throw back to times when the concept of democracy, human rights was absent and the status of dalits and women was subordinate to men of high social status.
During the decade of 1980, RSS, VHP and associates launched their campaign for Ram Temple and there was a blatant use of religious imagery and symbols for political goals. As such the political goals of RSS progeny, the agenda of Hindu nation harps to the values of Manu Smiriti in modern form. Surely this politics asserts the supremacy of social system prevalent in ancient times. No wonder, Ambedkar burnt the Manusmirit and later drafted the Indian Constitution to project the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
RSS and company used the symbols of saffron flag in its mobilization campaigns all through 1980s and 1990s. There was extensive use of saffron stickers for political propaganda for Ram Temple and Hindu Rashtra. RSS has a whole wing of assorted saffron clad sadhus, asserting that Hindu holy books have a primacy over Indian legal system; Indian Constitution. VHP, to which these sadhus belong is the other major RSS associate. VHP stated that decision of the Holy, saffron clad, Sadhus is more important than that of Indian courts. In nutshell saffron color, the color associated with religious sentiments came to be abused by this political outfit for its political goals. No wonder its politics came to be associated with saffron color. During NDA regime when BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi was communalizing the school text books and education system, it came to be labeled as Saffronization of education. It is pity that a holy color of renunciation has been associated with a political ideology.
The present statement by Chidambaram is just a continuation of the popular association of the word saffron with Hindutva-RSS politics in the political arena. In the present era of monopolar World, dictated by the ambitions of US greed for oil and plunder of the global resources, politics has been given the veneer of religion. That’s why they use the word ‘Clash of Civilizations’ for their political goals. That’s why so far Islam and Muslims have been demonized. U.S. and large section of globe, India in particular are in the grip of Islamophobia. It is time we see the sanctity of religions and oppose the use of religious symbols, colors and terminologies for political goals.