The neutrality of this article is disputed. (March 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Saffron terror is a neologism used to describe acts of violence motivated by Hindu nationalism. The acts are perpetrated by members, or alleged members, of Hindu nationalist organizations close to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Abhinav Bharat. However, in some cases the motivation for the acts has not been clearly determined, and in others it has been determined to be unrelated to Hindu nationalism. The term comes from the symbolic use made of the saffron colour by the Hindu nationalist organisations.
The first known use of the term "Saffron Terror" is from a 2002 article in Frontline. However, it was in the aftermath of the 29 September 2008 bomb blast in the predominantly Muslim town of Malegaon in Maharashtra that it came to be used widely. In late 2008, Indian police arrested members of a Hindu cell allegedly involved in the Malegaon blasts. Former Home Minister of India P. Chidambaram urged Indians to beware of "Saffron terror" in August 2010 at a meeting of state police chiefs in New Delhi. Since making that remark, a Hindu swami in the Patan district has filed a defamation lawsuit against Chidambaram, saying that the saffron colour is a symbol of Hindu religion and that saints across the country wear attire of the same colour. The swami also said that saffron was a symbol of peace, sacrifice and God, and that Chidambaram has hurt the sentiments of Hindus by linking the symbol with terrorism. On 6 September 2010, a Gujarat court ordered a probe into the use of the term by Chidambaram. Chidambaram was also criticised by members of his own party (the Indian National Congress) for the use of the term, with Congress spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi claiming "terrorism does not have any colour other than black."
The saffron colour appears in the party flags of various national parties of India like the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A saffron-coloured flag is commonly seen in most temples in India. Buddhist monks typically wear saffron robes as a symbol of wisdom. It has been claimed that the term "saffron terrorism" is a misnomer considering the historical descriptions of the saffron colour compared to the definitions of terrorism. Saffron is the colour of the upper band of the Indian national flag. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who was India's first Vice-President and second President, described the saffron colour as follows: "Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation of disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work."
Criticism of the term
The term "saffron terror" has been called a "myth" by the journalist and BJP leader Balbir Punj, who claims that it is an invention of the Congress party to demonise their political opposition as "terrorists". Similar views have been expressed by other journalists in India. Kanchan Gupta and Swapan Dasgupta have accused investigators of making statements using "saffron terror" to the media to promote the agenda of the Congress. Raman accused the media of measuring Muslim and Hindu suspects by different yardsticks.
The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) president, Rajnath Singh, spoke of a "political conspiracy" aimed at the "vilification of Hindu saints and army officers in the name of Hindu terrorism". In 2010, the internet whistleblower organisation WikiLeaks released US embassy cables in which the US ambassador to India scornfully dismissed suggestions by an Indian minister that the death of Hemant Karkare, a senior anti-terrorism investigator killed by Islamist militants during the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was somehow orchestrated by Hindu extremists. The term "saffron terror" was prominently used by some Congress party members in this campaign, most prominently by Digvijaya Singh. The BJP criticised these statements and filed a complaint with the Election Commission of India, citing it as a violation of the Model Code of Conduct for political parties. The Election Commission issued a show-cause notice to Digvijay Singh on this complaint. The Hindu spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also criticised it, saying that it is a myth and insult to the Hindu religion, which he said is the most tolerant religion.
On 15 April 2015, the Apex Court ruled that there was no evidence to charge Sadhvi Pragya and Shrikant Purohit under the stringent MCOCA, and therefore their bail plea should be examined afresh by the special trial court. A bench headed by Justice F. M. I. Kalifulla said there is no reliable material to prima facie show that the duo along with four other accused was "criminally liable under the provisions of MCOCA".
R.V.S Mani, a former officer in the Home Ministry, published a book Hindu Terror: Insider Account of Ministry of Home Affairs in 2018, alleging that the UPA government had forced Home Ministry officials to "manufacture" a false narrative about the presence of "Hindu terror".
Hindu extremist organisations have allegedly carried out terrorist attacks like 2006 Malegaon blasts, Mecca Masjid bombing (Hyderabad), Samjhauta Express bombings and the Ajmer sharif dargah blast. There are some links and connections with Islamist organisations with these blasts.
Arif Qasmani of Karachi has been specifically named by the notification on 1 July 2009, by the US Department of Treasury as involved in the Mumbai suburban train blasts of July 2006, and in the Samjhauta Express blast of February, 2007.
1999 killing of Graham Staines
The killing of Graham Staines has been cited as example of Saffron terror. Staines, a Christian missionary, and his two sons were burned to death in January 1999. In 2003, a Bajrang Dal activist, Dara Singh, was convicted of leading the gang that murdered Graham Staines and his sons, and was sentenced to life in prison.
2002 Gujarat riots
The 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, where the majority of victims were Muslims, are attributed largely to "foot soldiers" of the Hindutva movement. The riots are part of a recent rise of Hindu extremist movements in India that have been linked to Saffron terrorism.
2007 Samjhauta Express bombings
Twin blasts shook two coaches of the Samjhauta Express around midnight on 18 February 2007. Sixty-eight people were killed in the ensuing fire and dozens were injured. It has been allegedly linked to Abhinav Bharat, a Hindu fundamentalist group. In November 2008, it was reported that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) suspected the attacks were linked to Prasad Shrikant Purohit, an Indian army officer and member of Abhinav Bharat. Purohit himself claimed that he had "infiltrated" the Abhinav Bharat. During an army's Court of Inquiry, 59 witnesses stated to the court, along with Officers who testified, that Purohit was doing his job of gathering intelligence inputs by infiltrating extremist organisations. On 8 January 2011, Swami Aseemanand, a pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), confessed that he was involved in the bombing of Samjhauta express, a statement he later claimed to have made under duress. Aseemanand claimed that he was tortured to give a false statement.
There have also been allegations that Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible for the bombings. The United States declared Arif Qasmani, a Pakistani national and alleged 'LeT financier', to be the chief coordinator of the 2006 train bombing in Mumbai as well as the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, and labelled him an international terrorist via the United Nations.
2007 Ajmer Dargah attack
The Ajmer Dargah blast occurred on 11 October 2007, outside the Dargah (shrine) of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan, allegedly by the Hindutva organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its groups. On 22 October 2010, five accused perpetrators, of which four said to belong to the RSS, were arrested in connection with the blast. Swami Aseemanand, in his confession, implicated the then General Secretary Mohan Bhagwat for ordering the terrorist strike. Bhavesh Patel, another accused in the bombings, has corroborated these statements but later claimed that the Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and some other Congress leaders forced him to implicate the RSS leaders.
2008 Malegaon blasts
On 29 September 2008, three bombs exploded in the States of Gujarat and Maharashtra killing 8 persons and injuring 80. During the investigation in Maharashtra, a Hindu group was alleged to have been involved in the blasts. Three of the arrested persons were identified as Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu. All three were produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Nashik, which remanded them to custody till 3 November. On 28 October, the Shiv Sena, came out in support of the accused saying that the arrests were merely political in nature. Lending credence to this, the party chief, Uddhav Thackeray, pointed out a potential conflict of interest in political rivalry as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) controlled the relevant ministry. NIA, National Investigation Agency, has found no evidence against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and it has recommended the court to drop all charges against her. following which Bombay High Court granted bail to Pragya Thakur on 22 April 2017.
The Army officer Prasad Shrikant Purohit was also accused of being involved in the blast. His counsel alleged that he was being falsely framed for political reasons because he has intelligence data of a sensitive nature pertaining to the operations of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, which could embarrass some quarters.
2007 Mecca Masjid bombing
The Mecca Masjid bombing occurred on 18 May 2007 inside the Mecca Masjid, a mosque in Hyderabad. Fourteen people were reported dead in the immediate aftermath. The National Investigation Agency, Central Bureau of Investigation and Anti Terrorist Squad (India) questioned former members of the RSS On 19 November 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation produced Swami Aseemanand before the court in connection with the Blast. But later he has retracted the confession citing the mental and physical pressure to provide that confession. The Special investigation Team (SIT) of Hyderabad Police arrested ‘south India commander’ of the LeT, identified as Shaik Abdul Khaja alias Amjad, from Afzalgunj area of the city. Police said that the arrestee was linked to Mohammed Abdul Shahid Bilal, key suspect in the bombing. In 2013, Yasin Bhatkal confessed that Indian Mujahideen had bombed two other places in Hyderabad later in August 2007 to avenge Mecca Masjid blast which was then allegedly attributed to Hindu fundamental groups.
The South Asia Terrorism Portal, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, the National Counter Terrorism Centre the United States, and the United Nations reported that Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami was actually behind the attacks while excluding involvement by any Hindu group. Noting this, security analyst Bahukutumbi Raman has questioned "the two different versions that have emerged from Indian and American investigators." The South Asia Terrorism Portal cited Vikar Ahmed as a main suspect in the blast. Mohammed Abdul Shahid Bilal, former chief of HuJI’s Indian operations, is also regarded as a key suspect in the Mecca Masjid bombing. Later he was shot by unknown gunmen in Karachi on 30 August 2007. .
2018 Court Verdict
The NIA began the probe in April 2011 after the initial investigations by the local police and the chargesheet filed by the CBI. 226 witnesses were examined during the trial and about 411 documents exhibited. The verdict was pronounced by a special NIA court acquitting all the accused due to lack of evidence.
Members of Abhinav Bharat have been alleged to have been involved in a plot to kill Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh President Mohan Bhagwat, allegedly with the help of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Headlines Today released a recorded video tested by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory which indicated the uncovering of an alleged plot to assassinate the Vice-President of India Hamid Ansari. Tehelka also released alleged audio tape transcripts of main conspirators of Abhinav Bharat, which indicated involvement of Military intelligence officers with the Abhinav Bharat group, in their January 2011 edition.
The Indian Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh said that at least 10 people having close links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliated organisations were named accused in various acts of terror across India.
According to released documents by WikiLeaks, Congress(I) party's general secretary Rahul Gandhi remarked to US Ambassador Timothy Roemer, at a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister of India at his residence in July 2009, that the RSS was a "bigger threat" to India than the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. At The Annual Conference of Director Generals of Police held in New Delhi on 16 September 2011, a special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) reportedly informed the state police chiefs that Hindutva activists have either been suspected or are under investigation in 16 incidents of bomb blasts in the country.
Torture by Maharashtra ATS
After receiving a complaint letter, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has initiated a probe into the allegation that Melagaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur was illegally detained and tortured by the Maharashtra ATS and state police. The statement was recorded at the Ved Khushilal Ayurvedic College where Pragya is undergoing treatment as the lower part of her body is now paralysed, which she claims is an outcome of the police atrocities. A copy of Pragya Thakur's statement is with TOI, in which she argued that the Maharashtra police beat her with leather belts through the nights, starved her for 24 days without even a morsel of food, gave her electric shocks, verbally abused her and made her listen to objectionable pornographic recordings in the company of male undertrials. When an undertrial objected at the Kala Chouki police station on 26 October 2008, he was brutally beaten.
- "Hindutva terror cases: NIA on the backfoot as apex court questions complicity charges".
- Christophe Jaffrelot (29 January 2009). "A running thread of deep saffron". Indian Express. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
- Subhash Gatade (October 2007). "Saffron terror". Himal. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
- "Army in crisis over saffron terror stain — India — IBNLive". Ibnlive.in.com. 7 November 2008. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "Lt Colonel Purohit: Did the Army sell short an effective officer?". NDTV.com. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
One by one, 59 witnesses, all from the Army, have told a Court of Inquiry — step one of Army's legal process- why they believe Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit was just doing his job by fraternising with right-wing extremists. ..Officers have testified that Lieutenant Colonel Purohit had, in the course of his duties, infiltrated organisations like the Students Islamic Movement of India or SIMI. This is exactly what he had been ordered to do as a military intelligence man.
- Vishwa Mohan, TNN 8 Aug 2010, 03.10am IST (8 August 2010). "HuJI ban takes no note of 'Hindu terror' role". The Times of India. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "Beware of saffron terror too, warns home minister". The Economic Times. 26 August 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- "PC defends 'saffron terror' remark". Deccan Herald. 1 September 2010.
- "Rise of Hindu 'saffron terror' New straits Times". 25 August 2010. Archived from the original on 20 January 2011.
- Vicky Nanjappa (14 October 2011). "Call it Hindutva terror, not Hindu terror". www.rediff.com/news. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
- Swami, Praveen (16 March 2002). "Saffron Terror". Frontline. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
- Bidwai, Praful (8 November 2008). "Saffron Terror". Frontline. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
- "Saffron Terrorism — a new phenomenon, says Home Minister Chidambaram". NDTV.com. 25 August 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- Press Trust of India (30 August 2010). "Defamation suit against P Chidambaram for 'saffron terror' remark". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- "Court orders probe into PC's saffron terror remarks". Hindustan Times. 6 September 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
- TNN (28 August 2010). "Congress ticks off Chidambaram over 'saffron terror' remark". The Times of India. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- "Article II-A Party Flag" (PDF). Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "Article II-A Party Flag". Archived from the original on 15 March 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- O'Brien, Barbara. "The Buddha's Robe". Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "On we the people: Is saffron terror a misnomer or real threat". Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "Hindu terror is a misnomer, says RSS chief". Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "flagcodeofindia" (PDF).
- "Not terrified of terrorism", Daily Pioneer – 12 December 2008 Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Rip off 'secular' media's mask", The Pioneer – 24 November 2008 Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
- Kanchan Gupta (18 July 2010). "'Free' media tars RSS with fiction". The Pioneer. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
- Swapan Dasgupta (7 August 2010). "Battleground heats up as the Hand plucks at the Lotus, one petal at a time". Tehelka. Retrieved 30 July 2010.
- Why politicising the Malegaon case is dangerous Rediff — 17 November 2011
- Jug Suraiya (18 November 2008). "SUBVERSE | Unholy terrors". The Times of India. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- Copy of diplomatic cable dated 23 December 2008 (10 December 2010). "US Embassy Cables: Mumbai Conspiracy Allegations 'Outrageous' – US Ambassador". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- Shekhar, Kumar Shakti (20 December 2010). "Offence is Cong's defence". The Pioneer. Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
- "Deuce! EC notice to Sonia, Digvijay". The Economic Times. 10 December 2007. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- "'Saffron terror' term insult to Hindu religion: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar". The Indian Express. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
- "Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya and Shrikant Purohit could get bail after Supreme Court ruling". Mail Online.
- "Book by MHA officer reveals how UPA manufactured Hindu terror narrative - The Sunday Guardian Live". The Sunday Guardian Live. 2 June 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
- "Samjhauta Blast Case: Counter Investigation To NIA Investigation". The New Indian Express.
- "The Mysterious Case Of Arif Qasmani - B. Raman - Jul 04,2009". outlookindia.com.
- "Curious case of Qasmani, who US, UN named in bombing". indianexpress.com.
- PRAFUL BIDWAI. "Saffron terror". Frontline.
- "Two acquitted in Graham Staines murder case". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
- Anheier, Helmut K.; Juergensmeyer, Mark (2012). Encyclopedia of Global Studies. SAGE Publications. p. 860. ISBN 9781506338224.
- "66 die in 'terror attack' on Samjhauta Express". Hindustan Times. 20 February 2007. Archived from the original on 2 June 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
- "The Mirror Explodes | Smruti Koppikar". Outlookindia.com. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
- Agencies. "Purohit supplied RDX for Samjhauta bomb: ATS". Express India. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
- "I infiltrated Abhinav Bharat: Purohit". Hindustan Times. 29 June 2012. Archived from the original on 15 May 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "Aseemanand owns up to strike on Mecca Masjid". The Times of India. 8 January 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- Rajinder Nagarkoti, TNN 10 Jan 2011, 02.57am IST. "Swami Aseemanand 'confessed' under duress: Counsel". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- Staff Reporter. "My arrest illegal: Aseemanand". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "US review finds five warnings of Headley's militant links — India — DNA". Daily News and Analysis. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- ramesh (9 January 2011). "Curious case of Qasmani, who US, UN named in bombing". The Indian Express. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
"In return for Qasmani's support, Al-Qaida provided him with operatives to support the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India, and the February 2007 Samjota Express bombing in Panipat, India. Qasmani also facilitated the movement of Al-Qaida personnel out of Afghanistan in 2001," states the UN's narrative summary justifying the action against Qasmani. The US justification is similar.
- Sachin Parashar (11 May 2011). "LeT trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction with help from Qaida". The Times of India.
- "Samjhauta Express Blast Vs Mumbai Terror Attacks by Radhavinod Raju". Ipcs.org. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "What is the Ajmer Dargah blast case?".
- Mohan, Vishwa (9 January 2011). "Co-conspirators saw RSS man as ISI mole". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
- "Ajmer blast case: Two 'RSS pracharaks' sentenced life imprisonment".
- "Four of five Ajmer blast accused have RSS links: ATS". The Indian Express. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
- "India jails Hindu radicals for life over Ajmer Sharif shrine blast".
- "Aseemanand links Mohan Bhagwat to terror attacks: Report". jagran.com. 6 February 2014.
- "Shinde forced me to name RSS chief: Ajmer blast accused". IBNLive.
- "Arrests of 'Hindu terrorists' embarasses BJP". Hindustan Times. 28 October 2008. Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "Sadhvi in jail for Malegaon blast". The Times of India. 25 October 2008. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "Front Page : Malegaon blast; three remanded to custody". The Hindu. 25 October 2008. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- PTI, 28 October 2008, 04:39PM IST (28 October 2008). "Real masterminds still at large, sadhvi Pragya a victim: Sena — Mumbai — City". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "NIA set to drop case against Sadhvi Pragya, others arrested by MP Police".
- Sadhvi Pragya's freedom now depends on HC ruling
- "Why blame judiciary for granting Pragya Thakur bail when investigative agencies show no spine?".
- "Sadhvi Pragya Singh may not like saffron terror, but that doesn't mean it was a 'bogey'".
- "Malegaon blast: ATS says Purohit main conspirator". The Indian Express. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- Agencies. "Malegaon probe: 'Purohit could even be eliminated by ATS'". Express India. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
- "Homepage – Deccan Chronicle". Deccan Chronicle.
- "HC notice to NIA on Aseemanand petition". The Times of India.
- PTI (27 December 2010). "RSS leader likely to be quizzed again in Masjid blast case". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "ATS may grill Aseemanand before tackling Indresh". The Times of India.
- "Mosque blast: RSS man grilled". Hindustan Times. 23 December 2010. Archived from the original on 14 February 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- Rahul Tripathi, TNN 24 Dec 2010, 03.06am IST (24 December 2010). "RSS leader grilled for Hindu terror". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- Swami Aseemanand takes back confession, says he was "coerced" MSN News — 31 March 2010
- "Data sheets: Terrorism related incidents in Andhra Pradesh since 2007". Satp.org. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "Indian Mujahideen bombed Hyderabad to 'avenge' Mecca Masjid blasts: Yasin Bhatkal". The Indian Express. 2013-09-03. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
- "Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI)". Satp.org. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "HuJI after the Death of its India Chief | Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses". Idsa.in. 13 February 2008. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "Huji, not Hindu group, behind Mecca Masjid blast". Hindustan Times. 23 September 2010. Archived from the original on 31 August 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "US, UN declare HuJI as terrorist organisation". The Economic Times. 8 August 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "US, UN declare HuJI a terror group". NDTV.com. 7 August 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "No Double Standards by B. Raman". Outlookindia.com. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
- "India — Timeline Year 2008". Satp.org. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
- "Mecca Masjid blast mastermind dead". Hindustan Times. 3 June 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
- "Aseemanand, All Others Acquitted in 2007 Mecca Masjid Blast Case". The Quint. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
- Shibu Thomas, TNN (28 June 2010). "Did Abhinav Bharat plan to kill RSS chief?". The Times of India. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- Gangan, Surendra (9 April 2010). "Abhinav Bharat used derogatory words against RSS chief: RR Patil". Mumbai. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
- Khetan, Ashsih (15 July 2010). "Saffron brigade's terror plots exposed: India Today". New Delhi. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
- "The Unturned Stone". Tehelka. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- "10 people wanted in blast cases had links with RSS". The Hindu. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- "Think before you speak, RSS tells Rahul — Rediff.com News". Rediff.com. 21 December 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- "Hindutva activists behind 16 terror blasts in the country?". South Asia Mail. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- Anirban Bhaumik, New Delhi, 20 Sep, DHNS:. "'Saffron terror' role being probed". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- "Sadhvi Pragya narrates police torture story on video". The Times of India.