The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong:
There is no universally agreed definition for the term terrorism. In the absence of a common definition, particularly when the argument - one state's 'terrorist' is another state's 'freedom fighter' - holds good in the current day world order, often attempting to define the word 'terrorism' and an act as 'terrorist activity' invites criticism. However, the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/Res/49/60 entitled Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism dated 9 December 1994 attempts to provide a reasonable definition to the term.
The resolution tries to define the term as "[c]riminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them".
If the above explanation provides a reasonable definition to the term 'terrorism', the Hindu fundamentalist political parties in India for many of their violent acts, must be charged, tried and punished for engaging in terrorist activities. The ongoing violence reported from the state of Orissa, which ultimately had its anticipated spillover effect throughout the country, in this context, qualifies to be an act of terror.
The violence in Orissa is sparked off by Hindu fundamentalist political parties in India -- the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bajrang Dal. These three parties who advocate the resurrection of Brahmanism are supported by their flagship political organisation the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The VHP, RSS and the Bajrang Dal cadres attacked, raped, murdered, burned, looted and destroyed person and property belonging to non-Hindu communities, particularly the Christians. The assailants specifically targeted literate Dalit and tribal communities that follow Christianity. As of today, 22 persons from these communities are confirmed to have been murdered - some even burned to death - within the past one month and property worth millions has been destroyed.
The violence that intensified after the murder of four VHP cadres soon spread uncontrollably affecting almost the entire state. There are justifiable allegations that the Orissa state administration was informed sufficiently well in advance about the possibility of the violence. Yet neither did the administration take adequate precaution to prevent it or to control the violence from spreading once it began. In fact, the recent incidents reported from Orissa are only the latest in a series of violence in that state which is infamous for being intolerant to religious freedom.
It is beyond doubt that the VHP, RSS and the Bajrang Dal are behind the recent spate of violence reported from India. It is equally definite that the motive behind the unjustifiable violence is intended and calculated to provoke a state of terror among the Dalit, tribal, converted Christian and other non-Hindu communities in India for political gain.
The BJP and its political allies like the VHP, RSS and the Bajrang Dal have justified the violence on the ground that Dalits and tribal community are lured to follow other religion and that it is required that these converts must be 'purified' and 'reconverted' into the folds of Brahmanism. These political forces further argue that a change in religious belief by the Dalits and the tribal community across India upsets and further destroys India's original identity.
It is trite to argue however that the hidden agenda behind this new found concern for the Dalits and tribal community members by the advocates of the Brahmanical identity of India is to retain and preserve the caste based religious practices that are getting uprooted in India. These persons include a majority of Hindu religious leaders in India and abroad, who advocate Brahmanism as a justifiable means sanctioned by their religion to practice discrimination and social stratification. They campaign for the superiority of the Hindu upper caste over the Dalits, tribal and persons following other religions.
None of the so called national media in India has tried to address this deeper aspect of the issue. The media houses in India often tend to crowd together information, adopting a reporting style that better fits the mainstream political and religious groups. For example, one self-proclaimed national media in India reported today news that justifies the need for a national legislation to combat terror quoting the Chief Minister of Karnataka state. Adjacent to this article was a report about the bomb blasts in Gujarat state, accusing the involvement of some Muslim organisations.
These pieces of information, clustered together in a single page present to an average reader the wrong message that a particular religious group is responsible for all terrorist activities in India. Selecting and presenting news that suits vested political interests to cater readership and support has become a habit of the Indian media. Such reporting style that undermines journalistic values demands conscious effort by the reader to deconstruct the news to gather unbiased information.
The Hindu religious and political leaders spare no opportunity to condemn the 'terrorist' activities in India. There is no doubt that such activities must be condemned. But their original intent is to target the entire Muslim community in the country and to hold the Muslims in India as anti-national. If unjustifiable acts like bomb blasts and other forms of violence are imputed to certain criminal factions of the Muslim political groups in India and its neighbouring countries and labelled as 'terrorist activity', there is no reason why the violence committed against the Dalits, tribal and other non-Hindu communities in India are also not termed so.
Ignoring and hiding this fact and logic, the BJP led leaders also demand that the union government come up with a legislation that would empower the state police and other crime investigating agencies to press charges against suspects of their choice for alleged terrorist activities. The BJP led political and religious leaders also accuse the union government of entertaining a 'soft' stand on terrorism.
For example, the Chief Minister of Karnataka state, Mr. B. S. Yediyurappa, in a statement issued on 28 September has followed the example pitched in by Mr. L. K Advani, the national leader of the BJP, in accusing the union government of not taking enough action against 'terrorist' activities in the country. The statements issued by these individuals, contradict the violence perpetrated by their own cadres and political allies.
While the state governments, particularly those in close alliance with the BJP, promote violence in the name of preserving the original identity of India, their unique demand for a possibly draconian legislation to combat terrorism in India can only be viewed as a demand for a legal instrument to perpetuate further violence against targeted religious communities. Such an instrument will only further intensify the divide between different religious communities in India, from which only extremist Hindu political parties like the BJP, VHP, RSS and the Bajrang Dal would derive short-term political gains.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.