Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ugly defence of the indefensible

When someone takes to offence as a form of defence of the unjustifiable, the outcome turns nasty. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was on the political offensive over the last decade on an anti-Islamist terrorism plank, is clearly shaken by the revelations of the role of extremist Hindutva elements in the Malegaon bomb explosions and some other terrorist attacks. As news broke of the alleged involvement of Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur in the bomb blasts, BJP leaders first tried to distance themselves from her. On October 30, party president Rajnath Singh said he was embarrassed to find that he had been photographed with her. The next day the party’s prime-minister-in-waiting, L.K. Advani, took the politically correct stand that the sadhvi should be punished if found guilty.
All this changed quickly enough with the Hindutva command centre, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, deciding to back her to the hilt. Mr. Singh went over the top, claiming that those who believed in “cultural nationalism” — a euphemism for the sangh parivar’s highly toxic communal politics — could never take to terror and voicing his suspicion of a frame-up. But more significantly, the heavyweight Mr. Advani spelt out a new line, condemning the “barbaric treatment” of a “spiritual person,” seeking a judicial probe into her dramatised allegations of torture, and assailing “the manner in which unsubstantiated allegations have been made against serving Army personnel [Lt. Col. Shrikant Purohit].” No one can miss the irony of such statements coming from the top leaders of a party that has tried to position itself as India’s foremost adversary of terrorism. Indeed the BJP, which attacked the Jamia Millia Islamia’s offer of legal assistance to two Muslim students accused of involvement in bomb blasts, now has no qualms about supporting alleged terrorists of the saffron kind. Every accused is constitutionally entitled to legal assistance but political support to those accused of serious crimes, especially terrorist acts, is an entirely different matter.
Clearly, the BJP’s stance on Malegaon has nothing to do with the principle that a person must be presumed innocent unless proved guilty. It is a stance of blanket opposition to the law of the land bringing to justice sangh parivar elements accused of terrorist crimes. The double standard aside, the BJP is guilty of seeking to politicise, pressure, and derail the legal investigation of the Malegaon explosions and the conspiracy behind them by Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad. It is particularly shocking that Mr. Advani, a former Union Home Minister, going on nothing but the hysterical words of an accused, charged the ATS with being politically motivated and unprofessional in its investigation. The parivar has a track record of applauding the ATS whenever it acted against alleged Islamist terrorists. Blinded by its communal agenda, the main opposition party has gone dangerously over the top in the cause of Hindutva.


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