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The Rediff Interview/Abhay Vartak, Sanatan Sanstha spokesperson

'There is no such thing as Hindu terrorism'

October 27, 2008

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If the Mumbai Anti Terrorist Squad is to be believed, then the Hindu activists arrested in Indore were responsible for the  bomb blast at Malegaon in September, which killed six people, to avenge the various acts of terror carried out in the country.

The operation undertaken by the Mumbai cops has put several Hindu groups under the scanner. The Maharashtra government has called for a ban on some Hindu groups which includes the Sanatan Sanstha.

Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil and Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar [Images] have sought a ban on the Sanstha, alleging that the organisation had played a major role in the bomb blast at Gadkari Rangaytan in Thane in June this year.

Sanatan Sanstha spokeperson Abhay Vartak spoke to rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa about the demand for the ban, Hindu terrorism and also their activities.

Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil and NCP chief Sharad Pawar have demanded a ban on the Sanatan Sanstha. What are your views on this?

It is a politically motivated move. The government wants to appease Muslims and also wants to cover up its non-performance in handling the law and order situation. Take a look at the violence incited by NCP activists in Nashik where a Vishwa Hindu Parishad office was attacked.

The Sanatan Sanstha, a non-political spiritual organisation, is an easy scapegoat. It is surprising that those who are demanding a ban have not paid any attention to the Sanatan's activities. It has many public awareness campaigns to its credit over the last 18 years.

Does your outfit encourage Hindu terrorism?

No, we don't encourage terrorism. We denounce the term 'Hindu terrorism'. Our so-called secular-minded friends declare openly that terrorists have no religion. We are involved in spreading spiritualism as per the Sanatan Hindu Dharma. Obviously the philosophy we propagate is all inclusive and most tolerant.

Your activists are alleged to be involved in the Gadkari Rangaytan blast in Thane, and the Rabodi riots.

We have nothing to do with both. As far as Gadkari Rangaytan case is concerned we have already and repeatedly made our position clear by denouncing the act and helped the police investigate the case. We have nothing to do with the Rabodi riots, which was a result of Muslim aggressiveness. It is political propaganda to malign us. We have demanded proof and are getting legal advice to take action.

Your critics describe you as the Hindu equivalent of the Students Islamic Movement of India. Are you? What exactly do you do?

We are not. There is hardly any sense in it. We are involved in spreading national feelings, dreaming of an India which will show the path of peace to the world. Compare this with what SIMI [Images] aims to do. We are a Hindutvawadi spiritual organisation working in society for its spiritual upliftment. And as the spiritual truths explained by Sanatan Hindu Dharma is all inclusive, there are many non-Hindus who are doing spiritual practice as per the Sanatan's guidance. I think this much shall be sufficient to stop comparing SIMI with us once and for all.

There has been a lot of focus on terrorism allegedly executed by Muslims, but your organisation is said to be in the forefront of encouraging Hindu terrorism. Do you believe in tit for tat?

The whole statement needs a closer look. If you take terrorism as a problem faced by this country then it is wrong to say there is a lot of focus on terrorism. Actually, there is comparatively less focus on terrorism as compared to the magnitude of the actual problem. 

There is nothing called 'Hindu terrorism'. Actually our secular friends say that terrorism is terrorism and it shall not be labeled as 'Muslim terrorism'. We believe in firm, impartial handling of terrorism cases by the government. But the government and its political allies are not interested in doing so. The neglect of Hindu genocide in Kashmir and Afzal Guru's case are worth noting. Despite Hindu genocide in Kashmir there is no tit for tat feeling or counter-terrorist attacks by Hindus and this clearly shows that there is no such thing as Hindu terrorism here.

Critics say the authorities are soft on Hindu terrorism, cracking down only on Muslim terrorism. Isn't it true? How else will you explain away the inaction in the Nanded blasts, the Kanpur blasts?

There is no such a thing as Hindu terrorism so how can the government act against something which doesn't exist?

There is a Congress government in Maharashtra and this party never is and was Hindutvawadi. In Uttar Pradesh [Images], Mayawati [Images] is in power. Better ask them this question. In Maharashtra, the police officers who have honestly worked and controlled the riots at Rabodi are facing punishment in the form of transfer and suspension. It is communalising of the police force. The media seems to have overlooked this angle.

Who do you think planted the bombs at Malegaon and Modasa?

The government agencies are there to investigate. We are not interested in wild speculation.

There have been several appeals made by the Shiv Sena and the Ram Sena in Karnataka to fight terror with an eye for an eye approach. Does the Sanatan Sanstha support this?

To the best of my knowledge, they are seeking resistance to the aggression against Hindus. Now how terror needs to be fought with the government agencies failing, needs debate.

Do you think the only way to fight terrorism is by terrorism?

Terrorism [Images] as understood generally is a physical phenomenon. But we understand a physical phenomenon doesn't appear from nowhere. Behind any physical action there is a thought. And thought is based on beliefs and perceptions. Similarly, terrorism as a physical phenomenon is the result of ideology. An ideology is a product of faith, perceptions etc. The intellectual expression which gives rise to physical acts of terrorism needs to be countered also.

Not only this but any intellectual expression is a manifestation of a spiritual phenomenon. That also needs to be countered. We believe that better attention should be paid to these dimensions if we are considering ways to counter terrorism.

What is your take on the recent anti-Christian violence unleashed by Hindu organisations? Don't you think such violence shames Hindus, a majority of whom do not share this violent ideology?

No one will support violence on innocents. The violence occurring in Orissa is a reaction to the killing of Swami Lakshmananada and his associates. The reaction is of the common people. Yes a majority of Hindus do not share violent ideology but the majority also don't want conversions by force and allurement, genocide of their brethren in Kashmir, appeasement of Muslims by instruments like the Sachar report and its implementation, denigration of their deities -- the list of such aggression is endless. So if one wants to curb such a physical reaction to violence then one should be willing to address the issues of aggression of various kinds that produce the reaction.

Hinduism today is rife with so many negatives. Caste has become more and more institutionalised, ill-treatment of women is still going on, illiteracy is another bane, and the tribals live beyond the pale of civilisation. Shouldn't organisations such as yours function as social reformers, remove the negatives from the religion? What are you doing in this regard?

Before we make a list of what is bad in Hinduism, one should make an attempt to see what is good in Hinduism as well. Many things you have enlisted appear as small things blown out of proportion in this context. The issues you mentioned better be discussed individually and separately rather than branding Hinduism as a cause for what you have enlisted in general.

Whatever it is we are actively involved in dharmashikshan (educating people about Hinduism). It is this aspect which has been seriously neglected for various reasons and is an important cause of many of the problems faced by Hinduism today. Apart from this we are active in curbing malpractices in public celebrations like Ganeshostav, moral value education, educating people about stress-free life through spiritual practice. We as an organisation treat all castes and sexes as equal.

There were some photographs being circulated on the internet regarding terror training camps sponsored by the Bajrang Dal. What are your views on this?

We have not come across such a thing. If indeed such is the case then it will be a good question to ask the government authorities.

If the Union government decides to ban the Sanatan Sanstha what will you do?

We will fight the ban in a court of law and on public platforms, apart from praying to God to give some sense to the Union government.


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