India shocked by discovery of first Hindu terror cell

At least 10 people, including monk and army officer, held over bombings initially blamed on Islamists

India is in something of a state of shock after learning from official sources that its first Hindu terror cell may have carried out a series of deadly bombings that were initially blamed on militant Muslims. The revelation is forcing the country to consider some difficult questions.

At least 10 people have been arrested in connection with several bomb blasts in the Muslim-dominated town of Malegaon in the western state of Maharashtra in September, which left six people dead. But reports suggest that police believe the cell may also have carried out a number of previous attacks, including last year's notorious bombing of a cross-border train en route to Pakistan, which killed 68 people. Among the alleged members of the cell are a serving army officer and a Hindu monk.

Bomb attacks are not uncommon in India – there has been a flurry in recent months – but police usually blame them on Muslim extremists, often said to have links to militant groups based in either Pakistan or Bangladesh. As a result, the recent cracking of the alleged Hindu cell has forced India to face some difficult issues. A country that prides itself on purported religious and cultural toleration – an ambition that in reality often falls short – has been made to ask itself how this cell could operate for so long. India's military, which prides itself on its professionalism, has been forced to order an embarrassing inquiry.

The near-daily drip of revelations from police has also caused red faces for India's main political opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ahead of state polls and a general election scheduled for early next year. The BJP and its prime ministerial candidate, Lal Krishna Advani, have long accused the Congress Party-led government of being soft on terrorism that involved Muslims. However, the BJP has refused to call for a clampdown on Hindu groups, and last week Mr Advani even criticised the police over the way they questioned one of the alleged cell members, a woman called Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.

The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, phoned his rival to ask him not to politicise the issue or the investigation. "There is a strong case so let the police do their job," he told Mr Advani. While some commentators have expressed surprise about the discovery of the alleged cell, others have pointed out that there has been growing concern about the possible threat from Hindu extremists. In the summer, two members of a right-wing Hindu group were killed while putting together a bomb, and two other suspected members of the same group died in similar circumstances in 2006.

Meanwhile, senior right-wing leaders have made no secret of their wish that Hindus should form suicide squads to protect themselves against Muslim extremists. Bal Thackeray, leader of a group called the Shiv Sena, which has been responsible for communal and regional violence in Mumbai, wrote recently in the party's magazine: "The threat of Islamic terror in India is rising. It is time to counter the same with Hindu terror. Hindu suicide squads should be readied to ensure the existence of Hindu society and to protect the nation."

Observers say the fact that the police have arrested the alleged cell members amid considerable political pressure suggests the growing professionalism of its security forces. "It's the first Hindu cell and it's the first time Hindus have been shackled and taken to jail," said Professor Dipankar Gupta, a sociologist at Delhi's Jawarlahal Nehru University. "I'm quite pleased with the way the police have done their jobs."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine