Wednesday December 01, 2021

Saffronization in India’s armed forces

May 02, 2020

In a press conference recently, DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar said at the time when the world was uniting amid a global pandemic, the RSS-inspired extremist Modi government was violating international laws. He said the Indian forces were using heavy artillery against the civilian population across the LoC and using people of occupied Kashmir as a human shield. More importantly, he stated the recent Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) conference had observed that the Indian leadership and RSS had proved that India was promoting Hindutva and Saffron terrorism by violating all the international laws and moralities at a time when the whole world was uniting against COVID-19 and the UN secretary general had made an appeal for end to all international conflicts. “Saffronization of Indian military and polity is a sad specter that the world can ill afford under these circumstances,” Major General Iftikhar warned.

Saffronization of India’s armed forces became apparent with the Samjhota Express attack in 2007, which occurred just a day before the high profile visit of Pakistan’s then foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri to New Delhi for ministerial-level talks. The tentacles of the Samjhota Express attack then spread to the Indian Army and Indian Military Intelligence. A Hindu holy man Sadhu Asimanand’s confession before a court in Haryana in January 2011 confirmed the existence of underground cells of Hindu Right, with support of personnel from the Indian Army, were behind the string of terrorist occurrences, including the Samjhota Express carnage.

In a damning confession before a magistrate, Swami Asimanand, who was India’s Mecca Masjid terror blast mastermind, had nailed the lies of top RSS leader Indresh Kumar and exposed his links with various terror plots across the country. He had confessed to being directly involved in the Samjhota Express blasts that killed 68, mostly Pakistanis, in 2007. Forensic investigations confirmed that a mix of sulphur and nitrate had been used in the explosion to ignite bottles of kerosene, all assembled inside two suitcases, that took shape as balls of fire which instantly engulfed two coaches. A fully prepared suitcase bomb, loaded with its incendiary cocktails had failed to pick up combustion in another compartment, presenting the investigators with a windfall. The suitcase was traced to Indore where these suitcases were purchased and their covers stitched by a local tailor.

But more seriously for India and its armed forces, there was a nexus between Hindu terror elements and Indian Military Intelligence officers. Both were involved in bomb attacks on Samjhota Express and mosques in Hyderabad, Ajmer Sharif and Malegaon.

According to reports published in the Indian media, RSS members, senior politicians, retired and serving army officers, were part of the conspiracy to subvert every institution in the country. The tapes recovered from the RSS accused revealed that of the eight army officers named in the tapes, at least four had intelligence background. Apart from Purohit and Upadhyay, two were serving brigadiers, three colonels and two majors. Of these, only one colonel came under investigation and the National Investigation Agency ignored the rest. In the tapes, Lt Col Purohit, the Indian Army officer who was the mastermind, says, “We are all on the same plane, Hindu Rashtra (Nation).” He even claimed that Gen J J Singh, who was the Indian Army chief till Sept. 2007, was with him.

Even more damning was the revelation by Purohit that “one of our own captains had visited Israel for training and meeting and demanded four things from Israel, i.e. continuous and uninterrupted supply of arms and training, an office with a saffron flag in Tel Aviv, political asylum and support for our cause of a Hindu Nation in the UN." The Israelis, he adds, gave a very positive response and promised arms and asylum.

Disturbing questions about the terror network, especially its influence in the Indian Army, were raised and whether Colonel Purohit was only a small link in a bigger, more dangerous, chain within the Indian Army.

After this, India found itself on the backfoot over revelations that it had covered up the trail of the Samjhota Express tragedy for which the Indian media, police and the government had routinely named Pakistan and its intelligence agencies. It was found that leaders of different Hindu communal organisations -- Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Abhinav Bharat, Jai Vande Matram and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram -- had planned, financed and supported these terrorist attacks. One report revealed: "The composition of the bombs showed careful, macabre preparations to ensure release of maximum incendiary flames to cause a large number of casualties among passengers who couldn’t even escape the moving inferno by jumping out of the barred windows.”

The behaviour of the Indian armed forces, especially in held Kashmir, is a strong indicator how saffronization has become ingrained among the ranks and files of the Indian armed forces personnel over the years. This was what General Iftikhar was probably talking about.