As the death toll in Mumbai continues to rise, and the number of Australian victims remains unknown, debate has begun over the possible involvement of “home-grown” Indian terrorists.

In fact, India has been wrestling with the issue of “home-grown terrorists” over the past few weeks – only the terrorists at the centre of the other debate weren’t Muslim. The Indian authorities have arrested a number of Hindu militants, including a serving army officer, in relation to a bombing in Malageon that was reportedly aimed at transforming India into a Hindu state by 2025, and to “make India like it was when it was ruled by the Aryans”.  The The apparent revelation of an organized terrorist network with links to well-known Hindu nationalist organizations, including the opposition BJP, has attracted considerable attention in the subcontinent.

The network has also been connected to attacks in Hyderabad and Ajmer.  But the biggest sensation came when anti-terrorism officials claimed during a court hearing that the network may have been responsible for the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express train between Delhi and Lahore. Most of the 68 victims of the Samjhauta attack were Pakistani nationals returning home after visiting India, and Pakistan-based jihadi organizations were widely held to be responsible. So allegations that the perpetrators may have been Hindu extremists rather than Muslims attracted widespread attention in both India and Pakistan. The Indian authorities later retreated from the claims regarding the Samjhauta bombing,  but the Pakistani government and media are still demanding further information.

The ruling Congress party is in a weak position to face forthcoming elections, and the BJP is claiming that the current crackdown on Hindu organizations is aimed at courting the Muslim vote. The BJP, for its part, is rallying in support of the so-called “saffron bombers“.

This week’s Mumbai attacks have overtaken the “saffron bomber’s” place in the headlines. But the story does not seem likely to go away.

Peter Fray

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