BJP exploits backlash violence in India?

Following the July 5 attack by presumed Islamic militants at the disputed Indian holy site of Ayodhya, protests have broken out throughout India. Over 2,000 were arrested in Delhi, where police used tear gas, and critics charge the protests have been particularly violent in states controlled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). (New India Press, July 6) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh criticized the protests as being manipulated to score cheap political points. (WebIndia, July 8) But BJP leader LK Advani denied the protests were politically motivated. “When incidents like this happen, people become resentful. They need an outlet to let out their resentment and that is what is happening.” (Times of India, July 7)

Advani also criticized the government for repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which was pushed through when the BJP was in power in 2002, and Advani was serving as home minister. The law was scrapped last year when a new coalition led by the Congress party ousted the BJP government in national elections. “A special law is required to deal with terrorism – we had made one but to please a particular section of the society the government repealed it,” Advani told reporters on his way to Ayodhya after the attack. The “particular section of the society” remark is a barely-veiled reference to Muslims.

Advani also noted that POTA was part of a wave of global anti-terrorist bills passed by several countries after 9-11. “The only country where government has removed it is India,” the Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted him as saying.

(Pakistan Daily Times, July 10)

For more on POTA, see WW4 REPORT #40