Indian MPs demand ban on Hindu groups over blasts

Friday, October 24, 2008

NEW DELHI: India’s parliament witnessed noisy scenes on Thursday after a group of lawmakers demanded a ban on a Hindu group suspected of involvement in two bomb blasts last month, officials said.

Members of the Indian left parties demanded an immediate ban on Hindu groups Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagran Manch, following a report in a newspaper that Jagran Manch was involved in two blasts in western India.

Confirmation of Hindu groups being involved in attacks would undermine a widespread perception in India that Muslim militants have always been behind a wave of bombings in India in recent years in which hundreds have died.

The Indian Express newspaper, quoting sources in the police, said two bombings, one in the western Indian town of Malegaon and the other in Gujarat state, were carried out by Jagaran Manch.

Five people were killed in the blasts that hit the two Muslim-dominated towns within minutes of each other on Sept. 29.

“Terrorists, regardless of their caste, should get equal punishment, but unfortunately in India the effort is to identify terrorists with the Muslim community,” Brinda Karat, who demanded a ban on the group in parliament, told Reuters. She said Bajrang Dal, another hardline Hindu group, should also be banned.

“Criminalising the entire community and targeting Muslim youths gravely weakens the nation’s unity.”

Muslim leaders accused authorities of conducting a witch hunt and reinforcing stereotypes about their community after dozens of Muslims were detained following a string of bomb attacks across the country this year.

Police in Maharashtra were tight-lipped about the news report, with officers saying they were still investigating the case.

The state’s anti-terrorism squad had evidence of the involvement of “extremist Hindu groups” in the Malegaon blast, NDTV news channel reported, without citing sources.

Police initially said the Indian Mujahideen, a militant Islamist group, could be involved in the attack.

But it was unclear why they would set off blasts near mosques and in Muslim-dominated areas, some analysts said at that time.

In August, two suspected Hindu militant fundamentalists died while trying to build a bomb in the northern town of Kanpur.

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