PCJ Fellows Talk: Homegrown Islamic Terrorism and Hindu Nationalism: A Case Study from India
Beginning with a series of blasts in 13 sites across Bombay (now Mumbai) that killed 257 people and injured 713 in 1993, the last two decades have seen an increasing frequency of acts of terrorism being perpetrated in the Indian hinterland. While several Pakistan-based militant organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad have been implicated in these attacks, Indian Muslims have formed militant organizations of their own. The Tanzim Islahul Muslimeen (Organization for the Improvement of Muslims), formed in 1985 is among the earliest examples of Islamic militancy in the Indian jihadist movement. The gradual radicalization of a section of the Students Islamic Movement of India in the 1990s and the establishment of the Indian Mujahideen in 2002, form more recent additions to the homegrown movement.
What are the intentions, motivations, and perhaps perceived grievances of those attracted to the contemporary indigenous terrorist movement in India? Is there a connection between the rise of homegrown terrorism and the societal order or domestic politics that can inform our understanding of the former? The Indian security discourse on terrorism has related the issue as external- Pakistan-sponsored or cross-border terrorism. It is fundamentally seen as asocial and inspired by outside factors and any causes or relations to the society it targets are considered secondary. With ample evidence of the establishment of homegrown terrorist groups within India, this view needs to be revaluated with a focus on domestic politics. A parallel trend in Indian politics- the rise of right-wing Hindu nationalism or the Hindutva movement and its targeting of the Muslim minority, is of particular significance. Using key causal-process observations in a process tracing exercise, this link between Hindutva-sponsored communal riots and the rise of homegrown terrorist groups is established within the theoretical framework of Critical Terrorism Studies.