Radical Indian politician calls for Hindu suicide bombers to target Muslims
By Ramola Talwar-Badam
MUMBAI, India – A radical right-wing Indian politician called on Hindus to form suicide bomber squads and attack Muslim neighborhoods – a threat promptly condemned by political friends and foes alike.
Bal Thackeray, a Hindu extremist linked to past waves of mob violence in the western state of Maharashtra, has long advocated attacks against Muslims. He said suicide bombers, along with bombs planted in Muslim neighborhoods, were needed "to protect the nation and all Hindus."
"Islamic terrorism is on the rise. To combat this, Hindu terrorism must be created of similar strength," Thackeray wrote in an editorial published Wednesday in Saamna, the newspaper of his Shiv Sena party. The editorial was unsigned, but his party said Thackerary wrote it.
"Hindu suicide squads must be built," he wrote. "Only then will Hindus survive."
Whether Thackerary was sincere or just trying to grab attention was impossible to tell.
His influence in Mumbai, his longtime power base, has been waning for years, but he still commands hordes of violent followers. He has been arrested twice for inflammatory speeches and writing, and officials said Thursday they were considering arresting him for a third time.
The Shiv Sena – which means Shiva's Army – is among the most extreme of India's Hindu political parties and held power in Mumbai from 1995 to 2000.
Indian authorities have blamed Islamic extremists for a spate of bombings that have killed hundreds of people in the predominantly Hindu country of 1.1 billion people in the past three years.
Thackeray's editorial was promptly condemned by politicians from across the political spectrum, including India's leading Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has long-standing ties with Shiv Sena.
"People should not take law into their hands," BJP Vice President Venkaiah Naidu was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times newspaper. "There are democratic methods to address the problem of terrorism."
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