This was a term which came to be known during the time the UPA was the ruling dispensation, Digvijay Singh used it liberally trying to name every attack as 'Saffron Terror'. This colour of terror was sought to be attributed to every terror attack which happened when the UPA was at the helm.
The common refrain was terror has no religion. Terrorism, whatever may be the cause, is not acceptable. But in the same breath, Mecca Masjid, Samjautha Express, Malegaon, Ajmer Sharif and other terror attacks were branded as 'Saffron Terror'.
In 2010, Mr P Chidambaram had eloquently spoken on the vice of saffron from the Deoband seminary in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Digvijay Singh did use it repeatedly as I have stated above. Sushil Kumar Shinde, the Home Minister who succeeded P Chidambaram also publicly stated the existence of 'Saffron Terror' in 2013.
'Saffron Terror' or 'Hindu Terror'?
On quite a few occasions, I have been asked about the existence of 'Saffron Terror'. My common refrain would be there was no 'Hindu Terror'. Are they different? Indeed, they are.
However, my fear was that if the saffron terror existence or its genesis is explained to them they will immediately divert and misconstrue. Next day headlines would presumably be 'former MHA Internal Security official confirms existence of Saffron Terror'. Even without that, even when the 26/11 Mumbai attacks were actually happening, a book titled '26/11/2008 - RSS ki Saazish' was under print. But it took a backseat due to the capture of Ajmal Kasab and overwhelming evidence, in spite of P Chidambaram not sharing the full inventory of evidences with Pakistan (refer to Answer to Lok Sabha Starred Question No. 78 answered on 2.3.2010).
What actually is 'Saffron Terror'?
Readers may like to recall that 90 percent of India's saffron is grown in the Kashmir Valley. Particularly, a place called Pampore in the Kashmir Valley is where highest concentration of saffron plantation is. I earnestly mean saffron as a cash crop. We also know that saffron as a commodity is valued and worth its weight in gold. Such is the high value of the saffron proceeds.
Genocide of 1990s and the Rubaiya Saeed kidnapping
Now may I take the readers to the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits beginning 19th January, 1990, onwards. May I also recall for the benefit of the readers that few days prior to that the kidnap drama of Rubaiya Mufti had also been enacted. The Government of India was headed by Vishwanath Pratap Singh, with Mufti Mohammad Saeed as the Home Minister who was also the father of allegedly kidnapped victim. Hence, with little effort at negotiation the Pakistani assets were released in exchange.
Joining the dots
All these facts may look totally disconnected but they are all connected. How? Let us get it here. Rubaiya Saeed's sister Mehbooba, who is the political heir of her father, has been always batting for cross-border trade with PoK and the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road connections and such other things. I have already brought out in my earlier blog that when on August 12, 2008, the Amarnath agitation was at its peak, she illegally entered PoK and came back with protestors. She should have been arrested there and then, but the government chose not to do so.
Trade route to PoK
Trade between the Kashmir Valley and PoK and Pakistan by proxy is thriving, irrespective of the Government of India's nod. This also enables the vice of overstating the quantities and overstating the price as well as over-invoicing and hence resulting in money laundering.
You may recall arrest of a trader Devinder Singh Behl by NIA in 2017 is one standing evidence of this malaise. This laundered money was used for terror funding in the Kashmir Valley in the 1990s. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) was the pioneer in cornering this laundered money for their nefarious activities. Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Teherik-e-Kashmir were others who were benefiting from this.
Funding of terror in 1990s in the Valley
The reason for this way of fund raising was that in the 1990s there was no internet, internet banking, core banking, Western Union money transfers, or bank branches all over the country for easy transfer of money. Saffron was a high value item and would fetch huge amounts required for funding such activities. Also, it was an agricultural product with no definite input-output norms. Therefore, it could easily facilitate the over invoicing.
How genocide suited their agenda
Why then was the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits carried out? The mujahids' repulsions for the Pandits was one reason. But more importantly, many of the Pandits displaced had landholdings with saffron, apricot and chinar as cash crops.
Hence, to drive the Pandits out was a necessity to perpetuate and expand this money laundering, which was required for funding the terrorism. Larger Islamisation of the Valley indeed was one primary purpose and driving them out of the Valley meant killing two birds with one stone for the Kashmiri terrorist.
Mufti family's interests
Here is how the Mufti family played into the stage-managed kidnapping. Mehbooba, as I have already explained, was always hobnobbing with the lobby wanting trade over the border of the Valley and PoK, although they knew it meant trade by proxy with Pakistan.
With Pakistan's unholy designs, it was indeed known to these persons that Islamabad would pay an incentivised price through which they could also line their pockets. It is evident from the fact that 21 separatist leaders who raided by NIA as late as 2017 had amassed assets which could put any industrialist to shame. Indeed, this input was there with the government in 2007, and again in 2009 and 2010. But the government chose to look the other way.
This is the reason terrorism in Kashmir was funded by money laundered through saffron cultivation. The driving out of Pandits was a ruse to perpetuate this besides fitting into their agenda. This is the true 'Saffron Terror'. It had nothing to do with religion. But Digvijaya Singh, P Chidambaram and Sushil Kumar Shinde conveniently used it to malign Hindus.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)