Fanatics are targetting nationalists like me’
By Sandeep Balakrishna on September 1, 2012
The Bangalore Crime Branch (BCB) on August 30 arrested 11 members allegedly affiliated to Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. This pre-emptive strike by the police has averted a major terror strike, which these men are accused of having plotted. Part of this plot reportedly included assassinating prominent businessmen, politicians, and two journalists working in the Kannada language media. One of these is the renowned Kannada journalist and Kannada Prabha columnist Pratap Simha.
Sandeep B brings you an exclusive interview with Pratap Simha who shares his experiences of being the target of the alleged terror plot against him.
Sandeep B: Thanks Pratap for agreeing to do this interview. First, the obvious question: How do you feel, being a target of a failed terror attack?
Pratap Simha : I’m really not anxious but you can say I’m disturbed because I have a 7-month old child and a disabled wife… not that I’m scared… I’ll get to that later. It was different when I was a bachelor. You see, people behind such attacks won’t achieve anything by killing one or two writers. If they do, hundreds of other writers will crop up. These people need to change their mindset.
SB: Did you suspect something like this or did the police alert you? When did you come to know of this threat first?
PS: Let me give you some background. In 2007, I wrote a column titled ävarige sigabahudu kanyearu 70 namage maatra aapattu (They might get 70 virgins but we only get danger). This piece created a huge storm. My point is, this is not the first time I’ve faced threats. I continue to receive hundreds of hate mails and protests. Even my last Saturday’s column elicited a hate message which I deleted. I have never cared for these things. Another example: in 2003, I wrote an article condemning protests by Jaffer Sharief and Deve Gowda who took out a huge procession in Bangalore condemning the US attack on Saddam. I faced a lot of heat for this piece too. See, I don’t like living in fear.
Anyway, to answer your question, I was alerted yesterday morning by my editor about this threat to my life. So far, all these attacks and threats were at a very small level. But I must admit, I hadn’t imagined they would escalate to terrorist-levels.
SB: The media reports that 11 people were arrested, almost all of whom were from Karnataka. What do you think of this development given that Karnataka has largely been a peaceful state since independence?
PS: What we are now seeing is a worrying brand of entirely home-grown terrorism operating on remote control from Saudi, Middle East. Of those who were arrested, one was a local “boss” hailing from UP. Another north Indian was operating from Saudi, giving plans and instructions.
By and large, Islamic radicalism of the Wahhabi brand is rapidly increasing in the state. In coastal Karnataka, the kind of radicalism we’re seeing now was completely absent even 15 years ago. In South Canara one was used to seeing these grand churches but now we can see imposing mosques with huge and high walls, almost like fortresses. Local Muslims back then used to mix freely with people of other faiths but now there is a marked distance.
Anyway, the spread of Wahhabism is worrying because it preaches that a Muslim’s primary allegiance is to Islam and not to the nation. These preachers target impressionable teenagers and youths whose minds are not yet mature, who are hot-blooded and receptive to brainwashing. All those arrested today are aged between 20-30. These youths are so indoctrinated that they have no thought about things like their own future, the implications of their acts on their families. They care nothing about even basic things like hurting others’ feelings. It’s a very disturbing trend. This phenomenon is not restricted to India but elsewhere in the world where Islamic radicalism is on the rise. Also, this mindset is dangerous in any community. This development does not bode well for Karnataka.
SB: Media has reported that these terrorists targeted you and Vishweshwar Bhat specifically because they were found to possess photos of you and Mr. Bhat with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Your views?
PS: The police raid revealed that these guys had downloaded all my pieces that took a pro-nationalistic stand as well as those that were critical of Islamic terrorism. They had also downloaded photos of Mr. Modi with me and Mr. Bhat.
Now, Muslims are obviously angry with Modi for right or wrong reasons. Hindus equally have reasons to admire Modi. For the record, I admire Modi because he has provided credible leadership, effective governance and delivered on all his development promises in Gujarat. I’ve written a book on him. The secular media and Muslim outfits which have attacked Modi for 10 years — why should they be angry with Modi’s supporters and try to silence their voices?
See, I’ve never supported the killing of Muslims or Hindus or any other community. These people targeted me because they thought I am close to Modi. When I wrote that book, allegations were made that I had taken Rs. 2 Crore from Modi to write it!
SB: In some circles, you’re known as a firebrand “Hindutva” journalist who hates Muslims. Is that why you were targeted now?
PS: Yes. Because in the last 13-14 years in my journalism career, I have seen nobody supporting Hindu and nationalist causes as candidly as I have. That’s why I have been branded anti-Muslim whereas I am not against any religion. My inspiration is Swami Vivekananda. Remember his quote about taking all the mud from the bottom of the ocean? He too wasn’t against either Christianity or Islam. He just pointed out the damage they had caused. I’m doing the same. I have never ever condemned the practices, traditions and customs of Muslims. I have also condemned Hindu misdeeds, and have even criticised Swamis. I have deep respect for Hindu traditions. How does that make me anti-Muslim?
SB: How has your family taken this?
PS: They’re disturbed but they don’t show it. I don’t want to reveal personal details but my wife lost her leg in an accident some time ago but she fought back. If something happens to me tomorrow, I know she’ll be strong and survive my absence. This gives me enormous strength.
SB: Will you continue writing in the same vein or will you tone down and/or change your stance?
PS: In 2007, about 30 people had come to my office to attack me when I wrote that 72 virgins article. If I had to change my writing, I would have done so back then. No question of changing now or in the future because it means abandoning my convictions. There is no life for me if I give up my convictions.
SB: Among those arrested today were a DRDO employee and a journalist with an English daily. These are people in responsible positions. One of them is a person working in a sensitive organisation like the DRDO. Your take?
PS: You’re right, it is worrisome. But it’s nothing new. Lots of brainwashed fundamentalists hold white collar jobs. There’s that Yahoo techie, affiliated to Indian Mujahideen who sent out threatening emails, a Bangladeshi (?) woman who was caught smuggling sensitive information from ISRO in the 90s, an intern who was caught smuggling secret information from HAL, etc. Indians looked at Muslims with suspicion post-partition because their demands led to the creation of Pakistan. Now, when these incidents keep happening repeatedly, such suspicion is reinforced.
See, it is okay if ordinary people don’t give much weight to things like nationalism, etc. But people working in places like DRDO, army, etc. If they are brainwashed against the nation, it is a cause for anxiety.
SB: How do you rate the effectiveness of our police and intelligence?
PS: This threat to me and Mr. Bhat was first detected by the Hyderabad police who tipped off Bangalore police. The BCB have done commendable work. They are efficient despite severe constraints. But they would do even better if their political masters allowed them.
SB: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
PS: I must express my heartfelt gratitude to the government which responded instantly by giving me 24/7 security.
All I want to say is that people who are born and brought up in this nation, which has given them food, clothing, and shelter and citizen rights and jobs. To these people, I appeal: please do not bomb this nation from within. It will serve no purpose.