If Bajrang Dal is not BJP, what of the RSS, Mr Shah?

Written by Teesta Setalvad | Published on: May 28, 2016
 Image credit:hinduexistence.org, inset of Vinay Katiyar

In the latest evidence of pre-poll preparations and vacillations, the BJP president, Amit Shah who has had serious criminal charges against him is reported to have told the media in Uttar Pradesh that “the Bajrang Dal is not the BJP”. That this bald statement was obviously to put off questions on recent and visible attempts to polarise the UP electorate with arms training camps by the BD in the north Indian state due for state elections early next year, is clear. Barely a few days ago a video of the training camp had received wide attention on the social media, leading to the arrest of the BD leader responsible for the training in violence.

In a statement typical of his and his organisation’s defiance of the law of the land, president of the VHP, Praveen Togadia,  has defended the Bajrang Dal: “For making the nation healthy, SP, BSP and BJP governments should thank the Bajranj Dal

“Under the Indian Constitution and laws, every citizen of India has the right to pursue activities, and the Bajrang Dal has been organising ‘Yuva Shaurya Prasikshan’ camps for the past 25 years to make the youth of the nation healthy whether it is a Congress-ruled state or SP, BSP, Communists or BJP-ruled,” he told reporters after attending a valedictory function of the “self-defence” camp in Noida.

Togadia, responsible for leading several ‘trishul distribution’ programmes during the tenure of the first NDA government between 1999-2004 had been arrested in April 2003 after distributing tridents to Bajrang Dal activists in Ajmer defying ban and prohibitory orders. The Bajrang Dal was banned in 1992 by the Narasimha Rao-led government following the Babri Masjid Demolition, but the ban was revoked one year later. On October 5, 2008, the National Commission for Minorities had recommended a ban on the Bajrang Dal and VHP for their alleged role in the attacks on Christian institutions in Karnataka

On the moot question of the close links between these sangh outfits, however, it requires no sleuth to establish links between the parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the VHP-BD and the sangh parivar’s parliamentary face, the BJP. The BJP president himself is a long-standing member of the RSS as is the prime minister.

In the past 24 months of Modi rule, the central government has stepped in conspicuously to intervene when Bajrang Dal members flagrantly violate the law. Nothing less than India's Ministry of Home Affairs and a special notification to ensure that a Bajrang Dal activist does not face charges under the National Security Act (NSA). The accused had brutally thrashed a Muslim youth. In just one such instance – and there have been at least a couple – a video clip shows Bajrang Dal goons beating a young Muslim, Riyaz, who was thereafter seen bleeding profusely and paraded by the group of angry youths, who are repeatedly heard shouting: “Gau hatya kar raha tha. Yehi anjam hoga gau hatya karne walon ka” (He was slaughtering a cow. This is how we will deal with those who slaughter cows). (June 2015)

Riyaz told the media that he belonged to Shamli in Muzaffarnagar and was only sitting at the place, where the cow was allegedly being slaughtered. In another related video police constables are seen arresting the victim while taking no action against the members of Bajrang Dal.

The district administration had slapped National Security Act against the Bajrang Dal leader, Vivek Premi, for his extraordinary act of violence. Since then Premi has been in jail. But the central government has now decided to revoke the NSA instructing the state administration to ‘urgently’ consider releasing him from the jail. The Indian Express has quoted excerpts from the Union home ministry’s order: “After careful consideration of the representation, the central government is pleased to revoke under section 14 (1) of the National Security Act, 1980. The detenu may be released forthwith from the jail unless he is required to be kept in jail for any