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Communalism

Assam Police Files FIR Against Bajrang Dal for Conducting Arms Training in School

The FIR was filed after state Congress leader Debabrat Saikia wrote a letter on the matter to chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

New Delhi: A day after the leader of opposition in the Assam assembly and state Congress leader Debabrat Saikia wrote a letter to chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma demanding action against the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal for holding a five-day arms training of local youth at a school and sought an inquiry into the role of the district administration in facilitating it, Assam Police has filed a case against the Hindutva group.

A video featuring local youth being trained in arms by the Bajrang Dal had gone viral on July 31 in Assam, leading Saikia to bring the matter to the notice of the chief minister who is also the state home minister. News reports quoting Bajrang Dal leaders of the state said the outfit, in a five-day workshop held at Maharshi Bidya Mandir school in Mangaldoi area of Darrang district, had trained 350 youth to handle arms and taught them martial arts besides arts, spirituality and politics.

Reacting to the viral video, Saikia, in the letter to his former Congress colleague Sarma, said that such arms training by the outfit in Assam had come to light in 2017 and 2019, too. “This is not the first time such camps have been organised…my party (Congress) had protested against it,” he wrote. Saikia said, at a time when measures were being taken by all to maintain peace and harmony in Assam, a section of reactionary forces is out to create religious frenzy to affect the law and order situation in the state.

The Congress leader also sought appropriate action against the district administration for looking the other way while such arms training was going on for days together. He demanded an inquiry into the local administration for granting permission to hold such workshops in the district.

Later talking to local media, Saikia underlined that the chief minister himself had been speaking on communal lines and particularly highlighted his recent statement that the Muslims of East Bengali origin were responsible for rise in the price of vegetables in the state. Most people from the community are involved in agriculture. Saikia said, “We have always known that the price rise of vegetables in Assam is due to middlemen and syndicates; it has been proven through various media reports but the chief minister targeted a particular community for it…lately several organisations have tried to foment communal disharmony in the state.”

He said, “Since in the video we heard Bajrang Dal leaders claiming that they are giving training because they want to feel secure, I want to say it is a shame on state administration and state police because as far as we know, maintaining law and order is the job of the police.”

Speaking to The Wire, Saikia said, “Ideally, on the basis of such training, the governor should suggest President’s Rule in the state to the Centre as law and order is a state subject.” He also added, “That the Hindus are particularly feeling insecure in a BJP ruled state also indicates that there is some problem in maintaining law and order.”

The state CPI(M) also demanded that police take immediate action against the Bajrang Dal members for freely using arms. Party state secretary Suprakash Talukdar, in a statement, called it “a conspiracy to create communal tensions in the state”.

On August 1, Darrang Police tweeted saying, “Reference video related training by Rashtriya Bajrang Dal at Maharshi Bidya Mandir, Mangaldai, a case has been registered” under sections 153A and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. State director general of police G.P. Singh also said on Twitter that the district police has been instructed to “register a case under appropriate sections of law and investigate the matter and take lawful action”.

The sections pertain to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language and doing acts prejudice to the maintenance of harmony.

A state Bajrang Dal leader told PTI that such workshops are held “regularly” to “counter security threats from illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries”.