Note: The article has been updated to remove mentions of the shooter’s name after reports emerged that he was a minor.
New Delhi: The Facebook profile of the young man identified by Delhi Police as the person who brandished a gun and opened fire at anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protestors near Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi on January 30, is noteworthy for several reasons.
The profile of the young man, from the Jewar area of Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Buddha Nagar district, has begun making the rounds on social media.
While ANI had first quoted police as having said that he was 19 years old, it later tweeted the photograph of a marksheet that showed that he was just shy of 18.
Minutes before he took out the gun, he went live on the page, before typing out a series of posts in Hindi, one of them stating: “Shaheen Bagh, khel khatam (Shaheen Bagh, the game is over).”
However, what is striking about the profile – active since July 2018 – is that the youth is not only spotted brandishing a weapon himself in the name of “Jai Hindutva” but also sharing photos of his “bhai (brothers)” holding guns. His profile picture shows him kissing a sword, the handle of which is tied with a cloth used in rituals.
Scrolling down the page, there is a photo of one Deepak Sharma shared by the shooter. Deepak has been identified in earlier media reports as a “a violent and abusive vigilante” and said to be the founder of the Rashtriya Swabhimaan Dal. In 2017, he physically abused a young man for a meme. He later said it was part of a “film”. Though he claims to be from Jaipur, police records say he reportedly lives in Hathras district of UP.
In the photo shared by Gopal on January 25, Deepak was seen posing with a gun stating. The post states in Hindi: Bulandiyo pe pahuchna toh meri bhi chahat hain; par jaldi itni bhi nahi ki galat raste chun bethu (I too want to reach the pinnacle of glory but I am not in such a hurry that I choose the wrong path).”
The next photo shared on the social media platform by the shooter with a weapon is from January 17. It features three youth, one of them holding a gun. He wrote on the post in Haryanvi: Re Izzat Khel me hi nee; Jail me bhi milya kare bhai; par woh dhara dekhi jya kare; kaun si lagri se; Jai Hindutva (Don’t just give me respect while in the play; show it when I am in jail too; Let’s see which section of Indian Penal Code is used; Jai Hindutva).”
On January 14, the shooter shared another image – that of a youth holding a gun and bullets. Calling for “Hindu ekta”, he wrote on the post that he knew how far the youth could go because he himself had trained him. The same youth is featured along with another youth in a video brandishing a gun and a string of bullets and yet again, he posted, “Bhaichara Zindabad, Hindu Ekta Zindabad (Hail brotherhood; Long Live Hindu unity).”
The Facebook profile has 3,616 friends. Among them are Chaudhuri Jawahar Talan, a local leader of the RSS’s student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). On January 27, the shooter shared a post of Talan featuring the regional meet of the Meerut wing of the student outfit, saying, “Keep it up Bhai.”
Yet another friend of the shooter’s is one Thakur Virat Bhati. On January 29, a day before Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, Bhati uploaded a post stating: “Kal hi ke din 30 January ko Godse ji ne desh ko bachaya tha…Nathuram Godse amar rahe (Tomorrow, on January 30, Godse saved the country; long live Nathuram Godse).”
The shooter used the gun in the Jamia area while reportedly shouting the slogan, “If you want to live in Hindustan, you will have to chant Jai Shri Ram” – on the anniversary of the day in 1948 when Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi at a prayer meeting in Delhi.
Barely an hour after the shooter’s Facebook profile began circulating on social media, the page became unreachable. It is likely to have removed by Facebook India at the authorities’ request.
A company spokesperson of Facebook responded to questions sent by The Wire on the profile and whether it was removed by the platform with the following statement:
“There is no place on Facebook for those who commit this kind of violence. We have removed the gunman’s Facebook account and are removing any content that praises, supports or represents the gunman or the shooting as soon as we identify it.”