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Bhopal: In the days after Kanhaiya Lal was brutally killed in Udaipur, provocative slogans and threats of violence were issued at protest marches held by various right-wing groups between June 29 and July 1.
Lal, a tailor, was hacked to death in his shop on June 28. The prime accused in his killing are Riyaz Attari and Ghouse Mohammad. The duo claimed responsibility for the killing in an online video saying the tailor was killed to “avenge” Prophet Muhammad. Lal had made a social media post in support of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who had made controversial remarks against the Islamic religious figure. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken over the probe into the case.
Close to 100 protests and rallies were held in Madhya Pradesh after the central committee of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) issued an advisory asking its members to hold state-wide protests against the Udaipur killing on June 29 and 30. The units were also asked to send memorandums to the President of India, said Kundan Chandrakar, the VHP’s prachar pramukh (publicity in-charge) for the Malwa region.
In the two-page memorandum, the VHP blamed the Congress-led government in Rajasthan for Lal’s killing and demanded Rs 5 crore ex-gratia to his family, an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation and sacking of the Rajasthan government to impose President’s rule.
Members of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal with the support of local right-wing outfits jointly held protests across the state. They burnt effigies of ‘terrorists’ – which were simply a figure dressed in green cloth with a skull cap – or Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
Rajesh Tiwari, the VHP’s Madhya Pradesh legal head, said, “We held protests across the state, burnt effigies of either Ashok Gehlot or terrorists and handed over memorandums to the district officials demanding stern action against both the accused.”
Tiwari emphasised that these protests were peaceful and were organised only to condemn the killing. Nonetheless, the videos of the various protests led by the VHP and Bajrang Dal run contrary to Tiwari’s claim.
Additionally, the rallies were held when many districts have imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the model code of conduct is in place because of the ongoing civic body polls.
Hate speech at protests
The Sagar district of the Mahakaushal region witnessed a protest led by the VHP and Bajrang Dal on June 29 at the district collector’s office with slogans like “Jab k***e kate jayenge, tab Ram Ram chillayenge [When (a slur for Muslims) are killed, they will shout Ram Ram).”
In one of the videos of the protest, Kapil Swami of the Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha can be heard saying, “If half of the Hindus (40 crore) took to the streets, then this country would be declared a Hindu Rashtra that day.”
He also said, “Hindus of Sagar are not that weak that they can’t avenge the death of a Hindu. There would not be any protests or memorandums if any incident [in which Muslims are accused] takes place in Sagar. The entire community will pay the price for the crime.”
Swami made similar provocative slogans on October 24 last year at Sagar’s Teen Batti square.
In a written complaint, locals accused him and others of raising provocative slogans against the Muslim community in a bid to disrupt the peace and hurt their sentiments. “They not only raised slogans but also posted it on social media. Their recent social media posts are full of hatred for the community,” the complaint to the Kotwali Police station says.
Even after this, no action was taken against the men.
As the video of the protest went viral, the Sagar police lodged an FIR against four named and “others” under sections 188 (disobedience to order promulgated by public servant) and 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at the Gopalganj police station.
Confirming it, Gopalganj town inspector Kamal Singh said, “Police have filed a suo motu FIR against four named people on the basis of videos of the protest in which they were threatening a particular community and held a rally without permission while Section 144 is in place.”
The investigation is underway and the accused are absconding, he added.
Similarly in the Khandwa district, where VHP members held a protest on Tuesday afternoon near Ghanta Ghar, raised slogans such like “Jihadiyo ke kabar khudenge Khandwa ki dharti par (The graves of jihadis will be dug in the land of Khandwa).”
In Indore, Rajesh Bijve of the Bajrang Dal allegedly provoked people during a protest held at Malwa Mill Square on June 30. Speaking to the media, he threatened to “repeat 2002” – a reference to the anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat – to “teach” the minority community a lesson. “Whatever Nupur Sharma said is right and we Bajrang Dal stand for it. It’s time for Hindus to hit the streets and take our revenge,” he said.
While in the tribal-majority Mandla district, Awdesh Pratap of the VHP also made similar provocative statements.
Speaking to reporters, he said, “VHP and Bajrang Dal will not burn effigies anymore but take revenge for incidents like the Udaipur killing by beheading them. Today’s Hindus cannot be suppressed and will take revenge in their own way.”
Similar slogans and threats were allegedly issued in Rajgarh and other districts.
Rajesh Tiwari, the legal head of VHP Madhya Pradesh, told The Wire that he is neither aware of any provocative slogans or calls to violence nor is he aware of the FIR lodged against four right-wing men in Sagar.
Congress spokesperson K.K. Mishra told The Wire that people are entitled to hold protests with the permission of the district administration and have the right to condemn the killing of Kanhaiya Lal. “The Congress party too condemns it and the Rajasthan government is taking all necessary steps to punish the offenders. But giving hateful speeches and threatening a community in the garb of protest can’t be justified. District authorities must take action against such people,” he said.
He also suggested that among the BJP-ruled states, the protests have been most intense in Madhya Pradesh because the state is in election season. “Panchayat polls are underway in Madhya Pradesh and the state is going for assembly polls next year. The protests were held to polarise voters,” he said.
Despite repeated attempts, the additional director general (law and order) of Madhya Pradesh police, Sajid Farid Shapoo was not available for comment.
Hours after the news of Kanhaiya’s killing, Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra released a video on Twitter saying, “I saw the video, it is gruesome. I have asked the director-general of police to keep an eye out but there is no issue in Madhya Pradesh. The state is peaceful.”
Mishra then went on to accuse the Congress government in Rajasthan of allowing the state to be “Talibanised”. “The morale of terrorist are high,” said Mishra.
Kashif Kakvi is a journalist with Newsclick.