New Delhi: Even as the horrific thrashing of a minor Muslim boy near the Dasna Devi Mandir in Ghaziabad on March 12 has sent shockwaves around the country, the temple’s militant Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanad Saraswati has praised his follower Shringi Yadav for giving a “befitting reply to a trespasser”.
The Wire has reported in the past that Saraswati had repeatedly made genocidal calls against Muslims in the run up to the Delhi riots of February 2020, which resulted in the deaths of more than 50 people. Responding to the minor boy’s thrashing, the militant leader has continued in that vein, saying that instances of ‘trespass’ had been dealt with an “iron hand” in the past, according to the Times of India.
The mandir has a board that prohibits Muslims from entering the premises. The minor boy had not read this and entered the temple, apparently to drink water. He was assaulted by a follower of Saraswati, with right-wing groups on social media praising the man for his attack on a 14-year-old.
According to the Times of India, speaking at a press conference on Monday, Saraswati said, “I had trained my followers well to give a befitting reply to trespassers from a specific minority community, and all they did on Friday [March 12] was they were following my instructions.”
He added, “We have put up a notice outside the temple gate that people from minority communities are not permitted here. This is known to everyone in the area and yet this boy entered on the pretext of drinking water.”
He claimed that the boy “had come with a specific motive on the pretext of drinking water” but could not explain what this motive was. “How do you explain him entering the premise to drink water when there is a handpump just outside the temple?” he asked, according to the TOI report.
The newspaper also reported that Saraswati only expressed regret at the fact that the thrashing was recorded and posted on social media, drawing attention to the brutal attack. “Yehi to gadbad ho gayi, unhe record nahin karna chaiye thha (This was a mistake, they should not have shot the video),” he said.
Shringi and another aide of Saraswati have been arrested by the Ghaziabad police, while the Instagram account which posted a video of the thrashing was deleted. As The Wire‘s detailed investigation found on Saturday, the thrashing was not isolated or spontaneous. The attack was inspired by an ecosystem of hate on social media.
During his press conference, Saraswati was flanked by Pinki Chaudhary, who had claimed responsibility for the brutal attack on students and faculty members at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in January 2020.
According to the Times of India, the minor boy is recuperating at home. His father said X-rays of his head, arm and thighs were done and the boy is “not well and groans in pain at night”.
Police took cognisance of the video published on social media and Ahmed did not file a complaint. Asked why, he told TOI, “We did not want to invite any more trouble on us.”