New Delhi: On February 5, a ‘Sanatan Dharm Sansad’ (‘Hindu Parliament’) was organised by the supporters of Dhirendra Shastri. According to chief speaker Bhakt Hari Maharaj, those attending the event have three main demands – declaring the Ramcharitramanas to be the national book of the “Hindu rashtra” India, the cow as the national animal, and Z-plus security to Shastri. But later, the event escalated into calls for violence against the minority community.
One of the posters at the event said, “All the saints and crazy people of Shree Baghesgwar Dham are welcome.” The first poster publicising the event was posted on Twitter by Bageshwar Dham’s Twitter account on February 4. The name of the chief speaker mentioned on the poster was Bhakt Hari Maharaj, who also called for violence at the event.
Shastri is the head of the Bhageshwar Dham temple situated in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh. He has been recently embroiled in controversy because of his claim that he performs “miracles”. His “miracle” was challenged by a rationalist, Shyam Manav of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, at an event in Nagpur. Shastri left midway through the event.
In response, Shastri gave interviews to mainstream media channels where he got a chance to brand himself as a “godman”. At one of these events, he called an ABP journalist on stage and told him his father’s name and other personal details, to show his “miraculous” powers. This whole stunt was aired on ABP news.
The demands of Shastri’s followers at the Dharm Sansad at Jantar Mantar resonate with the demands he himself has been making. At his religious gatherings, he asks for support from his followers to make India a Hindu rashtra and Ramcharitramanas the national book of India. Allegations have been made against him of practicing untouchability and disturbing communal harmony too.
The speech by Bhakt Hari, the chief speaker, started by showing outrage against criticism of the Ramcharitramanas by Swami Prasad Maurya, UP MLA, and Chandra Shekhar, the education minister of Bihar. They had said that the book spread hate and is discriminatory toward Dalits and lower castes. After demanding legal action to “teach them a lesson”, Bhakt Hari’s outrage suddenly shifted towards the minorities.
He said, “Those who will worship Hanuman will be killed by Christians and Muslims. Those who eat cows will eat you up. Thirty-six crore of our deities live inside a cow and these Christians and Muslims slaughter 1.5 lakh cows before every sunrise.”
“Akhilesh Yadav (former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh) and Nitish Kumar (chief minister of Bihar) have not condemned the act of criticising the Ramcharitramanas. They are doing politics of divide and rule, like the Congress and Britishers used to do,” he continued.
“Angrejo ne kaha tha todo baato raj karo. Congress ne kaha todo baato raj karo. Isaiyon ke kaha todo baato raj karo. Musalmano ne kaha kaato maro. Isaiyo ne kahan kaato maro. (Britishers, Congress, and Christians said to divide and rule. Muslims said to kill. Christians said to kill).”
“Kab maroge? Arey isai musalmano ko kab maroge? (When will you kill? When will you kill Christians and Muslims?)” he continued.
“You don’t have any weapons to kill. You have knives to cut vegetables. Keep weapons. Keep swords. Keep guns. All our deities keep weapons in their hands. You should keep weapons in one hand and religious books in the other. Make the balance of weapons and books and move forward. Kill, if it is required. Those who insult our Ramcharitramanas should be declared anti-national and shot dead. Those who take away our daughters and daughters-in-law – shoot them in the open, Christian or Muslims.”
On February 5, at Jantar Mantar, another event was organised at the same time as Sanatan Dharam Sansad by the supporters of Sudarshan TV head and Hindutva activist Suresh Chavhanke. There, speakers said that the Supreme Court’s critical observations on Chavhanke’s 2021 public exhortation to “die for and kill” to make India a “Hindu nation” was “unnecessary legal harassment”. They also accused the top court of favouring Muslims and took an oath again to make India a Hindu nation.
Offensive remarks against minorities and calls for violence against those who oppose Chavhanke were made from the stage.
The two events had some common speakers and audiences. There has been no police action against either event yet.
After the video of the violent call by Bhakt Hari went viral on social media, the Delhi police gave a notice to the Twitter handle ‘Molitics’ which had reported on the event. The Delhi police found Molitics’ post on Twitter to be “offensive, malicious and inciting message which can adversely affect law and order”. Notably, there has been no action taken against the speakers at the Sanatan Dharam Sansad who were in the video.
In response to the notice, the founder of Molitics tweeted, “I’m still confused! Why would you send this to us? I hope such notice must have gone to these saffron-clad criminals too.”