Listen to this article:
New Delhi: A complaint has been registered with Karnataka Police against two Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs, one MLC, and a Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader each after photos and videos of an alleged “arms training camp” went viral on social media.
The news agency PTI has reported that the camp was part of the ‘Shaurya Prashikshana Varga’ that took place from May 5 to 11 at Sai Shankar Educational Institute, at Ponnampet in Kodagu district.
Police told the news outlet, The Quint, that the camp took place without necessary police permission and that authorities only got to know of it from social media.
The Quint has reported that Raghu Sakleshpura of the Bajrang Dal, Krishnamurthy of the VHP, Virajpete MLA K.G. Bopaiah, Madikeri MLA Appachuranjan, and MLC Suja Kushalappa have been booked by the police.
It is not clear if the alleged FIR was filed on the basis of the complaint filed by the Social Democratic Party of India.
In widely shared images, Bajrang Dal activists – many appearing to be young – are allegedly seen holding air guns and other arms.
Several claimed on social media that arms were also distributed at the camp. This claim is borne out by Bajrang Dal regional convener Raghu Sakleshpur’s quote to Indian Express, in which he claimed that the tridents that were “handed out were not sharp.”
A Bajarang Dal activist told PTI that participants were trained in self-defence, but “no arms were distributed.”
“According to the Arms Act, you do not need a licence to use an airgun,” superintendent of police M.A. Aiyappa told Express. This reasoning has been forwarded by the organisers as well.
There was an arms training camp for a week in Sai Shankar Educational Institute in Ponnampet, Kodagu district, Karnataka. Event organised by Bajrangdal. Weapons were distributed to several Bajrang Dal Karyakartas. pic.twitter.com/abQXTPWNAT
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) May 14, 2022
AltNews‘s Mohammad Zubair, who shared multiple images and videos of the camp, noted, “Videos and images were shared by several Bajrang Dal members who’d attended this arms training. ”
About 400 activists were said to have taken part in the event, PTI reported.
While some news outlets have reported that the event was organised by the Bajrang Dal, Indian Express has it that it was jointly held by the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Express has also quoted unnamed sources who have said that the the number of attendees was actually 116.
“The 116 participants in the camp were not students of the school but youths from several parts of the state,” the Express report said.
Authorities of the school where the camp was held said the premises was being used for ‘Prashikshana Varga’ training for several years and were unaware of training with arms. The deputy director of public instruction in the district said a notice has been sent to the school authorities to explain the incident.
Congress leaders, among them former chief minister Siddaramaiah, expressed concern over the training camp.
“Arms training in Madikere to young members of Bajrang Dal has challenged the law of our land. Do we have Home minister or Education minister in Karnataka? Is the govt still alive?” Siddaramaiah tweeted.
Arms training in Madikere to young members of Bajrang Dal has challenged the law of our land. Do we have Home minister or Education minister in Karnataka? Is the govt still alive?https://t.co/wVyYtamCw2#SayNoToViolence
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) May 16, 2022
AICC in-charge of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry & Goa and MLA Dinesh Gundu Rao in a tweet said, “Why are BajrangDal members receiving arms training? Isn’t training in firearms without a proper license an offence? Isn’t this a violation of the Arms Act 1959, Arms Rules 1962? And Why are @BJP4India leaders openly attending and supporting this activity?”
Why are #BajrangDal members receiving ams training?
Isn't training in firearms without a proper license an offense?
Isn't this a violation of the Arms Act 1959, Arms Rules 1962?
And Why are @BJP4India leaders openly attending and supporting this activity?https://t.co/ySTcP8F4eS
— Dinesh Gundu Rao/ದಿನೇಶ್ ಗುಂಡೂರಾವ್ (@dineshgrao) May 16, 2022
Congress MLA Rizwan Arshad tweeted: “At this age, most young men set out to achieve dreams. In K’atka, Bajrang Dal is destroying young lives by training them to unleash violence in the name of religion. This needs to be stopped at any cost”.
At this age, most young men set out to achieve dreams.
In K'atka, Bajrang Dal is destroying young lives by training them to unleash violence in the name of religion.
— Rizwan Arshad (@ArshadRizwan) May 16, 2022