New Delhi: “No matter who comes to power, we will not allow Muslims to rise up. We are in the process of awakening our youth. We will get mullahs out of graves and finish them from their roots. Wait for April 2, you will see we will create a situation where Muslims have to either convert to Hinduism or they will be sent to Pakistan.”
That was one of the statements Pinky Chaudhary, leader of a Hindutva outfit called Hindu Raksha Dal and a close aide of radical Hindutva preacher Yati Narsinghanand made to journalists on 8 August 2021 at a rally of Hindu nationalist groups in the heart of India’s capital.
Five days later, sought by the police, he was still at large, although he appeared on television shows.
The rally of about 2,000 people—called ostensibly to abolish “222 black laws” made to “serve British interests”—came to national attention because it became a platform for speeches that called for genocide of Muslims and was unhindered by the police, who only two days later speedily detained and menaced protestors who tried to protest the hate speech.
The rally was the latest that we have tracked in a series of over six explicitly anti-Muslim events organised by Hindutva organisations over the past three months in the National Capital Region and Haryana, with participation by right-wing groups from western Uttar Pradesh, all marked by abuse, threats, calls for violence and murder against India’s largest minority.
Other features of these rallies have been common instigators and organisers; police standing by and watching, allowing gatherings otherwise banned in a time of pandemic and which, former officers said, violated India’s laws against instigation and disturbing the peace.
The main organiser, Ashwani Upadhyay, a Supreme Court lawyer and former spokesperson of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), distanced himself from the calls for genocide but he did say this on the day of the rally: “What happened in Kashmir in the 1990s (with Kashmiri Pandits), all of that was repeated in Bengal in 2021 (referring to the violence after assembly elections in May 2021), but like Kashmir, no one will be arrested in Bengal too.” Around him, the crowd chanted “Desh drohiyon ko phaasi do (Hang the traitors).”
The first information report (FIR) filed by the police against Upadhyay and five others lists three sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 260 (using as genuine a government stamp known to be a counterfeit), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life); section 3 of The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 (penalty for offence under section 188) and section 51B of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (refusal to comply with any direction given by the government).
The consensus among legal experts was that the police could and should have invoked sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups and acts prejudicial to harmony).
“This was not an instantaneous rally but was planned for weeks ahead, so it was the job of the police to have taken adequate precautions and preventive action in the backdrop of section 144 (forbidding gatherings of four or more people) of the CrPc (The Code of Criminal Procedure) and told the organisers in writing that such a gathering would not be allowed,” said Vikram Singh, former director general of police, Uttar Pradesh (UP). “The police contingent should have dispersed the participants if they had tried to assemble, but that did not happen.”
“They (the police) should have been more proactive and come down on anyone indulging in such irresponsible communal hatred,” said Singh. “I agree with those activists who say the police should have invoked section 295A. Better late than never. It can be invoked even now. It is a tragedy that some of them got bail. I think the bail should have been cancelled because this is letting them off the hook rather cheaply.”
On 9 August 2021 activists Shabnam Hashmi and Anie Raja wrote a letter to the Delhi police commissioner demanding the FIR include section 295A.
“The rule of law and order was under attack at the heart of India’s Capital and Delhi Police is choosing to look away,” said the letter.
“If it were Muslims shouting communal slogans, they would have been put in jail quickly,” Hashmi told Article 14. “Unfortunately the situation is going to get worse as there are municipal elections (in Delhi) and elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2022. They will further communalise and polarise the city.”
‘When The Muslims Are Cut Down…’
Deepak Baldwa, a Hindutva supporter travelled for four days by train to reach Delhi from Karnataka’s Gulbarga district to “protect and honour the nation”, he told Article 14. Sunil from Haryana, who gave only his first name, said he wanted a population-control law “on the pattern of China”.
As a mob before television cameras, men like these grew more virulent. “Jab mulle kate jayenge, tab Ram Ram chillayenge (When the Muslims are cut down, they will shout the name of Ram),” was the slogan that went viral. This was followed by another: "Suaro ki karo vidai, Hindu Hindu Hindu Hindu Bhai Bhai" (Say farewell to the pigs [Muslims] Hindus are brothers).
A man from the mob interrupted and said: "Suaro ki vidayi nahi ab suaro ki katai karni hogi. Zinda nahi chhodne hain (Not farewell, now will have to slaughter the pigs. Don't leave them alive)."
Soon after the rally, Upadhyay appeared on a live show with right wing YouTuber, Sandeep Dev, and made it clear that the protests were indeed anti-Muslim: “Everyone talks about cancer. No one is ready to share the solution. What is the need to talk about Aurangzeb and Babur all day when there are Aurangzebs and Babars being born in every district."
A History Of Instigating Hate And Violence
At least three out the six men against whom the Delhi police filed an FIR have a history of stoking anti-Muslim hatred, have not been proceeded against with the full force of the law and have instead become recognised public figures.
In 2014, Chaudhary was arrested for vandalising the office of the Aam Aadmi Party, which administers the capital.
In April 2021, he announced a bounty of Rs 51 lakh on the head of Amanatullah Khan, member of legislative assembly of Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) from Okhla, and threatened to exterminate India's Muslims.
In July 2021, Chaudhary threatened to wipe out all mosques and Muslims from Ghaziabad in UP. "Raise the slogan loudly, so that a message goes to the vidharmis and katuas. We are in the position to gouge out their eyes. We are in the position to finish them off," he said.
Chaudhary continued to appear on news TV shows (here and here), attack Muslims and endorsed the men who raised anti-Muslim slogans at Jantar Mantar. The Delhi police had not found him when this story was filed.
Sharma has 14,000 followers on Facebook, and Singh about 50,000, which they use to mobilise Hidutva supporters at anti-Muslim protests.
At least three times over the last two months, Azad has called for the social and economic boycott of Muslims in Delhi. On 30 January 2021, Sharma and Hindu had called upon protestors to give “a befitting reply” to farmers protesting at the borders of Delhi; skirmishes broke out at the Singhu border soon after.
“Our issue is that we watch like cowards when these traitors create a ruckus,” Hindu said of the farmers. “I will reach there in 30 minutes. Today nationalists have to unite too. Delhi is sitting on a mountain of explosives; they can vitiate the atmosphere anytime like they did during the February riots last year. Today if we do not suppress this spark of treason then it will burn our city.”
This happened three weeks after their close aide, Ragini Tiwari, threatened to “repeat Jafrabad”, a reference to the 2020 anti-Muslim riots in New Delhi, where Tiwari was recorded leading and instigating the mobs. She was also filmed throwing stones but was never arrested.
More recently in 18 June 2021, several Muslim vendors were attacked by right wing groups in Delhi. They were beaten, evicted, their carts confiscated and businesses boycotted after they were called Rohingyas, refugees from Myanmar. One severely injured man barely survived a mob chanting Jai Shri Ram.
The Delhi rally was preceded, as we said, by others in northern India since June 2021 when anti-Muslim mahapanchayats (mega rallies) were held following the lynching of a 25-year-old Muslim gym trainer Asif Khan in Haryana’s Nuh district.
Indri, Haryana, 30 May 2021
The event: Organised by leaders of Hindu nationalist groups, the rally was called after the gym trainer Khan was murdered.
What they said: “This Indri panchayat is a small panchayat. If any Muslim troubles my Hindu brothers, then people from the whole country will gather in this village,” Bittu Bajrangi, a Hindutva supporter from neighbouring Faridabad said at the rally, as one of us reported in The Wire. “At present, only people from Delhi NCR have gathered…The people who killed Asif to send him to 72 hoors (beautiful women of paradise) have done a good job. We stand with their families.”
“Should we not even murder them [Muslims] now? if there was any child of Pakistan there, he should also raise his hand,” said Bajrangi. “Muslims are no one’s brothers. They’re all butchers.”
Suraj Paul Amu, chief of the Shri Rajput Karni Sena and a BJP spokesman, also addressed the rally. "If our honour is attacked, we won't even spare your unborn children in your wombs," he said, referring to Muslims.
What the police did: The rally sparked outrage, after which police said they would probe the “veracity of the video” of Amu. District superintendent of police Narendra Bijarniya told NDTV: "We have taken cognisance of this viral video and we will take action. None of the mahapanchayats held in the district had prior permission of the district administration."
Uttam Nagar, Delhi, 18 June 2021
The event: Hindutva supporters beat Muslim fruit vendors accusing them of “redi (hand cart) jihad”. Two days later, they blocked the main road in the area to protest against what they said was violence and encroachment by jihadi fruit sellers.
What they said: One of the men called Muslim fruit sellers “walking cancer” who were “cheating their costumers”.
“We are organising a Hanuman chalisa to show our unity,” Sharma said, a day before the protests at Uttam Nagar. “We can give a befitting reply to them (Muslims) now in the language they understand.”
What the police did: Details in the FIR of the attack on Rizwan indicated it was driven by communal hatred, but the police applied only a provision related to ordinary assault. There were no arrests.
Pataudi, Haryana, 4 July 2021
The event: At a rally organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad against “love jihad, a man (then a minor) who shot at protesting students in New Delhi, and released on bail within months, on 4 July 2021 first raised the slogan Jab mulle kaate jaayenge, tab Ram Ram chillayenge and threatened to abduct Muslim women.
What they said: “Agar Bharat hamaari maata hai, toh Pakistan ke hum baap hain, aur ye Pakistani… ko hum yahan ke gharon mein kiraye par makan nahin denge… In…ko is desh se nikaalo, yeh prastaav paas karo (If India is our mother, then we are the father of Pakistan, and we will not give houses here on rent to the Pakistanis… Remove them from this country, pass this proposal),” said Karni Sena president Suraj Pal Amu.
After weeks of social media outrage, police registered a case against the Jamia shooter and others on charges of promoting enmity and insulting religion. He was released on bail within a month.
Dwarka, Delhi: 6 August 2021
The organisers and what they said: Hindu and Azad, arrested after the Delhi rally, mobilised a mob after the All Dwarka Residents Association wrote a letter to Delhi’s lieutenant governor Anil Baijal demanding the cancellation of land-allotment for the construction of a Haj House in Sector 22 of this South western Delhi suburb.
The letter claimed a Haj House would disturb “brotherhood, harmony and peace”.
In one video, Delhi resident Akhil Beswal said: “Pehle Haj House banayenge, yahan pe woh banayenge Madrasa, wahan pe ban jayegi mazaar, dheere dheere zameen kabza, aagaye ded sau, unke banjayegene sathar assi, aur sab ke haath mein ek ek pathar aur tum bhagte nazar aaoge (first they will make a Haj house, here they will make a madrasa, there a graveyard, 150 will come and will give birth to 70-80, and slowly the land will be grabbed, all of them will have a stone in hand, and you will be seen running away).”
“If you (Hindus) do not unite now, you will be forced to leave Delhi just like five lakh were forced to leave Kashmir in one night,” said Beswal.
What the police did or said: “We have examined the videos and we concluded no hate speeches were delivered then and no case of hate speech has been registered,” a senior police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, since he was not authorised to talk to the media, told Article 14.
“We have to consult legal opinion to find What is hate speech,” said the officer. “You can not call a general statement a hate speech.” Their main grievance, he said, was that a Haj house should not be constructed there; instead, they demanded a hospital or educational institute on the land.
‘Modiji Has To Speed Up The Process For Hindu Rashtra’
At the Delhi rally, the main goal appeared clear: the creation of a Hindu rashtra, a Hindu nation; and terrorising Muslims.
Chaudhary was flanked by a group of his supporters that included Preet Singh, with Upadhyay a co-organiser, who said India would be a Hindu Rashtra by 2 March 2022.
The police men and women urged the gathering to disperse, but they did little more than that. The rallyists ignored the police and went on with speeches, slogan shouting and interviews to the media.
“Modiji will make the announcement (declaring India a Hindu rashtra) in a jam-packed Ram Leela maidan,” said Singh.
“We know Modiji is on the right path, but he has to speed up the process to make India a Hindu rashtra,” a woman at the rally told a journalist. “Don’t be slow, otherwise Muslims who are producing 20 kids will gain strength and we will fail.”
“This is a good beginning by Upadhyayji. We have woken up. We have five demands, and we want the government to bring population control and anti-conversion laws,” said Baldawa, echoing the demands in rally posters: repealing the Indian Penal Code; promulgating a uniform civil code; a law to curb “infiltration”; a law to control population; and a demand for “one nation, one school board, One Nation, One Endowment Code”
“People are saying it is not the right time,” an unidentified man told a local Hindutva channel. “There will be riots, but when this country sees Hindu rashtra, there will be riots (anyway), so if we are not ready to fight now, how will we be ready 10-20 years later?”
“We are here to finish off the traitors of the nation,” he said. “Our soldiers are fighting the enemy at the border, we will kill the traitors."
More grievances emerged. One participant from Dwarka was angry with Delhi chief minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. “The people of Delhi committed a mistake by voting for Kejriwal. We don’t want free water and electricity. We are nationalists. We love Modi and Yogi,” he said.
Another called for repeal of Article 15 of the constitution, which he said was responsible for the “birth of terrorists”. Article 15 empowers the government to make special provisions "for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens."
Some men distributed flyers to participants, which included children, titled: “Anhilation of Islam”, calling on Hindus to “awaken” and “use terrorism to fight terrorism” and “kill these Muslims”. (see full text below).
Translated text of the flier distributed at the Delhi rally:
Islam on the verge of destruction due to terror. Hindu organizations have always been protesting against Muslims, which is their weakness and cowardice. Every time they have knocked on the door of law and constitution, perhaps Hindus are not capable of committing bloodshed. Sometimes love jihad, sometimes terror in the name of Allah and sometimes cow slaughter, have always been done by Muslims and Hindus have always raised the noise of protest. Merely making noise will not destroy Islam. If you don't wake up, you will live the life of a hangman. Muslims did their work in Shaheen Bagh. Muslims did their job in Bengal. But what did the Hindus do? ..... just protest. Terror will end only with terror. Not just making noise…. when and how will Hindus take their vengeance? You are encouraging these Muslims by protesting and creating noise. How will you kill these Muslims if you fall in the trap of law and constitution? We will have to eliminate them from India, then the Islamic caste with all our heart. Nothing is impossible on earth. If you remove your fear, they will be destroyed from our earth. The earth on which Parashurama took birth, the earth on which Rama took birth, the earth on which Krishna took birth, we freed the earth from the tyrants. All three also fought on earth. Where did the war inside you go? Take out your war from within because the crusade is bigger than the law and the constitution. Join me, I promise that I will eliminate this Islam from India, from the whole world. Nothing is impossible, everything is possible. Don't resist, be a rebel. Don't make noise, kill it. Whoever wants to destroy Islam, contact us on the phone.
(Alishan Jafri and Zafar Aafaq are independent journalists based in Delhi.)