Two days back news about the Bajrang Dal holding arms training camp at the playground of a school in the district town Mangaldoi here in Assam created sensation and a heated controversy. Firearms were used in the training even as such use of firearms, except by organizations under license, is against the law.
The District head of the polce(SP) has said in response to questions by reporters that he has ‘no information about the event’. Yet 482 workers, representing 27 districts, received training in the camp which was held for three days.The state secretary of the Bajrang Dal Sri Manoj Singh was heard on TV delivering a passionate speech casting vitriol against “jehadis” and enjoining youths to take up arms as “the government has failed to curb them”.
It has transpired that the Bajrang Dal had received permission of the school authorities to hold the camp with an application on a blank paper without letterhead or office seal, stating that permission was sought for ‘training in Yoga’. The district headquarters had been informed likewise without any mention of arms training. Later, under fire from reporters, the organizers claimed that the exercises were purely for self-defence purposes.
Now finding themselves cornered, the organizers are trying to play down the violence in the intention and expression of the programme. Even so while at pains to explain away the flagrantly aggressive content, they tend to burst into fury when invoking the menace of ‘jehadi’ activity in Assam. They claim that hordes of fundamentalist Jehadis are flocking into Masjid and madrasas of Assam from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and spreading mayhem, but allegedly the state government just turns a blind eye towards them.
Now this is a charge that is hardly sustained by facts. The police had claimed to have found evidence of some alleged Jehadi activity in interior villages of Western Assam, but they did not carry much credence even then. Now it is Yogi Adityanath’s UP that is mooted as the source of the evil. There is no evidence of such simmering jehadi activity. And, if we discount one or two instances of alleged ‘love jihad’, hardly any evidence of a tidal advance of Islamist invasion is on ground.
The idea obviously is to stir unease and foreboding by invoking a vague and fake menace, holding out appropriately violent counter-measures and preparing a grandiose ‘fitting response’. The cacophony and vehemence of the event create the desired atmosphere of danger and panic. After that even a trifling event could be provocation for a communal furore. If those who received training in arms in the camp spread the message and start preparations in the areas they came from tension is likely to rise there too.
Rashtriya Bajrang Dal gives firearms training to 350 Hindu youths to fight “love jihad” in #Assam. pic.twitter.com/cOndZgozkM— Youth R Against Hate (@yrahindia) July 31, 2023
Rashtriya Bajrang Dal gives firearms training to 350 Hindu youths to fight “love jihad” in #Assam. pic.twitter.com/cOndZgozkM
All this is prepared by lies and deceit. This is the favourite modus operandi for militant Hindutva groups. But it also requires as a condition for its success protection and collusion of the police and the administration. If with the glaring example of Manipur next door the authorities can still decide to play with fire one can imagine their desperation.
Unsettled by the rising volume of bitter protest from a disillusioned public, which even the Modi magic cannot quell, the government seems to be leaning on militant Hindutva groups to conjure up distractions and divert popular anger to target false enemies. But this is no harmless diversion and it is bound to rouse destructive communal passions.
It is significant that the hyper-active and ‘visible’ Chief Minister has chosen not to attend to this disturbing portent. But his ‘Men Friday’, two vocal Ministers have gone to town about the importance of learning ‘self defence’. Evidently, the programme had big political backers though Bajrang Dal leaders complain and grumble against the government from time to time in a routine gesture.
As we have seen time and again,when it is a question of clinging to power the rulers think nothing of walking over dead bodies of scores of ordinary men and women. The Bajrang Dal programme may well be an augury of other similar ones but more jazzed up events in days ahead. Hindutva bigwigs are again visiting sensitive areas of the state. The government seems to be sleepwalking heedless of such alarming scenario to celebrate various odd inauguration ceremonies and other spectacular occasions. The added anxiety is the opposition’s failure to tap into the energy of rising public anger against the government.
Postscript: Yesterday in an unprecedented move the DGP of Assam ordered the arrest and questioning of the Principal and an administrative officer of the Maharshi Vidyamandir of Mangaldoi in this connection. But the local press has wondered why the organizers of the event and the fire-breathing leaders of Bajrang Dal, who had allegedly directly attacked Islam in their speeches, have not been arrested. The state president of the BJP has claimed that BJP has no connection with Bajrang Dal. But then, people ask, what prevents him from condemning this incident? Jayanta Malla Barua, a minister close to CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, has come out in defence of such training in firearms. And the CM holds the Home portfolio.
[The writer, Hiren Gohain, is a political commentator.]
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