Bajrang Dal chief dares ban on group (SecondLead, Interview)

October 9th, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 9 (IANS) The Bajrang Dal, Hindutva’s storm troopers who have been accused of masterminding the anti-Christian violence in several Indian states, has dared the government to ban it, warning that the authorities would face the “consequences” if it was outlawed.”We will fight the ban and we will go to the people to explain the injustice done to us. The elections are coming up soon and it (a ban) will prove costly for the government,” Prakash Sharma, national convenor of the Bajrang Dal, told IANS in an interview.

The right-wing group has in recent weeks been accused of targeting Christians and vandalising churches in Orissa and Karnataka. A far more serious charged hurled at the group in recent times has been making bombs with a view to attacking Muslims.

Sharma denied that Bajrang Dal members had anything to do with the violence in Orissa, where 35 Christians, mostly poor villagers, have been killed in an orgy of violence sparked by the gunning down of a Hindu religious leader.

“Bajrang Dal does not believe in violence of any kind. Our aim is … public agitation by mobilising democratic governments to protect Hindus,” Sharma maintained.

He accused the media of portraying the Bajrang Dal negatively. “Are newspapers competent enough to tell the truth? They print anything,” said Sharma.

Besides Muslim organisations, mainstream politicians too have started demanding a ban on the Bajrang Dal, whose members are known to resort to violence at the slightest perceived insult to Hindu religion. Its members often take to the streets brandishing tridents and khukris and it takes its name after the Hindu god Hanuman or Bajrang Bali.

The group has been linked to a bomb blast in August 2006 at Nanded in Maharashtra where two people were killed. Apparently, its members were making bombs when one or more exploded. A similar incident occurred in August this year in Kanpur and it is also suspected by many to be behind terror attacks in Muslim areas in Delhi or Gujarat.

Sharma pooh-poohed such linkages.

“The person involved in the Kanpur incident used to be with Bajrang Dal 10 years ago. By that analogy, the Congress should also be banned. Their minister … was caught for the 1993 serial blasts in Surat and now he has been jailed for 20 years,” said Sharma.

Sharma is unapologetic about the Bajrang Dal’s role in “reconversions” in Orissa — making Hindus who became Christians embrace Hinduism again.

“What is reconversion? We are making them return to where they were before. This is ‘ghar wapasi’ (coming back home), and we are doing it. And it is legal,” argued Sharma.

Despite talk of banning the Bajrang Dal, the group is planning to launch its silver jubilee celebrations from this month. “There will be ‘yagya’ and ‘havan’ in Ayodhya Oct 13. It will be a religious event,” Sharma said.

The Bajrang Dal, formed in 1984, played a big role in the events leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in December 1992, which led to widespread Hindu-Muslim violence in the country.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, presiding over a cabinet meeting, said the government needed to have a “foolproof case” if Bajrang Dal needed to be banned.

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