Bajrang Dal- Party of Hanuman also known as Monkey Brigade amongst Sikhs The militant wing of the VHP, it was formed "to counter `Sikh militancy' " during the Sikh Genocide of 1983-84 [ Bajrang ]. Created with the objective of the eradication of Sikhs which it has termed "Muslims in disguise", its cadres fought alongside Congress-backed Hindutva militias during the massacre of 200,000 Sikhs under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Recruits carry a " knife-like trident to be slung across the shoulder - an answer to the Sikh kirpan " [ Bajrang ]. It has subsequently expanded its targets to include Muslims and Christians as well.
The Bajrang Dal, or vanar sena (army of apes), as it is infamously called because of the wanton vandalism indulged by its members, was born 15 years ago, just as the Ramjanmabhoomi movement was beginning to roll off the ground. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which was spearheading the movement with the tacit blessing of the Sangh Parivar, had planned the Sri Ram Janki Yatra, from Ayodhya to Lucknow, which immediately ran into trouble with the Uttar Pradesh state authorities. Stung by the state's determination to stop the procession, the yatris made a clarion call to Hindu youths in surrounding villages for protection. By the time the yatra reached the state capital, a name was already found for the band of Hindu `soldiers' -- the Bajrang Dal.
What began as a temporary security arrangement, soon swelled to a menacing army of misguided youths who were preyed upon and infused with a fatal potion: a sense of ``colossal historical wrongdoing and ``wounded Hindu pride. Heady with a new sense of purpose anddirection, the Bajrang Dal's Hindu Yuva Shakti (youth power) was successfully employed to carry out a campaign of terror and destruction in the Parivar's eternal quest to cleanse and purify Hindu society. The Bajrang Dalis became the foot soldiers of the Parivar's army, ready and alert for the call of battle. Training camps were set up on the outskirts of Ayodhya, called Karsevapuram, on the banks of the Gomti river, where youths lived in dormitories and learnt the art of war. The combat wear was equally fierce -- blazing saffron bandanas and shirts, glistening, giant trishuls and swords in their hands, and provocative slogans in the air. Hindutva had truly arrived.
As the militant, rabble-rousers muscled their way around and successfully set up centres all over the cow belt, to the satisfaction of the Parivar's patriarchs, the Bajrang Dal gave the kickstart to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. They participated in the shilanyas after the doors of the Babri Masjid were unlocked by a court order, organised bandhsand demonstrations in the name of Ram, which most often ended violently, but their first foray outside UP, however, was in 1989, when the organisation announced it would chant the Hanuman chalisa in Jama Masjid, New Delhi. In a few months, Dal activists joined the big league when they led L.K. Advani's 1991 rath yatra, roaring alongside Advani's Toyota chariot on motorbikes in full combat gear, leaving behind a trail of violence and destruction.
It was in this atmosphere of hatred and fear, that the plan to demolish the Babri Masjid quietly unfolded, and on December 6, 1992, the job was ruthlessly accomplished. But if there were any hopes the Bajrang Dal would disband and go back to their previous lives now that the ``historical slur had been wiped clean, soon evaporated after it announced it was now the official youth wing of the VHP. Worse, the ban on the Bajrang Dal with the RSS and VHP, after the demolition of the mosque, gave it a separate identity. What was first dismissed as a great nuisance value,the lunatic fringe of the Hindutva movement, soon gave way to a group that was spread out, organised, well-funded, and with immense muscle power. Though the Dal has steadfastly maintained it has no political ambitions but exists purely to ``liberate and unshackle Hindu samaj and is not associated with any political party including the BJP, its members (also from its parent organisation, the VHP) however, soon filled Parliament and the UP Legislative Assembly after the 1991 elections.
Arun Katiyar, the Dal's first convenor, was elected an MP, and he was part of the clutch of sadhus and sants that thundered into Parliament as elected members, brandishing trishuls and kamandals. For a year-and-a-half, until the militant organisations were banned (December 10, 1992), the BJP looked on benignly as the sadhus and Dal MPs and MLAs vociferously agitated for their demands raging from changing the Constitution radically to the familiar one of a ban on cow slaughter. But the Parivar's paternal indulgence on the``boys and sants soon diminished as it sought to hide its aggressive Hindutva image behind a more ``tolerant one. The sudden decision came after the humiliating defeat of the BJP in the Assembly elections in the Hindi belt, and the uncomfortable truth sunk in that Hindutva alone will not bring in the votes.
To add to the BJP's discomfort, the sants kept up the pressure to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya, many of them fell out squabbling among themselves on who should lead the temple-building, Katiyar stood completely discredited when he was accused of raping of a young girl, Kusum Misra, whose tale of continuous abuse and torture created an uproar, and very soon the BJP and the Parivar began to distance itself publicly from the militant outfits. In the 1996 general election, unlike in the election before (in 1991), when Dal workers were visible everywhere campaigning for the BJP, this time the saffron wave was pushed back as BJP workers conducted their own campaign. But the irrepressible Bajrang Dalsoon surfaced to continue their ``service to Hindu samaj.
In 1996, 26 Dal activists were jailed in Mumbai for smashing the house of eminent artist Maqbool Fida Husain, for his ``nude paintings of a Hindu goddess. The next year, 17 beauty contests were suspended in different parts of the country due to Bajrang Dal's ``protests. It also forced 16 cigarette and pan masala companies to stop using portraits of Hindu gods and goddesses on their products. But it was in 1998, that the Bajrang Dal was resurrected to give expression to the Parivar's ``anger against Christian missionaries and get them to suspend their ``chagai meetings (spiritual healing) in places as far-flung as Haryana, Gujarat, UP, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The violence and terror that has followed and last week's ghastly murder of an Australian missionary and his two sons, has once again brought back old nightmares. By calling the violence against Christian missionaries a ``natural reaction of the local people to ``forcedconversions, the Dal once again thrust itself in the forefront, willing as always to start another debate on the threat to Hinduism from minority communities.
"Enemies of Hindus must fear us"
Outlook Magazine on the Bajrang Dal THE TRIDENT SPEAKS Ideology thrown to the winds, Bajrang Dal says it will go the whole hog against missionaries By Rajesh Joshi
Dr Surendra Jain, Bajrang Dal's all-India convenor, told Outlook it was not possible for the Bajrang Dal to stop its "work" unless Christians apologised and broke their links with terrorist organisations. Excerpts. The Sangh parivar is in combat mode. Far from being cornered, the most visible strong arm of the Sangh, the Bajrang Dal, has decided to go the whole hog against Christian missionaries. At a two-day conclave in Delhi last week, the organisation decided to reach out to "each and every gram pradhan and each and every household", to expose the "designs of the missionaries to plant churches in every Indian village by 2001". The Sangh clearly wants to kill two birds with one stone: take on Christians, and target Sonia as well. A task made easier, they claim, after Sonia Gandhi "insulted the Hindu dharma" by not signing the register at Tirupati to declare her non-Hindu origins.
The RSS, in fact, started pushing its hardline Hindutva agenda right after the state assembly election debacle. And pressed the Bajrang Dal into service. For the self-styled "saviours of Hindus" in the Bajrang Dal, the integral humanism propounded by Deen Dayal Upadhyay does not appear to mean anything; nor do they believe in the ‘sober’ talks of rashtra jeevan often put out by RSS pracharaks. This bratpack is on the offensive.
"We are ready to take up AK-47s if the need arises. Muslims want to turn this country into an Islamic state but we shall not let it happen," declares Ashok Kapoor, north Delhi convenor of the Bajrang Dal and son of a refugee from Jhang, Pakistan. "I don’t believe in demonstrations; I believe that without a ‘danda’ nobody listens to you," he explains. Prakash Sharma, co-convenor of the Bajrang Dal, is equally belligerent: "We have decided to write letters to all the gram pradhans about this danger and will tell the people that they (the Christians) are doing politics over the dead bodies of their children."
For a while, top vhp and Bajrang Dal leaders were hard put to distance themselves from the Staines murder. Not any longer. By their own admission, the Bajrang Dal has become "synonymous with terror for the opponents of Hindus". The knife-shaped trident-wielding young men, indoctrinated by an overdose of anti-minorityism, wearing saffron bandannas, throng either a park or an abandoned field in their mohallas every morning and evening to practice martial arts.
These are the Balopasana kendras or the centres of Worship of Power. Over 2,000 such kendras have sprung up across the country in the last one year where the young men are told how Hindus are being persecuted in their own land and how Muslims and Christians are pushing an "anti-national" agenda. And that the onus of saving the nation is on them.
It is not all empty rhetoric. The organisation has shown time and again that when it comes to brasstacks it is always in the forefront. The organisation takes pride in incidents where they have forced their way or subjugated opponents. According to a publication of the vhp, the Bajrang Dal "forcefully resisted the riots" on February 14, 1986, when Muslims protested against the opening of the locked Ram temple at Ayodhya. Similarly, says the publication, on October 14, 1988, the Delhi unit of the Bajrang Dal announced that it would recite the Hanuman Chalisa at the Jama Masjid in Delhi. Following which all state units announced the programme of organising kirtans and Hanuman Chalisa recitations in masjids in their respective areas.
After every such action, a pat or two from the RSS top brass is more than enough to keep a Bajrang Dal activist going. Although the Dal is part of the Sangh, the RSS says it cannot be held responsible for actions of other Sangh members. This time-tested tactic was chalked out initially when the RSS was banned for the first time in 1948, after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
"The RSS functions through its several organisations so that it could not be squarely blamed for anything," says an RSS-watcher. It is not necessary for the cadre to take permission from the top leadership. Activists, especially in remote tribal areas, launch militant anti-minority actions on their own—like loose cannons. And if the situation goes out of control, it is easier for the RSS to distance itself. This holds true not only for the Bajrang Dal but other Sangh affiliates like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram.
In August 1998, an activist of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Ranchi told Outlook about a plan to demolish a church in a remote area of South Bihar. He had noted down the name of the church, area and the date on which the action was to be carried out. He said: "Our leaders have no knowledge of my plans; we will tell them once we accomplish the task." The particular church was razed to the ground on the day they had decided on, August 31, 1998. Says Kapoor: "There is a famous saying in the RSS that the RSS does not do anything and there is nothing which the RSS cadre does not do." That just about sums up the modus operandi of Sangh affiliates.
The first thing the vhp and Bajrang Dal did after the Orissa incident was disown the accused Dara Singh, while condemning the incident. They also questioned the conduct of the missionary and dismissed the incident as a "local reaction". Asked whether the RSS would appeal to the Hindus to observe restraint as Mahatma Gandhi did after Chauri Chaura, a top RSS leader retorted: "No way. Why should we appeal to Hindus to observe restraint? Gandhi did what he thought was right, we are doing what we think is right."
The formation of the Bajrang Dal coincides with the anti-Sikh wave that swept the country in 1983-84 after Operation Bluestar. Then prime minister Indira Gandhi had emerged as a strong Hindu leader and to neutralise the Hindu support for her the RSS planned to launch an all-out attack on the government on the issue of Ram Janmabhoomi. Riding the anti-Sikh sentiments, the Bajrang Dal organised several trishul dhaaran functions throughout the country. The activists were given a knife-like trident to be slung across the shoulder—an answer to the kirpan. The Bajrang Dal has come of age during these 14 years. It has faced a ban and successfully managed to mushroom into an all-India organisation. Born to counter "Sikh militancy", it has since identified new targets.
|Threats to Sikhi|