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Published in the 16-31 May 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Bajrang & VHP activists rule the roost in Uma’s state

New Delhi: Ever since Uma Bharati took office in Madhya Pradesh, the state has slid into the hands of unconstitutional elements from Bajrang Dal and the VHP. The law-enforcing machinery appears increasingly to be an accomplice in the controversial Hindutva project. There are numerous instances of it. 

Rani of the cowbelt

Rani of the cowbelt

On March 14 Bajrang Dal, VHP and its women’s wing Durga Vahini, descended on the house of a retired insurance officer to punish his daughter for “insulting” Ram, Sita and Laxman. According to VHP activists, the daughter, who teaches at the Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, a central government institute, directed a play lampooning Ram, Sita and Laxman. The activists wanted to blacken her face in public in order to teach her a lesson. When her father, brother and sisters protested, they were beaten up, shoved and dragged around the house. Furniture was destroyed and flower-pots were smashed. All the while the police remained a mute spectator only trying to ensure that fatal injuries were not inflicted. After all the damage was done the police arrested six persons and chased away the rest. 

Earlier on March 9, VHP activists had blackened the face of the institute’s director, Devendra Singhai, a senior IAS officer. Chief of the Gwalior unit of the VHP, Narendra Pal Bhadoria, claimed that the play, staged on February 21 this year, was sacrilegious because the characters Ram, Sita and Laxman were shown singing Hindi film songs and Sita was shown wearing a pair of jeans. Bhadoria is proud of creating fear in the hearts of those who dared insult Hindu gods and goddesses.

Following the incident, both the institute director and teacher have gone into hiding. Other family members of the teacher, after having been warned against speaking up in public, are scared to go out into the city alone.

Several such incidents are being reported from other parts of MP. VHP and Bajrang Dal activists attacked the shop of Sajid Carwalla in Indore last February. He had “eloped” with a (Sindhi) Hindu girl. The girl wanted to marry him but the activists separated the couple by force. 

Carwalla’s shop is now demolished and he in jail. The local VHP chief JC Jain justified the action saying he was an anti-social element luring Hindu girls and forcing them into wrong deeds. They had done a great service to society because despite complaints against him, the police was not taking any action, Jain said. The "anti-social element" theory is not substantiated by the police records. Superintendent of police, Indore, said that there were no criminal records against Carwalla with the police, but he was jailed on charges of kidnapping and intimidation on the strength of a “statement” given by the girl against him. According to reports in local newspapers, initially the girl kept saying that she wanted to marry him but she changed her statements later.

A local journalist stated that since Uma Bharati became chief minister, Bajrang Dal and VHP people turned more aggressive. He cited an incident on December 31 when the activists of the two outfits staged a noisy protest against staging of a fashion show at a hotel in Indore. In most of these incidents, the police are seen as mere spectators.

The occurrence of such incidents in Madhya Pradesh is not surprising. Uma Bharati’s fetish for Hindutva was obvious from the day she sworn-in in the presence of Sadhus. She went on to inaugurate gaushalas (cowsheds) all over the state, banned liquor and non-vegetarian food in the “holy” towns of Ujjain, Amarkantak, Onkareshwar and Maheshwar. Local people came out protesting against the move. These cities are located on the banks of rivers. People fear that if the move is fully implemented, it would render a large number of local fishermen jobless. 

Uma Bharati has reportedly said that she has asked people managing mosques and churches to see that shops selling liquor and meat do not function in their vicinity.

— MG News Desk 

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