Delhi Violence Unmasked | Part One

How RSS, BJP members invoked Hindu identity to mobilise Hindutva mobs at Maujpur

01 March 2021
A Hindutva activist walks past a graffiti in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 in Church Street, Bengaluru. In the hours before the Delhi violence started at Maujpur, members affiliated to the RSS, BJP and other Hindutva organisations had mobilised people to come out to the streets by appealing to Hindu unity and the purported threat posed to them by anti-CAA protesters.
MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images
A Hindutva activist walks past a graffiti in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 in Church Street, Bengaluru. In the hours before the Delhi violence started at Maujpur, members affiliated to the RSS, BJP and other Hindutva organisations had mobilised people to come out to the streets by appealing to Hindu unity and the purported threat posed to them by anti-CAA protesters.
MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images

In a six-month-long investigation, Sagar, a staff writer at The Caravan, scrutinised Facebook live broadcasts by members affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the Delhi violence of February 2020. In this series based on the investigation, The Caravan reports on the Hindutva mobilisation that preceded the violence, its political and communal nature, and the role played by the RSS, BJP and affiliated organisations such as the Bajrang Dal in fomenting hate against those protesting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019. 

Hours before the communal violence broke out in northeast Delhi on 23 February 2020, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and of other Sangh Parivar groups, mobilised the local Hindu populace to come out onto the streets in Maujpur. That day, a clash between a Hindu mob that gathered at Maujpur and protesters opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019, who had occupied the road at the Jafrabad metro station, had marked the beginning of over three days of communal violence in the capital. At the time, the union home minister Amit Shah had issued a press release identifying the violence as “spontaneous.” But Facebook live broadcasts by members of the Sangh Parivar—as subsequently confirmed in interviews with them—provide a large repository of digital evidence that demonstrates that the Maujpur mob was political and deliberately mobilised on communal lines.

On the morning of 23 February, Anupam Pandey, a ward-level president in the BJP’s Delhi unit, admonished Hindus for sitting dispassionate at their homes as resistance against the CAA grew in the capital. The previous night, a group of local Muslim women protesters had enforced a chakka jam, or blockade, on a stretch of the Jafrabad–Maujpur road in northeast Delhi, demanding a repeal of the controversial citizenship law. In a Facebook post at 10.46 am, Pandey wrote, “Sit in your homes till they block roads to our homes. Shame on 100 crore people!” He was referring to the nation’s Hindu population. “I appeal to my Hindu brothers to reach Maujpur square in as large number as possible. Jai Shree Ram!”

Pandey was then the BJP’s president of Sonia Vihar mandal, a ward in northeast Delhi. Within the next three hours, he urged people to join him at Maujpur in three more Facebook posts. Through the day, Pandey also posted photos and livestreams of him occupying the square along with other party colleagues. That included Kapil Mishra and Kaushal Mishra, both of whom lost the state assembly elections earlier that month; Kusum Tomar, the BJP’s municipal councilor from the Babarpur ward in northeast Delhi; and Satyadev Choudhary, who was then the president of the party’s Maujpur mandal. In each post, Pandey appealed to Hindus to gather at the square “for their Hindu brothers.” In his fourth post that day, at 12.24 pm, Pandey wrote, “We will not let Jafrabad become Shaheen Bagh … We will come out in support of CAA and Delhi Police. At 3 pm at Maujpur chowk.”

At 3.35 pm, Deepraj Rawal started a Facebook livestream from Maujpur, opening with a similar appeal: “Jai Shree Ram to all brothers, please reach to Maujpur square in large numbers.” Rawal is the president of the northeast Delhi unit of the Kisan Morcha, the BJP’s farmers’ wing, who had served as the district chief of the Bajrang Dal for five years before that. Others present at Maujpur standing next to him in the live video soon called out, “Hindu Ekta Zindabad!”—Hail Hindu unity—as Rawal and the crowd chanted back in unison. One of the men in Rawal’s video declared, “We are not sleeping anymore. We have awakened. We are not old Hindus. All of us have awakened.” The video was seen over ten thousand times.

Sagar is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: Delhi Violence Anti-CAA Protests Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Bharatiya Janata Party Sangh Parivar communal violence Delhi Violence Unmasked
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