Anti-Muslim misinformation, fear mongering and trishuls: Inside Kranti Sena’s first convention in Muzaffarnagar

CK Vijayakumar for The Caravan
22 June, 2022

Kranti Sena, a staunch Hindutva organisation that describes itself as “Hindu friendly,” held its first activist convention on 1 June 2022 in Muzaffarnagar, in Uttar Pradesh. Close to five hundred people—around a fourth of whom were women—participated in this convention. The conclave’s speeches were filled with misinformation and hate speech targeting Muslims. Kranti Sena leaders demanded a “sterilisation system … to curb the explosively growing Muslim population in the country” and that the “crores of Bangladeshi Rohingya infiltrators who have entered the country illegally … be driven out.” They also asked for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits who had been driven out of Jammu and Kashmir in the nineties, and that “the country should be declared Hindu Rashtra immediately.” Seemingly acknowledging the widespread crisis of unemployment in India, Kranti Sena leaders also demanded also that the “educated unemployed” of the country be given jobs, or that they be given Rs 5,000 as a monthly allowance, and that the fees for applying to government jobs be abolished. Religious leaders who were addressing the convention openly encouraged young Hindus to be armed with tridents in order to protect their religion from Muslims.

The Kranti Sena had first come into the limelight in Muzaffarnagar in 2021, when its activists began roaming the markets around Hindu festivals such as Teej and Karva Chauth, campaigning against hiring Muslim mehendi artists. Their demand was that no Muslim man should apply mehendi to any Hindu women. Manoj Saini, the general secretary of the Sena, claimed to the media that Muslim men were using mehendi to entrap Hindu women as a form of “love jihad.” Saini was the organiser of the 1 June convention as well. Regarding the Sena’s demands, he said, “Pehle hum nivedan karte hain, phir aavedan karte hain, agar in dono se baat nahi banti toh hum de-dana-dan karte hain”—First we make a request, then a plea, and if both fail, we let our actions do the talking.

The group was established in 2020. Its president, Lalit Mohan Sharma, was earlier associated with the Shiv Sena, and was the president of the party’s western Uttar Pradesh committee. But when the Shiv Sena formed an alliance with the Congress and the National Congress Party in Maharashtra in 2019, Sharma did not approve. Angered, he formed the Kranti Sena with some like-minded supporters.

Basant Kashyap, who is the Muzaffarnagar vice-president of Kranti Sena, told me that the Shiv Sena’s decision seemed “anti-Hindu” to him and others within the party. “Shiv Sena is a Hindu fundamentalist organisation, how can it have an alliance with these parties? We didn’t like it. We are staunch Hindus, so we together formed the Kranti Sena,” he said. Basant hails from a politically active family and was formerly a worker of the Bahujan Samaj Party. His father had once contested on a BSP ticket as well. “I have also been the metropolitan president of Muzaffarnagar of BSP,” he told me. But a few years ago, Basant began to feel that the BSP was losing relevance. “In 2007, I had asked for a ticket for the assembly from the BSP, from the Charthaval assembly, and I was asked to give money.” He further claimed that in 2015, he got into a fight with a Muslim man, and was detained in connection with the altercation. This incident “made me a Hindutvadi,” he told me. Basant added that he had known Sharma for many years, which eventually prompted him to join Kranti Sena. Speaking of the group’s 2021 campaign, he said it had forcefully closed 19 shops of Muslim mehendi artists.

Aside from communally divisive rhetoric and misinformation targeting Muslims, many of the speeches were also aimed at fear mongering among Hindus about the supposed rise of the Muslim population. Rajesh Kashyap, the district general secretary of Kranti Sena’s Muzaffarnagar chapter, was the first speaker. He claimed that Hindus were producing fewer children than Muslims—a narrative that the Hindu Right often uses to claim that Hindus are in danger of being overtaken as the majority population of India. This claim has been widely debunked by numbers from government studies. Rajesh was, however, undeterred by these facts. “Now we are safe because all are Hindus in administrative service but tomorrow, when our population decreases and if the number of Muslims increases, we will not be safe,” he said. To address this “problem,” he demanded that a population control law be enacted.

A pamphlet issued during the conclave contained similar misinformation. It stated that the Muslim population was rising “explosively”—another claim disproved by government data. It also falsely stated that the supposed population growth was rapidly changing the population ratio between Hindus and Muslims, and that “the day is not far when Hindus will become a minority.” (The news organisation Scroll has reported that, following trends in population data from 2015–16, it will take 220 years for India’s Muslim population to even equal Hindu numbers. A recent book by former election commissioner SY Quraishi also debunks the Muslim-population myth.)

When the members of the Kranti Sena were not targeting Indian Muslims, they were feeding the spectre of foreign Muslims infiltrating India. The pamphlet claimed that there were, at present, three and a half crore Bangladeshi and Rohingya infiltrators and illegal people in the country, who are a threat to India’s internal and external security. These numbers too have been proven to be false. Although the government has not released the official number of Rohingya refugees in India, the Human Rights Watch estimates the figure to be around forty thousand. The pamphlet further claimed that “pseudo-secularism is the biggest enemy of the Hindu community.” 

Most Kranti Sena members were convinced that Hindus in India were in danger. I spoke to 25-year-old Nakul Singh, who hailed from Muzaffarnagar district’s Morna village. Singh is a student of an ITI Fitter course—a vocational training program—and does wedding videography. “I like the Hindutva thinking of my organisation. Our organisation talks about Hindus and talks about their protection,” he told me.

Another Kranti Sena member, Neeraj Verma, is a 28-year-old resident of Ramgarhwa village who works in a cloth shop. “We are lucky that there is at least a government for Hindus under Yogiji,” he said, referring to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, who goes by the name Yogi Adityanath. “Had Yogi's government not been there, Hindus would have faced more problems.” Verma felt that Yogi’s rule had allowed Hindus to celebrate their festivals in a grand manner. He denied that there was any caste majority in the Kranti Sena. “There is no caste in our organisation, we are all Hindus.”

At present, at the behest of Manoj Saini and Rajesh Kashyap, members of the Kashyap and Saini communities—classified in Uttar Pradesh as Other Backward Classes—are fast joining the Kranti Sena. In many villages in western Uttar Pradhesh, such as Bhasana and Lushana, in Muzaffarnagar’s Budhana block, Hindus and Muslims have been residing in close proximity for many years. A fear of Muslims has taken hold in these communities.

Dandi Swami, a senior priest from Muzaffarnagar, also spoke at the event. He emphasised that all Kranti Sena leaders must add their friends on social-media and WhatsApp groups to propagate their message. “Understand its importance,” he said. “If any matter or news has to reach everyone today, if you want to awaken Hindus, then make a group on WhatsApp.” Regarding the next Lok Sabha elections, which are due in 2024, Mahamandaleshwar said, “You have two years … So now one worker should be engaged and produce 100 workers like himself. In this system, you have to fight for political power. Without it, your sacrifice will be in vain.” 

The speakers at the convention made clear their intention to be armed and undertake violent means. Sajeev Shankar, a priest from Rajashthan who heads a sect of worshippers of the Hindu diety Ghatushyam, used communal bombast and hate speech to justify Kranti Sena’s existence. He claimed that the Sena was necessary to protect Hindu temples, which, according to him, were being routinely demolished. “Today, even when so many Hindutvadi organisations are active, our temples are being demolished but no one speaks up. And not speaking is becoming fatal for us,” he said. “You think you are scaring anyone? You have not scared anyone.” 

Shankar appeared to find Adityanath and the BJP administration’s Hindu nationalism lacking. He made a reference to a Trishul Yatra, an event proposed by the Kranti Sena, where it planned to lead marches bearing tridents. The Uttar Pradesh administration had refused permission for such an event. Shankar then urged the youth in the audience to remain armed. “Whether the Trishul Yatra goes out or not, every youth should have a trident,” he said. “When we talk about our temples, we are called communal. Others are not called that despite their long beards.”

The Kranti Sena president, Lalit Mohan Sharma, too was upset with the administration’s refusal to allow the Trishul Yatra. “Till yesterday there were other people’s governments, which we used to call pro-Muslim parties, but today there are Hindu governments both in the state and at the Centre, yet we are being stopped,” he said. He then repeated the false narrative of a fast-increasing Muslim population. “One day we will have to flee the only country that belongs to Hindus,” he said. “The Hindutva people have to be strong. Hindu organisations have to be united for the sake of Hindu interest. Wherever Hindus are attacked, religious places are attacked, wherever cows are slaughtered—not the BJP, but Hindu organisations will be present.”