In yet another example of the impunity with which Hindutva goons continue to attack hapless passengers commuting on public transport, men from the Bajrang Dal reportedly targeted a Muslim man and non-Muslim woman travelling together, in a bid to prevent what they see as a case of “Love Jihad”. The man and the woman, both adults, originally hail from Indore, and were travelling to Ajmer in Rajasthan when the Bajrang Dal men showed up on January 14, 2022. They first verbally abused them, and then physically assaulted the Muslim man, forcing the couple to deboard the train at Ujjain.
“What is the matter, what happened,” the shocked man kept asking even as he was hit and dragged. The Hindutva goons then forced the couple into the police station at the platform. All this was transpired on a State-owned railway network that also has the Government Railway Police (GRP), a dedicated police force in place to ensure passenger safety and security in the trains as well as on the platforms.
But the goons “handed” the couple over to the GRP who made them sit at the police station until their parents arrived. The police even after establishing that the two were adults, called their families and handed them over to the relatives. No offence was registered against the Bajrang Dal members as there was no complainant, according to the GRP.Later, police told the media that the two adults were travelling together consensually on January 14. According to police, the couple’s families also know each other.
मुस्लिम लड़का और गैर मुस्लिम लड़की MP उज्जैन से ट्रेन में जा रहे थे, हिंदू संगठन वालों को खबर लगी तो वहाँ पहुँचकर लड़के को पीटते हुए थाने ले गए, जाँच के बाद पुलिस ने बताया कि लड़का और लड़की दोनों शादीशुदा हैं, दोनों में पारिवारिक संबंध भी है, जिसके बाद पुलिस ने उन्हें जाने दिया… pic.twitter.com/Q6u0md3pMC
— Ashraf Hussain (@AshrafFem) January 18, 2022
Videos of assault shared with pride, reportage casts aspersions on the victims’ motives
While the police let them go, Hindutva groups shared the video of the harassment with pride. Hindi news paper Amar Ujala carried the news with the headline “Pyaar Ka Punchnama” detailing that the adult woman was a Jain who “was going to Ajmer with Muslim youth” and that both are married, presumably to other people, as claimed by the Bajrang Dal goons who were beating the young man for being Muslim. The man was identified as Asif Shaikh, owner of a small electronic shop, the woman is a school teacher and remains unnamed but according to the news report, she hails from Mhow. The couple had left Mhow on Thursday night, and on Friday, boarded the train to go to Ajmer. The two had reportedly met on Facebook.
In another video recorded inside the police station, the woman is seen screaming at the Bajrang Dal men. “Your one misunderstanding can spoil my life. I’m an adult, I work as a teacher in a school, I teach children,” she says. One of the Bajrang Dal men, identified as Pintu Kaushal, is seen telling her that he was not talking to her, reported Indian Express.
However, according to the Amar Ujala report, the woman when she was “caught” told her parents that Atif had “lied”. However she or her family did not complain to the police and returned to Mhow.
According to IE, Nivedita Gupta, the GRP Superintendent of Police said that Shaikh and the woman were family friends and had known each other for years. “After they were brought in to the police station by Bajrang Dal men, who alleged ‘love jihad’, we recorded their statements and as they were both adults and there was no offence, they were let go,” she said, adding no case was registered against the Bajrang Dal workers and that GRP was “not aware that the man was mishandled in any way while being brought to the police station and neither did the two tell us. As there was no complaint against the Bajrang Dal men, we have not registered any offence.”
The silence of co-passengers, however, is extremely glaring, even as the Bajrang Dal goons targeted the two adults.
How did the right-wing group find out about the duo’s travel plans?
In this case, the right-wing goons got information that the “Muslim youth was going to Ajmer by train with a Hindu girl.” They knew exact details as evidenced by the precision with which they reached the railway station, entered the B-1 coach of Bhopal-Jaipur Express train, and assaulted the young man, forcing him and the woman to alight. So how did they get the information? Kundan Chandrawat, Prachar Pramukh for Malwa Prant of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) that, along with the Bajrang Dal, is part of what is referred to as the Sangh Parivar, was quoted by IE saying that they had received “information through reliable sources that a Hindu woman was being misled by a Muslim man and taken along with him. It is for the protection of our Hindu sisters that our workers intervened… That is when the man got aggressive. They just took him to the nearest police station. During the process, the man and workers got into a small tussle, but no one was beaten up. They handed over the two and left.”
But given how this isn’t the first time a person from the minority community has been targeted on public transport, one wonders how do these right-wing groups get information about the itineraries of minorities or interfaith couples in the first place. Is there a sophisticated network of informers or a surveillance team in place? Do they scan passenger manifests? Even if they have access to passenger information, how do they find out who is travelling together and who is travelling independently? Are miscreants or disapproving family members of victims involved in passing along this information in a bid to put pressure on interfaith couples to part ways? Or is information passed on to settle personal scores?
Previous instances of minorities being targeted on public transport
In October 2021, a similar hate crime against a Muslim on a train came to light via a video that went viral on social media. In it, a woman Hindutva goon was seen thrashing a Muslim man on a train. “We will kill you next time you touch a Hindu woman,” screamed the woman identified as Madhu Sharma, who is the ‘national religion incharge’ of a right-wing outfit called the Rudrasena. Members of the outfit have proudly shared the video of the woman, assaulitng a poor Muslim man who is heard pleading innocence. No one in the crowded train coach intervenes as she accuses him, hits him and demands he wear his cap while he is assaulted. The man is only heard begging his innocence saying “Maine to dekha bhi nahi (I didn’t even look)”. Meanwhile, the woman screams, “I will kill you. Touch my feet” as she continues to slap him, and no one intervenes.
In March 2021, two Catholic nuns, and two young women who were studying to be nuns, were harassed and intimidated in a train at Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, and marched to a police station on false accusations by a big Hindutva mob. It was weeks before the police arrested two men in connection with the crime. The two men arrested were members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Bajrang Dal, and were a part of the massive mob that was seen on a video clip harassing the four women in the train, and at the Jhansi station.
According to reports, the GRP “hurriedly registered a case against Jhansi district VHP general secretary Anchal Adjaria and district Bajrang Dal vice-president Purukesh Amarya and arrested them.” Adjaria and Amarya had rushed to Jhansi Junction after receiving calls from the ABVP youths and allegedly “told the GRP they had confirmed information that the women were involved in conversions,” stated news reports.
The Hindutva mob had reportedly from the Bajrang Dal forced their way into the train and harassed the nuns and the young women passengers travelling together. The senior nuns were in their ‘habit’ or traditional nun’s uniform that identified them as members of a congregation, the young women, who were soon to join a convent were in regular salwar kameez. The mob harassed the women, accused the nuns of conversion and demanded that the police remove them from the train. The police complied. The nuns were marched to a police station, even as the mob continued heckling them. They were later released when they ‘proved their innocence’ as it were and showed the relevant papers that were sent from their headquarters in Delhi. However, the March 19 crime was widely reported and became a talking point in poll-bound Kerala. The video clip went viral and the message reached the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) loud and clear. At an election rally in Kerala Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured “strong action” soon after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to him and raised the issue.
Much before this, we have seen cases like that of 15-year-old Junaid who was stabbed in a train in 2017. Junaid, his brother and two other friends were returning from Delhi after Eid shopping, when they were first verbally and then physically abused by a group of people. Junaid was stabbed, and when the train stopped at Asaoti Railway Station, Junaid was thrown out of the train. Even then people had just stood aside, not intervening to help the grievously injured teenager. Even the GRP allegedly did nothing to help the boys. Junaid was declared dead when he was finally brought to a hospital.