The New Delhi World Book Fair in Pragati Maidan, one of the most revered events that take place annually, is the latest place to be targeted by the Right Wing fanatics for pushing their communal and divisive agenda. As reported on March 1, a group of over 30 people attacked a stall belonging to Gideons International, a Christian non-profit, causing chaos.
In the video that has now gone viral, around 50 people can be seen circling the above-mentioned bookstall and chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogans in the video. Alleging that the Christians are targeting the poor Hindu families, and forcing them into religious conversions, the Right wing goons resorted to sloganeering and attacking their property. They tore copies of The Holy Bible and shouted, “Free Bible bandh karo, dharam parivartan bandh karo” (Stop distributing free copies of the Bible, stop religious conversion), along with the slogans of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
In the video, the man leading the vandalism group can be seen identifying himself as Mahindri Panchandham, a self-proclaimed member of Unite Hindu. It is pertinent to be noted that even when some people from the crowd try to remind Panchandham that the Indian Constitution describes the country as a democratic nation where one is free to follow under their free will, he can be heard shot back saying, “Democracy gives the right to preach religion but not to lure poor Hindus and convert them.”
The video can be viewed here:
Location: Pragati Maidan, Delhi
At the World Book Fair, Hindu far-right members chanting Jai Shri Ram slogans vandalized a Christian stall.
The extremists tore posters, chanted Hanuman Chalisa, and shouted Bharat Mata ki Jai. pic.twitter.com/2zQ1hAdhZP
— HindutvaWatch (@HindutvaWatchIn) March 2, 2023
According to the report provided by the Newslaundry, a few men had arrived at the stall around 2.15 p.m. Several of them wore tikkas on their foreheads and saffron scarves. The stall, like several other booths displaying spiritual books at the fair, had posters advertising free copies of religious texts. The posters had said “Free Holy Bible”. The report provided that the group “ripped the posters” and grabbed copies of New Testament: Psalms and Proverbs.
The Newslaundry had further reported that the group raised slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, forcefully sitting down around the stall, refusing to move for 20 to 25 minutes. They also started reciting the Hanuman Chalisa while “yelling” at the people in charge of the stall. According to the report, when the Newslaundry had arrived at the location later that evening, volunteers were replacing some of the torn posters. David Philip, a volunteer at the stall told the Newslaundry reported that the Right Wing mob had accused them of converting people. “They cursed and screamed at us. One of us went to call security, which only arrived after 25 minutes,” said David.
A security officer roaming nearby in the evening told Newslaundry that men from a “shakha” had visited the stall and “created a ruckus”. Another senior security officer stated that a “minor” incident had occurred but that it had been resolved. He said the stall was subsequently given “routine security” and that the protesters were told to “move away”.
According to a volunteer at a nearby stall, the group of men “refused to move” until security “convinced” them to.
It should be noted that this is only one of many religious organizations’ stalls. Other stalls at the Delhi Book Fair are run by Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh groups, and some of them distribute free copies of religious books to passersby.
According to the media reports, at the time of publishing this story, Gideons International had not filed a complaint with the police in the matter.