The trishul (trident), along with sharp edged swords and axes seem to be replacing saffron shawls as a must have for those who want to be seen as “protectors of the Hindu faith”. Leading from the front to arm the masses, claiming that the trishul, for one, is a religious symbol or artefact and not a weapon is Pravin Togadia, surgeon-turned-Hindutva leader, now the president of Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP).
Recently, the AHP organised an event in Gujarat where they distributed thousands of swords and tridents to the people. What kripan is to a Sikh, a trishul is to a Hindu. And it is precisely for that reason that both are exempt from the provisions of the Indian Arms Act, as was analysed by SabrangIndia’s sister publication Communalism Combat in 2001.
This weapon distribution event was attended by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP) Dipsinh Rathore, MLA Raju Chavda and members of VHP and Bajrang Dal. This weapon distribution event even had a religious title of “Trishul Diksha” (or trident initiation ceremony) and was reportedly organised by the Bajrang Dal North Gujarat unit in the Swaminarayan Temple at Himmatnagar. It was reported that 5,100 people were administered an “oath” where they promised to “protect Hindu religion” and were then armed with tridents. According to the Bajrang Dal’s North Gujarat Coordinator Jwalit Mehta, “similar programmes” will now be organised across other towns in the coming weeks. Now armed with tridents, the masses reportedly took out a rally across Himmatnagar town displaying their newly acquired trident and swords.
Soon, Pravin Togadia resurfaced in Assam, where he has been making anti-Muslim statements at different events. On April 6, Togadia was Golokganj, Dhubri district where he made anti-Muslim remarks. He claimed that Dhubri now has only “20% Hindus” and 12 Lakh Muslims have come here from Bangladesh. He demanded that the DNA of Muslim migrants who came here after 1951, be tested by the State Government. According to him those who ‘fail’ this test as it were, should be sent to detention camps or arrested. Togadia said Assam state should restart the National Register of Citizens (NRC) with 1951 as the cutoff year. He claimed that if that was not done, a film by the name of “Assam files” will be made 20 years later, doffing his hat to the controversial movie The Kashmir Files. Togadia told the media, “If the government wants to stop similar situations like Kashmir then it should take urgent steps to prepare a fresh NRC with 1951 cutoff year. Why should there be two cutoff dates in the country? If for the rest of India, the cutoff year to identify a foreigner is 1951, the NRC in Assam should also have the same cutoff date.”
He applauded Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for “freeing Assam’s land from illegal Bangladeshi encroachers” and asked him to “detected, isolate and deport” illegal migrants claiming that “illegal infiltrators” were living freely in Assam. He went on to suggest if “Bangladesh did not take back the illegal foreigners, India must capture an area inside Bangladesh and settle them there” reported local news portal Time8.
He added that the Bajrang Dal and his own group were going to raise units in various areas. It is crucial to note that now that involves programmes like “trishul diksha” where sharp weapons will be given to the masses as it is being done in Gujarat. He is emboldened by the fact that there has been no police action so far against this mass public distribution of weapons. Togadia’s claims and threats against Muslim living in the area, calling for mass arrests of Muslims can be heard here:
On April 8, he was in the Udalguri district and asked his followers, “Was there Islam in the world 1,400 years ago? If there was no Islam in the world 1,400 years ago, was there any Muslim in the world 1,400 years ago? Jesus Christ did not exist on earth 2,000 years ago. Tell me, could there be any Christian on earth 2,000 years ago?” He then told them that there were “only Hindus in the whole world. There were Hindus in India, there were Hindus in Mecca, Medina and Arab countries. There were also Hindus in Europe, America and Australia.”
Togadia then kept up his mythological discourse and claimed that “Sri Purushas who were born from their thousands of luminous bodies to run the creation are our ancestors” adding that it was “God himself gave birth to our ancestors. So tell me, are we children of God?” This was his way to the lay the ground for the anti-Muslim hate speech that followed where he claimed that Muslims came to Assam from Bangladesh. He claimed that Muslims were “increasing their population by giving birth to many children. Not one or two, wholesale.”
Hindu extremist leader Pravin Togadia spewed venom against Muslims in Assam. pic.twitter.com/W8Eps0kTyf
— HindutvaWatch (@HindutvaWatchIn) April 9, 2022
The resurrection of Pravin Togadia is to revive what he did in the 2000s. He was on the forefront of Militarising Hindu society. The process was documented by Communalism Combat in 2001. The Bajrang Dal had undertaken countrywide Trishul Diksha Samarohs. Rajasthan’s chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, had said that over 40 lakh Hindus had been armed with trishuls within months. The Bajrang Dal’s trishuls were as Congress leaders and police officials had then pointed out, “Rampuri knives that can kill, specially crafted to look like a religious symbol”. The Bajrang Dal was engaged in a national programme to ‘militarise’ Hindus.
In Rajasthan, which was a Congress–ruled state then, as it is once again now, over 40 lakhs of Bajrang Dal’s ‘trishuls’ — carefully disguised Rampuri knives that can kill — had been distributed in 2001, as documented in the November 2001 edition of CC. The original piece may be read here.
In 2016, in Uttar Pradesh the Bajrang Dal started training its cadres in the use of rifles, swords and lathis ostensibly to ‘protect Hindus from non-brothers’. Camps were organised in Ayodhya and other areas of Uttar Pradesh which was to have Assembly elections in 2017. Here is an axe being brandished by Hinduvta ‘monk’ Bajrang Muni, now in the news again for issuing rape threats to Muslim women, this clip is reportedly from 2017.
“Drink milk from your mother’s breasts for the final time, saints won’t give you another chance…Let that prostitute come out of jail, we Gaurakshaks will prove our masculinity by making her pregnant…”
This video of Bajrang Muni is from 2017.pic.twitter.com/GqkfA2bZfS
— Alishan Jafri (@alishan_jafri) April 8, 2022
Flash forward to April 2022 in Gujarat. The Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad has now received that program and has planned many more. Weapons were seen during the screening of The Kashmir Files in March 2022. Videos of hate speech being made by Hindutva leaders, some who got weapons inside Movie theatres, are still viral. It is not known if these men have been arrested yet.
But the call to arms for Hindus, given by violence oriented Hindutva leaders was also heard in December 2021. “Carry swords to protect cows,” said Sadhvi Saraswati, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader. Saraswati told Hindus to “buy swords and keep them at home to protect cows.” According to her, if people can buy phones worth a lakh, they can also buy swords “to protect cows from those who slaughter them.” Saraswati was speaking at the Hindu Sangama programme organised by the VHP and Bajrang Dal at the Karkala Gandhi Maidan on Sunday, December 12, 2021. She said, “In Karnataka, the cow is killed for meat. Such slaughterers have no right to live in this country. Cows are being stolen from the cowsheds of Hindus showing arms. We all should carry swords to save the Gau Matha.”
In November 2021 swords were reportedly being sent to Hindutva groups by one Rajeev Brahmarshi, an aspiring Hindutva mob leader, who announced on his Facebook page that “Weapons will reach every corner of #Hindustan”. As he has had no police action against him, he continues to do so even now. In March 2022 he said “I will give a sword to every youth who will be present in Shri Ram Navami. This time I will bring 5000 swords instead of 3000.”