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Indian fascism: Bajrang Dal
The wrath yatra
Vrinda Gopinath & Sharad Gupta
The Bajrang Dal, or vanar sena (army of apes), as it is
infamously called because of the wanton vandalism indulged by
its members, was born in 1984, just as the
Ramjanmabhoomi movement was beginning to roll off the
ground. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which was
spearheading the movement with the tacit blessing of the
Sangh Parivar, had planned the Sri Ram Janki Yatra, from
Ayodhya to Lucknow, which immediately ran into trouble with
the Uttar Pradesh state authorities. Stung by the state's
determination to stop the procession, the yatris made a clarion
call to Hindu youths in surrounding villages for protection. By
the time the yatra reached the state capital, a name was
already found for the band of Hindu `soldiers' -- the Bajrang
What began as a temporary security arrangement, soon
swelled to a menacing army of misguided youths who were
preyed upon and infused with a fatal potion: a sense of
``colossal historical wrongdoing'' and ``wounded Hindu pride''.
Heady with a new sense of purpose anddirection, the Bajrang
Dal's Hindu Yuva Shakti (youth power) was successfully
employed to carry out a campaign of terror and destruction in
the Parivar's eternal quest to cleanse and purify Hindu society.
The Bajrang Dalis became the foot soldiers of the Parivar's
army, ready and alert for the call of battle. Training camps
were set up on the outskirts of Ayodhya, called Karsevapuram,
on the banks of the Gomti river, where youths lived in
dormitories and learnt the art of war. The combat wear was
equally fierce -- blazing saffron bandanas and shirts, glistening,
giant trishuls and swords in their hands, and provocative
slogans in the air. Hindutva had truly arrived.
As the militant, rabble-rousers muscled their way around and
successfully set up centres all over the cow belt, to the
satisfaction of the Parivar's patriarchs, the Bajrang Dal gave
the kickstart to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. They
participated in the shilanyas after the doors of the Babri Masjid
were unlocked by a court order, organised bandhsand
demonstrations in the name of Ram, which most often ended
violently, but their first foray outside UP, however, was in
1989, when the organisation announced it would chant the
Hanuman chalisa in Jama Masjid, New Delhi. In a few
months, Dal activists joined the big league when they led L.K.
Advani's 1991 rath yatra, roaring alongside Advani's Toyota
chariot on motorbikes in full combat gear, leaving behind a trail
of violence and destruction.
It was in this atmosphere of hatred and fear, that the plan to
demolish the Babri Masjid quietly unfolded, and on December
6, 1992, the job was ruthlessly accomplished. But if there were
any hopes the Bajrang Dal would disband and go back to their
previous lives now that the ``historical slur had been wiped
clean'', soon evaporated after it announced it was now the
official youth wing of the VHP. Worse, the ban on the Bajrang
Dal with the RSS and VHP, after the demolition of the
mosque, gave it a separate identity. What was first dismissed
as a great nuisance value,the lunatic fringe of the Hindutva
movement, soon gave way to a group that was spread out,
organised, well-funded, and with immense muscle power.
Though the Dal has steadfastly maintained it has no political
ambitions but exists purely to ``liberate and unshackle Hindu
samaj'' and is not associated with any political party including
the BJP, its members (also from its parent organisation, the
VHP) however, soon filled Parliament and the UP Legislative
Assembly after the 1991 elections.
Arun Katiyar, the Dal's first convenor, was elected an MP,
and he was part of the clutch of sadhus and sants that
thundered into Parliament as elected members, brandishing
trishuls and kamandals. For a year-and-a-half, until the militant
organisations were banned (December 10, 1992), the BJP
looked on benignly as the sadhus and Dal MPs and MLAs
vociferously agitated for their demands raging from changing
the Constitution radically to the familiar one of a ban on cow
slaughter. But the Parivar's paternal indulgence on the``boys
and sants'' soon diminished as it sought to hide its aggressive
Hindutva image behind a more ``tolerant'' one. The sudden
decision came after the humiliating defeat of the BJP in the
Assembly elections in the Hindi belt, and the uncomfortable
truth sunk in that Hindutva alone will not bring in the votes.
To add to the BJP's discomfort, the sants kept up the pressure
to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya, many of them fell out
squabbling among themselves on who should lead the
temple-building, Katiyar stood completely discredited when he
was accused of raping of a young girl, Kusum Misra, whose
tale of continuous abuse and torture created an uproar, and
very soon the BJP and the Parivar began to distance itself
publicly from the militant outfits. In the 1996 general election,
unlike in the election before (in 1991), when Dal workers were
visible everywhere campaigning for the BJP, this time the
saffron wave was pushed back as BJP workers conducted
their own campaign. But the irrepressible Bajrang Dalsoon
surfaced to continue their ``service to Hindu samaj''.
In 1996, 26 Dal activists were jailed in Mumbai for smashing
the house of eminent artist Maqbool Fida Husain, for his
``nude'' paintings of a Hindu goddess. The next year, 17 beauty
contests were suspended in different parts of the country due
to Bajrang Dal's ``protests.'' It also forced 16 cigarette and pan
masala companies to stop using portraits of Hindu gods and
goddesses on their products. But it was in 1998, that the
Bajrang Dal was resurrected to give expression to the
Parivar's ``anger'' against Christian missionaries and get them
to suspend their ``chagai meetings'' (spiritual healing) in places
as far-flung as Haryana, Gujarat, UP, Punjab and Himachal
Pradesh. The violence and terror that has followed and last
week's ghastly murder of an Australian missionary and his two
sons, has once again brought back old nightmares. By calling
the violence against Christian missionaries a ``natural reaction''
of the local people to ``forcedconversions'', the Dal once again
thrust itself in the forefront, willing as always to start another
debate on the threat to Hinduism from minority communities.
"Enemies of Hindus must fear us"
Outlook Magazine on the Bajrang Dal
THE TRIDENT SPEAKS
Ideology thrown to the winds, Bajrang Dal says it will go the whole hog
By Rajesh Joshi
Dr Surendra Jain, Bajrang Dal's all-India convenor, told Outlook it was
not possible for the Bajrang Dal to stop its "work" unless Christians
apologised and broke their links with terrorist organisations. Excerpts.
The Sangh parivar is in combat mode. Far from being cornered, the most
visible strong arm of the Sangh, the Bajrang Dal, has decided to go the
whole hog against Christian missionaries. At a two-day conclave in Delhi
last week, the organisation decided to reach out to "each and every gram
pradhan and each and every household", to expose the "designs of the
missionaries to plant churches in every Indian village by 2001".
The Sangh clearly wants to kill two birds with one stone: take on
Christians, and target Sonia as well. A task made easier, they claim,
after Sonia Gandhi "insulted the Hindu dharma" by not signing the
register at Tirupati to declare her non-Hindu origins.
The RSS, in fact, started pushing its hardline Hindutva agenda right
after the state assembly election debacle. And pressed the Bajrang Dal
into service. For the self-styled "saviours of Hindus" in the Bajrang
Dal, the integral humanism propounded by Deen Dayal Upadhyay does not
appear to mean anything; nor do they believe in the ‘sober’ talks of
rashtra jeevan often put out by RSS pracharaks. This bratpack is on the
"We are ready to take up AK-47s if the need arises. Muslims want to turn
this country into an Islamic state but we shall not let it happen,"
declares Ashok Kapoor, north Delhi convenor of the Bajrang Dal and son
of a refugee from Jhang, Pakistan. "I don’t believe in demonstrations; I
believe that without a ‘danda’ nobody listens to you," he explains.
Prakash Sharma, co-convenor of the Bajrang Dal, is equally belligerent:
"We have decided to write letters to all the gram pradhans about this
danger and will tell the people that they (the Christians) are doing
politics over the dead bodies of their children."
For a while, top vhp and Bajrang Dal leaders were hard put to distance
themselves from the Staines murder. Not any longer. By their own
admission, the Bajrang Dal has become "synonymous with terror for the
opponents of Hindus". The knife-shaped trident-wielding young men,
indoctrinated by an overdose of anti-minorityism, wearing saffron
bandannas, throng either a park or an abandoned field in their mohallas
every morning and evening to practice martial arts.
These are the Balopasana kendras or the centres of Worship of Power.
Over 2,000 such kendras have sprung up across the country in the last
one year where the young men are told how Hindus are being persecuted in
their own land and how Muslims and Christians are pushing an
"anti-national" agenda. And that the onus of saving the nation is on
It is not all empty rhetoric. The organisation has shown time and again
that when it comes to brasstacks it is always in the forefront. The
organisation takes pride in incidents where they have forced their way
or subjugated opponents. According to a publication of the vhp, the
Bajrang Dal "forcefully resisted the riots" on February 14, 1986, when
Muslims protested against the opening of the locked Ram temple at
Ayodhya. Similarly, says the publication, on October 14, 1988, the Delhi
unit of the Bajrang Dal announced that it would recite the Hanuman
Chalisa at the Jama Masjid in Delhi. Following which all state units
announced the programme of organising kirtans and Hanuman Chalisa
recitations in masjids in their respective areas.
After every such action, a pat or two from the RSS top brass is more
than enough to keep a Bajrang Dal activist going. Although the Dal is
part of the Sangh, the RSS says it cannot be held responsible for
actions of other Sangh members. This time-tested tactic was chalked out
initially when the RSS was banned for the first time in 1948, after the
assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
"The RSS functions through its several organisations so that it could
not be squarely blamed for anything," says an RSS-watcher. It is not
necessary for the cadre to take permission from the top leadership.
Activists, especially in remote tribal areas, launch militant
anti-minority actions on their own—like loose cannons. And if the
situation goes out of control, it is easier for the RSS to distance
itself. This holds true not only for the Bajrang Dal but other Sangh
affiliates like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram.
In August 1998, an activist of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Ranchi told
Outlook about a plan to demolish a church in a remote area of South
Bihar. He had noted down the name of the church, area and the date on
which the action was to be carried out. He said: "Our leaders have no
knowledge of my plans; we will tell them once we accomplish the task."
The particular church was razed to the ground on the day they had
decided on, August 31, 1998. Says Kapoor: "There is a famous saying in
the RSS that the RSS does not do anything and there is nothing which the
RSS cadre does not do." That just about sums up the modus operandi of
The first thing the vhp and Bajrang Dal did after the Orissa incident
was disown the accused Dara Singh, while condemning the incident. They
also questioned the conduct of the missionary and dismissed the incident
as a "local reaction". Asked whether the RSS would appeal to the Hindus
to observe restraint as Mahatma Gandhi did after Chauri Chaura, a top
RSS leader retorted: "No way. Why should we appeal to Hindus to observe
restraint? Gandhi did what he thought was right, we are doing what we
think is right."
The formation of the Bajrang Dal coincides with the anti-Sikh wave that
swept the country in 1983-84 after Operation Bluestar. Then prime
minister Indira Gandhi had emerged as a strong Hindu leader and to
neutralise the Hindu support for her the RSS planned to launch an
all-out attack on the government on the issue of Ram Janmabhoomi. Riding
the anti-Sikh sentiments, the Bajrang Dal organised several trishul
dhaaran functions throughout the country. The activists were given a
knife-like trident to be slung across the shoulder—an answer to the
kirpan. The Bajrang Dal has come of age during these 14 years. It has
faced a ban and successfully managed to mushroom into an all-India
organisation. Created to murder Sikhs- it has since identified