Far-right activist Updesh Rana, whose name figured in multiple Facebook posts of the youth who fired at a Jamia student on Thursday, plans to launch a dharna at Shaheen Bagh on February 9, to “counter” the blockade by anti-CAA protesters.
The gunman, in his posts, had written that in case he had even half the followers of Rana, he would have turned Shaheen Bagh into “Jallianwala Bagh”. Rana was arrested in Jaipur in 2017 over a proposed rally in support of Shambhulal Regar, who was accused of killing a Muslim labourer in Rajasthan and circulating the video.
In Facebook, there are several groups in support of Rana, including one with over 1.25 lakh followers. Another group, with over 26,000 members, gets around 3,700 posts on a daily basis. The group description tells Muslims to “stay away” and new members are asked whether they are Hindu or not.
On Friday, the groups saw hundreds of posts being made in favour of the gunman, who has been arrested, demanding his release. Some hailed him as a “Hindu lion”.
Many of the youth’s friends and acquaintances, who had posted under his Facebook Live sessions before the incident, also put up posts demanding his release and targeting the minority community. Many said the minor had made a “mistake” on account of his “youth”.
Rana, who runs the Updesh Rana Youth Brigade, said he did not know the youth personally, “but he may have met me and taken pictures like others, as I have lakhs of followers”. “He used to message me as well, but I don’t think I ever responded. I am still not sure why he used my name,” Rana, who is also the national secretary of a forum called Vishwa Sanatan Sangh, said.
Rana said his ‘Youth Brigade’ is into social work such as “gau sewa”. “I plan to come to Shaheen Bagh on February 9. Police called me yesterday about my plans; I have not confirmed my presence yet though. We want to launch a counter dharna; we also have women to support us. But ours will be a democratic protest,” he said.
One post on Facebook supporting Rana, which was shared and commented on by thousands, compared the gunman with Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch, or the superman. “Nietzsche writes in his superman theory that every society needs a super man. Gopal wanted to be that mahamanav of this Hindu society. His method may have been wrong, but one needs to think why he opted for this route. He is emotional, angry against the system,” it said.
TikTok videos celebrating him also surfaced, with visuals of the firing playing in the background. Other posts said he was a “Ram bhakt”, who has taken a “major step” towards providing “azadi” to Jamia and Shaheen Bagh. “All Hindu warriors please come forward to support the Ram bhakt, the one man army,” it says.
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