The arrest of two of its members on Sunday for forcing meat shops to close down at Gurgaon’s Dundahera border on the first day of Navratri is not the Hindu Sena’s first brush with controversy. Formed in 2011, the “non-profit organisation” has, in the past, protested against talks between India and Pakistan, which culminated with the outfit’s workers vandalising the regional office of the Pakistan International Airlines in Delhi in January 2016.
Its chief Vishnu Gupta has also been arrested multiple times, including for making a PCR call in December 2015 claiming that beef was being served in Kerala House. The group has also expressed support for “freedom for Balochistan” and, in June 2017, organised a “party” at Jantar Mantar to celebrate US President Donald Trump’s birthday.
The group’s Haryana state president, Ritu Raj, claimed it has “over 3 lakh” members nationally, including 6,000 in Haryana. Of these, 5,000 are in Gurgaon, he claimed.
“Our issue is with illegal meat shops, not legal ones. These don’t follow rules or regulations, they display meat outside shops, throw blood on the roads. Such things injure the sentiments of Hindus, especially during Navratri. We take up this cause through the year, but it gains special attention during Navratri because other outfits also join in,” said Raj. “The Municipal Corporation of Gurugram and police do not do their job, so we have to take to the streets.”
On Monday, the outfit claimed to have closed “15 to 16” meat and chicken shops. “Mandis are set up in areas like Palam Vihar and Rajindra Park, where meat and chicken is also sold illegally. We got these removed,” said Raj.
The Hindu Sena has been among a group of outfits who, since 2017, have been banding together during Navratri twice a year and targeting meat and chicken shops across Gurgaon.
In March 2017, 300 outlets had been forced to close down, and 500 were targeted in September the same year. In October last year, the outfits claimed they had “appealed” to shop owners to close shops for Navratri, even as the owners insisted they had been threatened.
Despite such incidents happening repeatedly, Sunday’s FIR is only the second against such groups. The first was registered in October 2018 by Madhav Karan, who hails from Bengal and owns a fish and meat shop in Rajiv Nagar. He had alleged that people claiming to belong to the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti had beaten him and his colleague, and demanded they shut shop, threatening to kill him if he didn’t. Six months after the case was registered, however, police say it has been withdrawn.
“Six people had been arrested and charged under IPC sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), and 506 (criminal intimidation) in the chargesheet filed in December. The complainant, however, became hostile and the case had to be cancelled,” said Subhash Boken, PRO of Gurgaon Police. The complainant’s phone number was unreachable on Monday.
This year, other outfits under the Samiti’s banner refrained from taking to the streets and instead submitted a memorandum to the MCG commissioner and deputy commissioner for the shops to be shut down. The Hindu Sena, however, decided to go it alone.
“We are not part of the Samiti because they have certain political motivations. We are not linked to any party, but we support those whose ideology is in line with our own. As of now, these are the BJP and Shiv Sena,” said Raj, adding that the Hindu Sena has never contested polls since it has a ‘Hindutva’ and ‘social’ motivation, not political.
“The problem with the Samiti is that they take up a cause and then suddenly throw up their hands because of political reasons. Some of them are linked to the BJP and do not want to sully themselves beyond a point. We do not want to be tied down by such considerations,” he said.
According to MCG officials, Gurgaon has 105 licensed meat shops. “We do not have any figures for ones operating illegally. We seal illegal shops in one place but they move to another…This is why it is difficult to have an exact figure,” said Dr Ashish Singla, medical officer of the MCG.