Tyagi and his 100-plus team of RSS volunteers attend calls, upload Facebook messages, go door-to-door and hold protests in western UP against ‘love jihad’, armed with Google Maps, WhatsApp and lawyers
The sprawling Lallu Singh farmhouse spread over nearly 2 acres and situated around 400 metres from Hapur road is one of the most frequently visited places in Kharkhoda town, 30 km from Meerut. Earlier, the farmhouse was known in these parts for offering its manicured lawns free as a marriage venue to Hindu parents with daughters. Lately, it is better known as the “headquarters” of the western Uttar Pradesh unit of the RSS’s Hindu Behen Beti Bachao Sangharsh Samiti.
With the BJP and its rabble of right-wing allies focusing their energies on western UP against ‘love jihad’, many roads lead to Lallu Singh farmhouse.
Ajay Tyagi, 44, the owner of the farmhouse and the convenor of this unit of the samiti, begins his day early, at 7 am. He runs his “office” from the outer courtyard of his big house. Here, he and some Sangh Parivar volunteers go through local Hindi newspapers as well as gather and pass around information gleaned on WhatsApp.
By the time they are through, around a dozen more local RSS leaders have reached, and they discuss everything from local politics to the Army’s rescue operations in the Valley.
Very vocal about ‘love jihad’, Tyagi insists Muslims are also carrying out ‘land jihad’, setting up religious structures on public land, making it difficult for the government to tear these down.
Just then, Tyagi gets a call on his mobile from a family in Khajuri village, around 30 km away. The caller claims his daughter is being forced into conversion and that the family is receiving threats. Tyagi and five others immediately get into his Toyota Fortuner to head there.
At the village, Tyagi convinces the father and girl to go with him to the Kharkhoda Police Station, where an FIR is lodged against three Muslim youths.
On his way back to the girl’s home, Tyagi insists what he did was essential. “‘Love jihad’ is the latest design to target our sisters and daughters. We will not let this happen anymore and I have devoted myself fully to the cause — body, spirit and soul.”
A B.Tech in civil engineering from a Maharashtra institute, Tyagi says he didn’t take up a job as he wanted to dedicate himself to this “social cause”. His family owns two factories and he is the ‘managing director’ in both. He attends to the samiti “work” three hours in the morning, and an additional two in the evening, taking a break only to make a round of his factories, located 50 km away.
Tyagi claims to receive 15 to 20 calls a day, like the one he just gor from Khajuri. “We prioritise these and work on cases nearby immediately.”
The Kharkhoda unit came up on August 10, following an incident of alleged forcible conversion in nearby Sarawa village, where a woman claimed to have been kidnapped and “raped” in a madarsa. Tyagi had led a team there and, following their protests over “inaction” of the police, the SHO, Kharkhoda, had been suspended and an FIR lodged.
The current Kharkhoda Police Station in-charge Shetabh Pandey says the police don’t have a communal or casteist bias. “We have lodged an FIR in the Khajuri village case and also arrested a Muslim youth. In the Sarawa incident, all the 10 accused named by the victim have been arrested.”
According to Tyagi, after the Sarawa incident, they even started getting calls from Muzzafarnagar, 70 km away, and Baghpat, a distance of 40 km.
“I am thankful to the media for making ‘love jihad’ a major issue,” says Tyagi. Around a dozen lawyers are associated with the samiti and offer their services free.
On Monday, they will be going to Rataur village in Baghpat district where communal tension prevails following an alleged bid to convert a Dalit youth who is involved with a Muslim girl. The youth is not willing to convert, but doesn’t want to give up the girl, says Rakesh.
“Locals”, he claims, have approached them. “This is the first such case for us as normally we get calls from fathers of girls.”
As Tyagi and team pay visits, a team of around 100 RSS workers travels door to door in the area, telling parents about the “helpline” they run. Areas have been narrowed down and routes decided with the help of Google Maps. People are told to approach immediately if they suspect Muslim youths of “luring their daughters”.
Ninety per cent of these RSS workers are students, and most of them aged beween 18 and 25 years. All have parents who are members of the Sangh Parivar, and most have been attending RSS shakhas since childhood.
On Thursday evening, at least four calls come from what appear to be NRIs based in Dubai. “They came to know about our campaign and assured me of monetary support if needed,” Tyagi says, adding pointedly, “Now we can get money for our cause from Gulf nations.”
Back at the “headquarters”, three of Tyagi’s subordinates are tasked with uploading messages against ‘love jihad’ on their Facebook pages. There are no posters around but Tyagi has printouts of all that has appeared in print about him around the table.
It’s 8.30 pm now, and an RSS leader, Prabodh Shastri, is ruminating on the origins of ‘love jihad’. “It started with Jodha, Akbar,” he stresses, referring to the Mughal Emperor and his marriage to a Hindu Rajput princess. “‘Love jihad’ is not new. It’s not something that the Hindu community came up with. The Mughals brought it here. The Rajput tradition of jauhar, when hundreds of women burnt themselves instead of being captured by Muslims, was begun only to prevent this.”
SHO Pandey says this debate is irrelevant. “Police work on recent cases,” he says.
Finally, Tyagi is ready to retire for the night. “I make it a point to have dinner with my family,” he says. He lives with his uncle, wife, son and daughter. The daughter, 16, is in Class XII, while the son is younger.
Tyagi is not carrying his mobile phone with him as he enters the house. Two of his subordinates will keep a record of the incoming calls through the night, till he is back next morning at 7.
So how many cases would Tyagi say they have solved “successfully”, after more than a month of 24X7 “operations”, covering entire western Uttar Pradesh? “Eight daughters,” says Tyagi.
Does he track what happens to them later? He thinks about it, then says, “We maintain a file on each.”
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