Last Tuesday, hours after activist Swami Agnivesh was assaulted by a mob in Jharkhand’s Pakur town, where the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) was staging a protest against his visit, the BJP affiliate’s state chief Amit Singh claimed that no one from his outfit was involved in the attack.
The Indian Express visited Pakur to find that all of the eight named in the FIR are directly linked to the BJYM, BJP and its affiliates or the RSS. And that an undercurrent of resentment in Sangh outfits here at Agnivesh’s outreach to the tribal population was one of the key reasons that fuelled the protest.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Prasann Mishra, BJYM’s Pakur chief and one of those named in the FIR, said: “Agnivesh has been constantly issuing statements that are against the true spirit of nationalism. He supports Naxals. He gives statements in support of patthalgarhi, which has been twisted from its original purpose to a form of resistance against the state. Agnivesh had come here to instigate tribals at the behest of agents of the Church.”
Agnivesh, who was in Pakur to attend a programme of the Paharia tribe, escaped without any major injury. The FIR also lists 92 other unnamed persons as accused. Statements are being recorded under a probe ordered by Chief Minister Raghubar Das, but no arrests have been made so far. “A detailed inquiry report is awaited,” Divisional Commissioner Pradeep Kumar said.
The Indian Express spoke to local BJP workers and police officers to find out more about the eight named in the FIR — three of the accused also spoke to this newspaper while the other five were unavailable:
Anand Tiwari: A member of the state BJP’s Kisan Morcha, according to a local office-bearer of the party. A farmer based in Sahebganj, Tiwari also runs an NGO.
Pintu Dubey: District convenor of Bajrang Dal, Dubey runs a small business, said a BJYM office-bearer.
Ashok Prasad: Was recently elected ward councillor in Pakur town. “I have been associated with the BJP, but not as a regular member. I entered active politics after people in my area supported me. I was not at the spot of the assault. You will not find me in any video or photograph from there. I believe that some people who are angry with me over some issue put my name in the FIR,” Prasad said.
Prasann Mishra: District chief of BJYM. Mishra said he has been associated with RSS since childhood, and runs a small business in medical supplies. He is also on the Senate of the Siddo-Kanhu Murmu University run by the state government.
“All of us were carrying black flags, and not sticks or rods. The problem started when people, armed with bows and arrows, arrived in 10 vehicles to take Agnivesh to the function venue. They started to push and pull, which led to the incident. We believe that Agnivesh’s supporters orchestrated the incident,” Mishra said.
Gopi Dubey: District BJP secretary. He undertakes civil contract work, said a local BJP office-bearer.
Balram Dubey: A BJP worker, works as a civil contractor, according to a party office-bearer.
Badal Mandal: RSS member, not involved in active politics, said BJYM’s Mishra.
Shiv Kumar: RSS member, not involved in active politics, said BJYM’s Mishra.
“We can say with complete confidence that people like Badal and Shiv Kumar were not present at the spot. Who gave their names and on what basis is beyond our understanding,” Sudip Trivedi, BJP’s district media in-charge, said.
“Agnivesh and his supporters created a situation where BJYM and others associated with the Sangh Parivar could be accused of assaulting him,” Trivedi alleged.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Baijnath Paharia, vice-president of Akhil Bharatiya Adim Janjati Sabha, which had organised the function at Littipara stadium, dismissed the allegations levelled by BJYM’s Mishra.
“Our programme was not a political or religious function. It was an annual fixture, when we observe the declaration during British rule of 1,356 square miles of land in this area as ‘Damin-i-koh’, which essentially means our land. I don’t know the purpose behind the violence. Some of our boys had gone to bring Swami Agnivesh to Littipara when this occurred. Our boys sustained injuries, too, in the assault,” he said.
According to Shiv Charan Malto, secretary of the sabha, the FIR was registered after a police complaint was filed by a member of his organisation.
“The complainant, Jai Malto, was among the ones who had gone to Pakur from Littipara to bring Swami Agnivesh. But he was beaten up and that is why he is the complainant in the case,” Malto claimed.