KISHAN Soni, a government school teacher and divisional head of the Hindu Jagran Manch in Udaipur, paced up and down outside the Bhopal Pura Police Station here on Saturday, speaking incessantly on his cellphone, occasionally jotting down numbers of FIRs.
The 33-year-old was trying to secure bail for the scores of youngsters booked by the police for violent protests in the city on December 14. They were arrested for stone-pelting on officials, violating Section 144, and putting up a saffron flag over the main entrance of the District and Sessions Court in Udaipur. A crowd of several thousand had destroyed shops and left more than a dozen policemen injured in the protests. Of the 207 arrested, 153 were released on bail after police talked to Hindu outfits.
Restrictions had been imposed under Section 144 in the town on December 14 to prevent protests over the arrest of Shambhulal Regar in Rajsamand, accused of murdering labourer Afrazul Khan and sharing a video of the killing.
Soni said the arrested men were not associated with any organisation, including the Hindu Jagran Manch. He claimed they were not protesting in support of Regar but against offensive slogans raised at a “Muslim rally” on December 8 over the killing of Afrazul. “In the video, the protesters are seen shouting slogans such as ‘Hindustan mein rehna hai to Allahu Akbar kehna hai (If one has to stay in India, he has to say Allahu Akbar)’ and ‘Hindustan ka ek hi raja, mera khwaja, mera khwaja (There’s only one king of India, my khwaja)’,” said Gaurav Nagda, the 21-year-old media in-charge of the Shiv Sena in Udaipur.
He said a “massive campaign” was held on social media asking Hindu men to assemble at Udaipur in protest of the video. Police have also arrested 10 Muslim men in association with the December 8 rally. Denying that there was anything “inflammatory” about the video, Mohammed Khalil, president of the Anjuman Committee, Udaipur, said, “These are standard slogans of people from the Muslim community during rallies. Allahu Akbar means ‘God is great’ while the Khwaja we refer to is Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.”
Calling it an attempt to mislead people, Khalil said, “More Hindus go to the Ajmer dargah than Muslims… People are trying to give the video a communal colour.” Defending the December 14 protest held in “retaliation”, Nagda called it a “spontaneous reaction” by “angry Hindu youth”. “The destruction would have been worse if they were associated with outfits. If the Shiv Sena had not been neutral, the situation would have got out of control,” he claimed.
However, while members of the Hindu outfits say they weren’t protesting against Regar’s arrest, many justified Afrazul’s killing. “As long as a strong law is not passed against ‘love jihad’, chances are that more Regars will come forward. Regar is the symbol of what the Hindu community feels right now,” said Ganesh Vaishnav, a member of the Shiv Sena.
Mukesh Singh of the Bajrang Sena, Udaipur, said, “A special investigation team was formed by the government to probe the Regar case. But what about the cases of ‘love jihad’ which are frequent here in Mewar? These are the factors that give birth to more Shambhus.”
Shubham Singh, like the other protesters on December 14, called the demonstration something they did “for the Hindu community”. “Today we are called saffron terrorists… We were there at the protest for Hinduism as we felt that the community needs us,” he said, adding that he managed to give a slip to the police.
The police said most of the protesters came from outside Udaipur, specifically for the demonstration, hearing about it on social media. “They came from places such as Chittorgarh, Badi Sadri, Banswara, Pratapgarh and other areas of the Udaipur division,” said Chandmal Singaria, SHO, Bhopal Pura police station.
Udaipur Superintendent of Police Rajendra Prasad said they are analysing the video of the December 8 rally too, apart from the arrests. “The situation is under control now,” he said.