Reminiscent of BJP chief Amit Shah’s call for “badla” in riot-torn western Uttar Pradesh during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, RSS-led groups have turned the recent murder of a Dalit VHP activist in Agra a rallying point and urged Hindus to prepare for an “aar paar ki ladai” or final battle in 2017.
Agra has been on the boil ever since Arun Mahaur, a koli businessman and a local VHP office-bearer, was shot dead in the City last Thursday. Though police arrested five accused on charges of murder and rioting, the VHP and BJP are using the incident to rake Hindu sentiment and target the Samajwadi Party government for its “appeasement” of Muslims. The five accused belong to the minority community.
On Sunday, in a condolence meet attended by senior VHP and BJP leaders, including Surendra Jain and Ram Shankar Katheria (Minister of State in Modi government), violent references were allegedly made to Muslims, with many speakers comparing them to “rakshashas” or demons.
Mr. Katheria, Agra MP, reportedly urged Hindus to “make ourselves powerful” and to “launch a struggle.”
Though Mr. Katheria was not available for comment, when contacted and asked specifically about the “anti-minority” speeches at the event, Chaudhary Babulal, BJP MP Fatehpur Sikri, one of the speakers, stuck to his guns. “ Agar Minority badmaashi kare, toh kya unki puja kare? (If the minority engages in , should we worship them?)There will be aar paar ki ladai in 2017,” he told The Hindu .
Even as police is investigating the case the VHP is projecting Mr. Mahaul as a “ gau rakshak ” who was killed for his work in preventing cow slaughter. Sources said the BJP was looking to flare up the issue to counter the Dadri incident and also attempt polarization between Dalits and Muslims.
BJP Agra MLA Jagan Prasad Garg reportedly urged the crowd to “begin showing your strength” as the 2017 elections approach and made references to firing bullets and wielding knives. “All I said was there would be no need to use bullets and guns, if they follow my shortcut and vote for the BJP in 2017,” Mr. Garg said later. He demanded that the accused be booked under the National Security Act.
Mr. Garg, however, denied that Muslims were compared to demons in the meet. “Just like in the time of Lord Ram there were rakshashas, in today’s age anyone who kills a cow is a rakshash—be it a Hindu or a Muslim,” he said.
The police claimed the speeches made by the VHP and BJP leaders had “no adverse impact” on the locals even as activist and Congress support Shehzad Poonawalla has written a complaint to the Home Ministry and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav against the "hate speech."
Police was monitoring the situation and have beefed up security and picket posts to prevent any communal flare up. “Day-to-day activities have resumed. Markets have opened and in a couple of days things should get back fully to normal,” a senior police official said.
The incident has led to BJP leaders along with other Hindutva groups converging on the city. BJP state president Laxmi Kant Vajpayee was detained at Kasganj and prevented from reaching Agra on Saturday.
The VHP has demanded that Mr. Mahual’s family be given similar compensation to that received in the Dadri beef murder case-Rs. 50 lakh, a flat and a job. VHP spokesperson Sharad Sharma said if the demands were not met, the outfit will “fight for justice.” “Why is the SP government quiet now? When a Muslim died in Dadri, people rushed to return awards. Why no furore over the death of a Dalit?” he asked.