It would be comical were it not for the fact that these things tend to spin out of control in many instances. Jumping through hoops of fire, crawling through muddy waters and attacking men dressed in skull caps and beards are part of the training that the extreme Hindutva outfit, the Bajrang Dal (BD), has undertaken in its pursuit of the ‘defence’ of Hindus. It is a different matter that few Hindus have sought the might of the BD as defence, preferring rather to leave it to normal law and order outfits. The training camps are being held in Sultanpur, Gorakhpur, Pilibhit, Noida and Fatehpur even though a case has been filed against the organisation and its Ayodhya leader Mahesh Mishra arrested.
The BJP has disassociated itself from these efforts, though Sakshi Maharaj, a party MP, has said there is nothing wrong in these efforts. So far these training camps have not been shut down. These are attempts to polarise society in Uttar Pradesh, which is due for assembly elections next year. The BD is hoping to create an atmosphere of fear among Hindus about some perceived threat from Muslims. However, what the organisation is doing is to create tensions and threat perceptions. It has also been organising vigilante cow protection programmes.
If the welfare of Hindus was of such concern to the BD, instead of trying to draw Hindus into a conflict, it should be trying to empower the disadvantaged among them economically and socially. The organisation has often acted as though it had the sanction of the ruling party and though the BJP has distanced itself from this particular venture, it must be made clear that a party of governance will have nothing to do with these or any other divisive tactics. The fact that these activists are brandishing weaponry is enough to put them behind bars. The state government must move quickly to scotch these so-called arms training attempts before things get out of hand. In the past we have seen how trivial incidents can flare up into a communal conflagration. Mercifully, people are increasingly focusing on development issues and it is unlikely that the Bajrang Dal will be able to transform this into a mass movement.
To counter the likes of Sakshi Maharaj, the local leadership of the BJP should make it firm that this does not have the party’s sanction. As the NDA government crosses the two-year mark, the last thing it needs is the machinations of the likes of the BD or the sanction of this from any member of the party like Sakshi Maharaj.