Bajrang Punia shares Instagram post supporting Bajrang Dal, deletes after outrage
In its manifesto for the upcoming Karnataka election, the Congress has stated it will ban groups such as the Bajrang Dal and Popular Front of India (PFI).
Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia, one of the three central figures in the ongoing wrestlers' protest against national wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over alleged sexual harassment of female grapplers, found himself in the middle of a controversy after he put up a post on Instagram expressing support for the right-wing group Bajrang Dal.
“I am Bajrangi. I support Bajrang Dal. Jai Shri Ram,” the post read. The post, which featured an illustration of Lord Hanuman (Bajrang Bali/Bajrangi), also had a caption appealing the user to keep the Lord Hanuman illustration as their WhatsApp status and display picture.
Punia, however, deleted the post after a section of social media users, primarily those who oppose the umbrella Sangh Parivar, of which Bajrang Dal is a part, expressed outrage over his support for a group considered by many as a ‘militant organisation.’
On the other hand, supporters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and those of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), lambasted the grappler for succumbing to pressure and ‘apologising for his beliefs.’ The RSS is the ideological mentor of the BJP.
What is the Bajrang Dal controversy?
Founded in 1984, Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a member of the Sangh Parivar. In recent years, it has attained notoriety mostly due to activities such as moral policing, including in Karnataka, which will elect its new government on May 10. Accordingly, the Congress, which is aiming to unseat the BJP, announced in its manifesto it will ban groups such as Bajrang Dal and Popular Front of India (PFI), the Islamist organisation proscribed by the BJP-led Union government in September last year.
The announcement led to outrage in the right-wing ecosystem, with Bajrang Dal staging protests against the Congress across the country. Sensing an opportunity to corner the grand old party in the southern state, the BJP, too, came out all guns blazing, equating Bajrang Dal with Lord Hanuman.
Attempting damage control, the Congress said there was no proposal to ban the group, as only the central government has the authority to ban such organisations. DK Shivakumar, its Karnataka unit chief, vowed that the party will build Lord Hanuman temples in the state, if elected to power.