Shooter’s FB suggests far-right radicalisation
: The gunman involved in Thursday’s shooting on anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters in the Jamia Nagar area identified himself as a member of right-wing group Bajrang Dal, according to information on his Facebook profile that also indicated that the incident was premeditated and meant to cause significant harm – in at least two posts, he said the “game is over” for the protesters.
The Bajrang Dal was quick to deny he was associated with it.
The man told reporters his name was Rambhakt Gopal – a nom de guerre with which he operated a Facebook profile with multiple signs of a far-right Hindu radicalisation. HT is not identifying him by the name released by police since investigations are yet to determine if he is an adult, and the law prohibits disclosure of a minor suspect’s identity. According to an Aadhaar card and exam mark sheet furnished by his family in Jewar, he was born orn April 8, 2002.
In photos and texts posted over the past month, the gunman calls for India to be turned into a Hindu nation and makes hateful posts targeting the Shaheen Bagh protesters as well as students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). In one post in Hindi on January 7, he makes a rape threat targeting actor Deepika Padukone on a day she visited JNU students and expressed support for them following violence on campus.
“Shaheen Bagh, the game is over,” the young man wrote on Thursday afternoon, referring to the protests against CAA in south-east Delhi. “In my funeral, wrap by body in saffron and there should be chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’,” he wrote in later posts.
He then proceeded to broadcast multiple live videos, all of which show closeups of the anti-CAA protesters before he purportedly acts in what he says is “revenge for Chandan bhai”.
The reference to Chandan, based on older posts on the profile, appears to be to Chandan Gupta, who was killed when members of right-wing groups such as Bajrang Dal and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) were on a motorcycle rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj on January 26, 2018. The group was confronted by locals for some of its slogans before a clash broke out and shots were fired. The incident led to communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the area.
The gunman, too, describes himself as a Bajrang Dal worker from Jewar, according to web.archive.org’s snapshot of his profile from Thursday morning. The reference to the outfit was removed later in the day. Around three hours after the firing, the profile was gone altogether, pulled down by Facebook.
“There is no place on Facebook for those who commit this kind of violence. We have removed the gunman’s Facebook account and are removing any content that praises, supports or represents the gunman or the shooting as soon as we identify it,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
Uma Nandan Kaushik, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) official in Noida and Ghaziabad area, said that the suspect was not associated with the Bajrang Dal. “Bajrang Dal is youth wing of VHP. The minor has written his bio on Facebook and associated with Bajrang Dal and RSS and BJP. But in fact he is not associated with any of these organisations. We held a meeting with workers 20 days ago in Greater Noida. This person was not in the meeting and he is not known to us,” Kaushik said.
Thursday’s incident was possibly the first significant instance in India of a shooter using social media to spread radical political opinion through texts, images, videos, even live broadcasts during or before an attack.
In March last year, a man who gunned down 51 people at a mosque in New Zealand’s Christchurch live-streamed the attack for nearly 17 minutes before Facebook took the content down.
In both cases, the gunmen expressed that they were about to take drastic steps and may not make it out alive. “Till January 31, do not ignore my posts,” the Delhi suspect said in a post last week. On Thursday, he wrote: “Going to liberate people... look after my home”.