Viral terror: Why the perpetrators of anti-Muslim assaults are broadcasting their own crimes
Recording and disseminating videos of hate crimes against Muslims is now a career advancement tool for many Hindutva activists.
On August 27, a video surfaced on social media showing a group of Hindu men ordering workers at a dosa stall in Mathura’s Vikas Market to remove the banners bearing the name of the establishment: Shrinath Dosa Corner. They ask one man why the stall had been named after a Hindu god.
“Remove it,” said the man recording the video, pointing to the banners. “Write your Allah’s name or [Prophet] Mohammad’s name, not Shrinath. A lot of Hindu brothers will think that this shop belongs to a Hindu.”
The Hindu men tugged down the posters, tore them and vandalised the stall as they chanted, “Krishna bhakt ab yudh karo, Mathura ko bhi shuddh karo.” Devotees of Krishna, be ready to fight and cleanse Mathura.
The video was widely shared, bring the attack to national attention.
After a first information report was lodged by Irfan, who runs the stall, Mathura police officials arrested one person, identified as Shrikant Sharma, reported the Indian Express,
The police claimed that Sharma was not associated with any political outfit. But The Print reported that he is the president of the Anntarashtriya Hindu Parishad, a faction of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and had claimed responsibility for the incident.
The video of the stall being vandalised was first uploaded on Facebook by a man who goes by the name of Devraj Pandit. A member of the Bajrang Dal, he works in a sari factory. Posting the video on August 18, the day of the incident, Pandit wrote that the stall vendors had been “taught a lesson”.
This is not the only assault video Pandit has uploaded on Facebook. On August 19, he published a video of an attack he conducted on a biryani vendor. In his text, he called for an ethnic “cleansing” of Muslims from India.
Pandit admitted to Scroll.in that he recorded a video of the assault on the dosa seller and was part of the group that led the attack. “We made this video so people in our society who are aware, get to know [of this],” he said over the phone. “We only put it on Facebook to tell everyone” about the attack.
He sounded triumphant about the crime. He claimed that the group tearing down the banners at the stall were acting like law enforcement officials. “It is like how an RTO [regional transport office] person stops a car to check the licence and policemen take a video as evidence,” said the 23-year-old man.
Both videos on Pandit’s page have hundreds of comments below them congratulating Pandit for the crimes.
Pandit said that the attack occurred after he and a Hindutva activist named Rakesh Mani Tripathi stopped at the market to eat as they returned from a civil court in the city where they had attended a hearing in a dispute about the land on which a mosque stands. Some Hindus claim it has been built over the birthplace of the Hindu deity Krishna.
While at Shrinath Dosa Corner, Pandit claimed he heard the vendors call each other by their names, revealing their Muslim identities.
“We only want to give our money to our Hindu brothers,” said Pandit. “We belong to the Brahmin community so we do not sit next to butcher homes and those who eat chicken. This corrupts our religion.”
He added: “Why should we eat from their hands?”
Spate of terror videos
The Mathura vandalism was part of a spate of incidents over the past few months in which working-class Muslims have been attacked while plying their trade. In many cases, videos of the crimes have been recorded and distributed by the perpetrators.
On August 22, a similar attack had taken place on another Muslim vendor in Indore: a bangle seller who was brutally assaulted by a group of Hindu men. On the next day, the police alleged that the man, identified as Tasleem Ali, had molested a minor and processed fake documents. He was booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
The attack on Ali was also recorded on video. In the video, two men dressed in saffron are seen extracting Ali’s stock of bangles from his bag, assaulting him and hurling communal slurs at him. The men called for others in the crowd to beat up the bangle-seller until Bhavesh Dangoriya intervened.
Dangoriya, a resident of the area in which the incident occurred, noticed the commotion as he was passing by. He tried to intervene. Passersby did not understand why the men were assaulting a bangle seller. “We were telling them to stop and some aunties were stopping them as well,” said the 21-year-old Dangoriya.
At the time, no one had made the claim that bangle seller had molested some women in the neighbourhood, Dangoriya said. “If there was something wrong then they should have called the police,” he said. “Lots of people were making videos [of the incident] that day.”