New Delhi: With Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and BJP leaders upset at the police action against Bajrang Dal workers during a Brahmastra protest, the Madhya Pradesh government is trying to ensure that Hindutva issues like love jihad and beef dominate the election narrative in the state, which goes to polls next year, ThePrint has learnt.
This Tuesday, the police had cane-charged Bajrang Dal workers who had gathered outside the Mahakal Temple in Ujjain to prevent Brahmastra actors Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor from entering the shrine.
The Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the VHP, had called for a boycott of the film after a 2011 interview surfaced of Ranbir professing his fondness for beef. “My family is from Peshawar… I am a big beef fan,” he had said in the old interview.
While the Bajrang Dal workers managed to stop the actors, the police action against them has caused upset across the Hindutva spectrum, ThePrint has learnt.
The state BJP unit claims that the “beef issue” is important due to public sentiments and the police lathi-charging the Bajrang Dal workers was “giving a bad name to the BJP government”, especially with the festival of Navratri just around the corner.
Already, some state BJP leaders have ramped up the rhetoric on matters that are emotive to large sections of Hindu society.
Love jihad, beef back in limelight
This Thursday, culture and tourism minister Usha Thakur told reporters in Gwalior that no one will be allowed to enter garba (a folk dance) pandals during Navratri without showing authentic identity proof. According to Thakur, garba had in the past been a “big way to carry out love jihad activities”.
सभी आयोजकों से अपील – "लव जिहाद का माध्यम बन चुके थे गरबा पंडाल, इसलिए अब बिना पहचान पत्र के नो एंट्री !!” pic.twitter.com/GOKUua13J5
— सुश्री उषा ठाकुर (@UshaThakurMLA) September 8, 2022
BJP sources told ThePrint that the party will continue to raise the “issue” of love jihad since it resonates with many people.
“So many Muslim men attend these garbas disguising themselves as Hindus and lure innocent girls. The fact that identity cards will be checked before entry will work as a deterrent,” said a senior party functionary.
On the matter of beef, Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra hinted that there was a valid reason for the protest. “An artist should not use words which hurt the sentiments of people,” Mishra told reporters when asked about the Bajrang Dal protest in Ujjain.
According to a party source, the focus on Hindutva issues will be sharper in the coming few months as the BJP does not want to give any scope to the Congress to make headway on the basis of its so-called soft-Hindutva strategy.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is likely to visit Mahakal temple in Ujjain during his Bharat Jodo Yatra in January and will also take a dip in Narmada river.
Furore over ‘autocratic police’
According to sources, while VHP is all set to file a complaint against the lathi-charge, there is pressure on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to act against those policemen who were involved in the incident.
“Public figures should understand public sentiments and should respect those who have made them stars. If they have a right to say what they want, people also have a right to protest. The way police behaved with the Bajrang Dal workers is shameful. We have demanded action against those who were involved in this entire incident,” said Sunil Bansal, national spokesperson of VHP.
The police have maintained that they had to cane-charge after a protester started fighting with its officers.
Many in the BJP claim that “police atrocities” are increasing and that junior officers, especially, misuse their power to “harass” BJP leaders which will only have a negative impact ahead of the election.
“Everyone has a right to do peaceful protest and the way police handled the Bajrang Dal activists has to be condemned. It is not just the VHP and the party functionaries who are upset with the police force who misbehaved with the Bajrang Dal activists. Within the government too, many feel police are becoming autocratic,” said a senior BJP leader.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)