New Delhi: The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) Friday tweeted “helpline” numbers for “Hindus under threat or victimised by jihadist forces” in certain states and Union territories, only to take down the post hours later amid an outcry, while promising to “come up with a state-specific list of numbers”.
“We are requesting people to go to the police stations as a first resort. If the police do not register their complaints or do not pay attention to their concerns, they can call the helpline numbers,” VHP international working president Alok Kumar told ThePrint.
The VHP’s post, from its official Twitter handle, contained a list of 20 names, contact numbers and locations of members from Bajrang Dal, the outfit’s youth wing, and a message: “Hindus under threat or victimised by Jihadist forces may approach our Bajrang Dal helpline… Numbers for the rest of the states will be released soon.”
Published around 8 am, the post soon started drawing reactions from people who asked if the Bajrang Dal was working as a parallel force to the police. ThePrint has the screenshots of the list tweeted, but is withholding it over its sensitive details.
According to Kumar, the VHP took the step as it has been getting complaints from people. “In Delhi, at least five persons got threatening calls when they put up posts supporting Nupur Sharma. Similar complaints have been coming from other states,” he said. Former BJP spokesperson Sharma has been in the news for her comments against the Prophet Muhammad.
Speaking to ThePrint, Surendra Jain, joint general secretary of the VHP (part of the Sangh Parivar), alleged that in “many states like Rajasthan, Kerala, Bengal, people struggle to get their complaints about jihadis addressed by the local police”.
He added that “we have ways to make the police listen”. “We will force them to register complaints, if needed. And, despite such democratic efforts, if the administration does not listen to the attacked or threatened persons, we will take care of them,” said Jain.
Referring to the gruesome murder of a tailor in Rajasthan’s Udaipur last month, he added: “Had there been a proper law and order system in place, incidents like the beheading in Udaipur or threat and intimidation calls in other places would not have happened. The so-called secular government in Maharashtra went to the extent of even suppressing one such killing (in Amravati). The word ‘secular’ now sounds like an abuse to us.”
Kumar echoed Jain in saying that there are “legal ways to make the police work. There are some legal actions that can force police stations to lodge complaints. In both Udaipur and Amravati cases, the state governments too need to be held accountable”.
“We are training our young Bajrang Dal members to help such people in need. If resistance is built up, the jihadi forces will have to retract,” Kumar added.
The VHP had tweeted out helpline numbers for UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.
“We are working on a pan-India list, and will add more contacts and re-publish the list. We have withdrawn it to include more numbers so that people across India can get help. We have a strong network of Bajrang Dal (members),” said Jain.
‘We have to build resistance’
ThePrint contacted some of the Bajrang Dal volunteers, or swayamsevaks, named in the list as helpline contacts. These men, according to Jain, have been “trained to deal with adverse situations”.
Businessman Yogesh Rawal, 28, is one such Bajrang Dal “team-lead” in Chittor, Rajasthan. He has 194 blocks under him. The VHP has divided each of its organisational districts into ‘prakhands’ or blocks, and each block has small teams or tolis, termed ‘Bajrang Tolis’.
Rawal said he was proud to be chosen for this work by his organisation. “I have received more than 100 calls since morning from the Hindu samaj reposing their faith in us. In the absence of an effective police administration, Hindus are really scared. They said they would at least have a place to call or ask for help now. They would feel a little safer than before,” he said.
He further explained that “we have at least 10 Bajrang Tolis ready in every block”. “If we get any distress call, we call local block meetings and try to draw the police and administration’s attention to it. But if that does not work, then we are capable of providing security to our Hindu brothers and sisters. We can even man their houses or shops if needed,” Rawal added.
According to him, he himself has received “many threats earlier” and has learnt to deal with them. “Darr ke ghar pe toh nahi baith sakte, dharam ka kaam toh karna hi padega (we can’t sit at home in fear. We will have to work for our religion),” he said.
Ajit Raj is the contact person in UP’s Kanpur. Talking to ThePrint, he said: “I have 202 blocks under me and every block has a dozen tolis. We have been instructed to deal with the situation peacefully and through legal ways. We have also been asked to draw the attention of senior officials if the local police stations fail to act neutrally.”
“But if nothing works, then we have to save our own people. We have to build resistance against jihadis,” said Raj, who is currently unemployed, adding that he has dedicated his life to “desh and dharma (country and religion)”.
Raj said he had received more than 200 calls. “So many young men like us want to be associated with this effort, while some are scared and ask for help,” he said.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)