From 'war on Church' to 'war on love jihad', Assam VHP takes out rally
Guwahati: Having threatened Hindus in Assam earlier in December with dire consequences if they visited the church around Christmas this year, the Cachar-district Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) took out a massive 'show of strength' rally in Silchar on Christmas eve, threatening a war on 'love-jihad' this time.
"For the love-jihadists in Silchar, know that we are coming for you," said Mithun Nath, Cachar-district General Secretary of VHP, the parent body of the right-wing extremist organisation Bajrang Dal.
Repeating harassment allegations of Hindus by the Church in Meghalaya, hundreds of saffron-clad cadres of the VHP were seen brandishing swords, chanting 'Bharat mata ki jai' while vowing to 'protect' Hindus in the region.
Speaking to EastMojo earlier, Nath said the threats are a result of "harassment and persecution of Hindus in Meghalaya, at the behest of the Church".
Earlier in December, Nath had warned Hindus in the region with violence if they were found visiting the church around Christmas. After request from the district administration over a visit by Union Minister Nitin Gadhkari to Silchar, however, the VHP had to prepone their Christmas plans, Nath said.
Nath claims 80% of the population in Meghalaya are Christians, while the remaining majority are Bengali Hindus or Hindi-speaking Hindus.
"In Meghalaya, non-Khasis and non-Christians are being harassed using student outfits. This is happening at the behest of the Church. Church is getting it done through the students union," Nath said.
When contacted by EastMojo, Donald Thabah, president of the Khasi Students' Union (KSU) refused to comment on the issue at the moment.
Among the issues faced by the non-Christians in Meghalaya, Nath said, "Even after living in Meghalaya for generations, Hindus don't get trade licenses here. If they open their shops, Khasi students turn up asking for licenses. And when they can’t show those, they are told to shut shop."
Right-wing activist and social worker Gayatri Borpatra Gohain had earlier taken up the issue and filed a complaint with Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani, alleging "institutionalized harassment of women and children in Bholaganj, Ichamati, Kalibari, and the Kalatek villages of the East Khasi Hills". The complaint also alleged harassment of the non-tribals by armed insurgent groups and the administration in the aftermath of the February 28 incident in Ichamati, where a tribal man was allegedly killed in clashes with the non-tribal residents of the area, on the sidelines of a KSU rally.
Acting on Gohain's complaint, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had asked the local police for an enquiry into the matter. According to a report in The Shillong Times, the allegations in Gohain’s complaint were found to be "not true: by the state police.
The Shillong Times reported on October 10 that no FIRs were filed or received either by the local police or district administration regarding harassment of non-tribal residents of Ichamati. It, however, noted that the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) had not renewed the trade license of 38 shops of non-tribals, which remain closed till date.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior Meghalaya Police official said the allegations of non-tribals being targeted are “exaggerated”.
The official said there have been no cases of harassment in and around Ichamati after one violent episode that was reported on February 28 earlier this year. "It is COVID-19 that led to loss of livelihood opportunities for the locals," he said.
Meanwhile, soon after Gohain’s complaint, posters targeting Bengalis had cropped up all over Shillong. The posters were later removed by the police but the KSU leaders reportedly said that they were put up in response to 'baseless allegations' by the 'illegal immigrants' from Ichamati, a reference to the Bengalis and their sympathizers outside the state.
Without a stronghold in Meghalaya, however, the VHP has threatened retaliation through the outfit's actions in Assam.
"They (Christians) think they are bigger in number and have muscle power. If they think they have the power there (in Meghalaya) to lock our temples, we have that power here (in Assam). Hindu society has record of not destroying any mosque or any church," the 39-year-old right-wing leader alleged.
Repeating his earlier threat of beating up Hindus found visiting church during Christmas in Assam, Nath added: "If our Hindu brothers are being attacked there, we should boycott the Church here in protest. If they are shutting down our temples there, why should Hindus go to the Church? Hindus should boycott the Church. Some Hindus have no sentiment for the community, they just want to party."
As a response to the alleged mistreatment of non-Khasis in Meghalaya, Nath said: "The message should be relayed to people in a language that they understand. You can’t address goons in a polite way. We have told all Hindus that they should not visit the Church in Assam. We have no problem if Christians go to the Church."
Earlier this month, a video of the right-wing leader had gone viral on social media, where he was heard saying that if Hindus celebrate Christmas or visit churches on December25, "they will be brutally beaten". The Cachar district administration in Assam had reportedly asked the police to investigate his inflammatory speech.
The police, however, did not register a case. "There is no case against me. Police has not registered any case," Nath told EastMojo.