The Bajrang Dal
The Bajrang Dal is a militant youth movement founded by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in 1984, and is affiliated to the Sangh Parivar, the umbrella term for the Hindu nationalist movement. My research revealed that the VHP and the Bajrang Dal share the same agenda and ideology; it is also likely that the latter is also largely founded by the VHP. The Bajrang Dal was originally founded as a protection force in Uttar Pradesh, for the activists in the Ram temple movement, and soon reached 100 000 members. In 2005, according to themselves, the organization reached 1.5 million members all over India, spread over 7,032 units, and nearly half of these were found in Gujarat. The organization is inspired by the Hindu gods Ram and Hanuman: Members are often seen with Ram headbands, their slogan is «jai shri Ram», and sometimes refer to themselves as Ram’s monkey army.
The ideology of the Bajrang Dal is based on the ideas of Hindutva (Hinduness) with roots in the 1870s. The main idea is that the Hindus of India need to be united and strengthened in order to bring back an imagined Hindu «Golden Age» which took place before foreign conquerors arrived. Hindutva uses broad generalizations, historical revisionism, and argues that Hindus are the indigenous people of India – it talks about a Hindu nation (Hindu Rashtra). While Hindus, including Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, belong to India because it is their holy land, Hindutva excludes religious minorities with roots in foreign lands: In particular Muslims and Christians. This is the basis for the strong resentments against these minorities; they are perceived as threats to Hindus, leading to stigmatization, an idea of «the other» and violent attacks. In the fight against these «enemies of India» the Bajrang Dal plays a leading role as the soldiers of Hindutva.
Agenda and Activities
The Bajrang Dal’s goal is to unite all Hindus and eventually reunite the lost territories of India, Akhand Bharat, and establish a Hindu Rashtra. The lost territories include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Burma. In order to reach these goals it arranges a number of daily activities.
During my research I concluded that the Bajrang Dal has three specific issues on its agenda which it defines as the gravest threats to India: Muslims, Christian missionaries, and cow slaughter. Regarding Indian Muslims the Bajrang Dal attaches certain general traits to a large and diverse population. Muslims do according to the Bajrang Dal, for instance, conspire to become a majority in India with a high birth rate aided by abduction and forced conversions of Hindu girls. Muslims are also regularly equaled with terrorism, communal violence and so called anti-social activities. The Bajrang Dal opposes all forms of privileges, demands and reservations Muslims receive in India. It gives Muslims two choices: to «go back» to Pakistan or adapt to Hindu traditions and culture.
Missionary activities by Christians are seen as another dire threat to the Hindu Rashtra. This issue boils down to a believed Christian conspiracy to change the religious landscape of India, much similar to the issue with Muslims. The Bajrang Dal regards almost all forms of conversions as forced and as provocations which, in its eyes, legitimize violent reactions. The worst affected states by the anti-Christian activities of the Bajrang Dal are Gujarat in the late 1990s, and Orissa and Karnataka in the late 2000s.
The protection of the holy cows of India is the last point high on the agenda of the Bajrang Dal. This leads to activities such as protests, surveillance of abattoirs, and attacks on suspected «cow murderers». In 2007 two South African nationals were beaten up in Madhya Pradesh, and in 2002 the Bajrang Dal took out a victory procession after dalits suspected of slaughtering cows were murdered.
Other forms of Bajrang Dal activities involve cultural and moral policing, for instance harassment of couples celebrating Valentine’s Day, which they consider a foreign and immoral custom. In the same pattern of opposition against Western influences the organization is outspoken against Hindu girls mingling with boys in public places like bars and university campuses, and even girls wearing jeans. The Bajrang Dal has also taken up vigilante activities as anti-terror squads in Kashmir, and identification of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The Bajrang Dal and Gujarat
The violence which engulfed large parts of Gujarat in 2002 saw heavy involvement from the Bajrang Dal. The organization, together with the VHP, was identified as the most active of the instigators in 2002. Both were important in the organization of mobs in both urban and rural areas of Gujarat. An activist from the Sangh Parivar revealed that all the Hindu nationalist affiliates, including the Bajrang Dal, gathered for a meeting on 28 February to agree upon the proper reaction against the train fire at Godhra. Although the Bajrang Dal was not involved in all cases of violence it has become evident that the organization figured as an invaluable ground force.
The Bajrang Dal provided men and organization to mobs in Gujarat, best documented in Ahmedabad: Its activists would mobilize mobs in different localities, for instance regular citizens or alcoholics who were paid with alcohol supplied from local illegal liquor dealers (Gujarat is a «dry state»). When this stage was finished trucks were organized to carry the mobs between different localities.
Babu Bajrangi, who led the attack on Muslims in Naroda Patiya, boasted about his actions in front of Tehelka’s hidden camera in 2007: He gathered a mob of locals in a nearby area during the night of 27 February and armed them with guns for the next day. 28 February Babu Bajrangi and his mob attacked and burnt Muslims shops, which they had obtained lists of from the VHP, and killed as many Muslims as they could find. Many were hacked to death, thrown into a well, or burnt alive in a large pit. The burning of Muslims had a symbolic value for Babu Bajrangi: «We believe in setting them on fire because these bastards say they don’t want to be cremated, they’re afraid of it, they say this and that will happen to them…».
The former Bajrang Dal leader did not express any regret for his actions, but was proud of his them:
«…there was this pregnant woman, I slit her open, sisterf****r… Showed them [Muslims] what’s what… what kind of revenge we can take if our people are killed… I am no feeble rice-eater]… didn’t spare anyone… they shouldn’t even be allowed to breed… I say that even today… Whoever they are, women, children, whoever… Nothing to be done with them but cut them down. Thrash them, slash them, burn the bastards…».
As if he was expecting a coming trial where he would have to stand up for his actions, Babu Bajrangi stated that his last wish is to have a «field day» in the Juhapura neighborhood of Ahmedabad and kill tens of thousands of Muslims.
The mob in Naroda Patiya consisted of a number of other Bajrang Dal activists armed with swords and trishuls (a traditional trident one receives when joining the organization), and was supported by a police force which helped localize Muslims in hiding. Out of the 1000 inhabitants in the locality, at least 65 where killed, and all the buildings which did not belong to Hindus were burnt down.
A number of reports by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights activists documented the violence, and the activities of the Bajrang Dal in the different parts of Gujarat. The third largest city of Gujarat, Vadodara, witnessed several Bajrang Dal-led mobs in a number of neighborhoods. The organization, along with the VHP, also organized gangs of 50-60 people roaming the halls of local hospitals in order to prevent the staff from helping Muslims.
In rural Gujarat the Bajrang Dal was mostly active in the Panchmahals, Sabarkantha and Dahod, often accompanied by the VHP, the RSS, BJP cadre and the police. The strategy used in these districts relied on the use of tribals who were promised rewards of up to 50,000 rupees, food and drink, who were organized and told what to do. In Sabarkantha the Bajrang Dal and the VHP organized attacks against at least 32 villages, most where they already had a presence. The two organizations also hindered supplies to reach villages by setting up road blocks in the district. An incomplete list of first information reports (FIRs) filed by the police in 2002 suggests that the areas where the Bajrang Dal was most active were eastern and southern Gujarat. These FIRs list a large number of members of the organization, including Babu Bajrangi, but few, if any, were convicted until recently.
The build up
The presence of the Bajrang Dal in Gujarat has been felt since the 1980s. Almost half of the Bajrang Dal’s shakas were found in the state in 2005, and its training camps are well organized. After paying the membership fee one receives a trishul and takes an oath: «With God as my witness, I pledge I will always be ready to rise to the defense of my country, religion and society while promising that I will not misuse this trishul.» By paying an additional 300 rupees you receive a talwar, a curved sword, which was heavily featured in the mobs in the streets of Gujarat in 2002. All new members also receive a membership card which is supposed to be enough to avoid being arrested by the police if you get into trouble. The Bajrang Dal organizes meetings every evening for their members in Gujarat and encourages recruitment campaigns. If a member recruits a certain number of new members he will receive a symbolic VHP title. The most talented members of each shaka are picked to attend additional training and get more responsibility.
After the BJP started to emerge as a serious contender for political power in the state, and finally formed a government in 1995, the rest of the Sangh Parivar increased their influence. The affiliates, including the Bajrang Dal, gained influential positions in several parts of the government bureaucracy, the police, the home guards, and educational institutions. The activities of the organization spread from urban to rural areas and usually caused a desired communalization of towns and villages. This effort seemed to intensify the last years before 2002.
The last six months before the violence broke out were the most intense in terms of «preparation». This period was characterized by frequent public meetings, preferably in peaceful areas, arranged by the Bajrang Dal (among others). The meetings followed certain patterns: The use of anti-Muslim propaganda to stir up the locals, calls to take action against Muslims, trishul and sword distribution, and the attendants would receive assurances of protection if their actions got them into trouble with the police. Bajrang Dal members also made sure to start, and spread, rumors about imminent attacks from Muslims in order to spread fear.
The Bajrang Dal got additional assistance from regional and local media. Its message, along with anti-Muslim movies, was broadcasted on TV channels. The organization was allowed to print an advertisement in the Gujarati daily Sandesh in August 2001. The same newspaper was also accused of uncritical publishing of Hindu nationalist hate propaganda after the violence in 2002. This effort was supplemented with the spread of pamphlets, for instance, encouraging rape of Muslim women.
By 2002 Gujarat was most likely the state with the strongest presence of the Bajrang Dal. With the privilege of working more or less undisturbed by the law enforcement the organization was able to slowly build up strenght for several years. In the months just before the violence broke out, the Bajrang Dal told their members to be in constant readiness for a forthcoming war. Its youth were given military training and were indoctrinated in the organization’s world view. If the organization failed to recruit by conventional means it would offer people money for joining, and additional rewards for killing, breaking of limbs, or burning down houses.
The pattern of preparations does fit with what Paul R. Brass refers to as the ‘fire tending’ stage of a riot production system. Fire tenders make sure that there is fertile ground for riots, mostly by circulating rumors and stories in order to create suspicion and fear among a community. The Bajrang Dal played a central role during this preparation stage, and later unleashed their resources when the «perfect» occasion of the train fire happened.
The Naroda Patiya trial and beyond
It took 10 years after the massacre in Naroda Patiya before the perpetrators were trialed and found guilty, even though the identities of the likes of Babu Bajrangi and Kodnani were well known from day one. The violence was mostly brushed away as a «natural» reaction to the events at Godhra by the Sangh Parivar (including Modi and the BJP), and the leader of the Bajrang Dal, Prakash Sharma, denied any involvement of his organization. The Hindu nationalist explanation of the violence as a «natural» reaction coincides with Brass’ third stage of riot production, the stage where the battle for the control of the events unfolds.
The court however denied any claims of «natural» reactions, and the judge described the violence in Naroda Patiya as a «pre-planned conspiracy [which] cannot be mitigated by just saying that it was a reaction to the Godhra train burning incident.» Babu Bajrangi, who a few years earlier boasted of his actions during the massacre in front of Tehelka’s hidden camera, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part.
What the future brings for the Bajrang Dal in Gujarat remains to be seen. At this stage it is challenging to predict what effects the trial will have for the organization. However, there appears to be a large number of similar cases ready to be brought in front of a court from all over the state, implicating several members of the soldiers of Hindutva. The future of the youth organization in Gujarat also seems to be uncertain because of other factors.
In front of the 2007 state elections in Gujarat one witnessed a change in relations between Modi and his BJP, and the RSS affiliates. Instead of continuing the earlier focus on communal themes Modi turned against the likes of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal and started to focus on development. A year earlier the Supreme Court of India also reopened 1,242 closed cases from the violence in 2002, without much protest from the political elite, which included the recent trial against Babu Bajrangi. It did indeed seem like Modi and the BJP realized that they would be able to win elections without the support of the soldiers on the ground.
The pattern of 2007 seems to repeat itself in the upcoming state elections. The former chief minister of Gujarat, Keshubhai Patel, has broken out of the BJP and started his own Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) out of frustration with Modi’s leadership. Leaders of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, disgruntled with the development of the Hindu Rashtra in Gujarat, are openly supporting Modi’s new challenger. While this might appear to be a serious threat to a new election victory for Modi, the current state of the Bajrang Dal seems to suggest otherwise. Ten years ago the organization played an important part in bringing out the masses to vote for Modi, but today it seems to be unable to create a negative effect for the BJP. The reason appears to be that Modi has managed to heavily reduce the resources available to the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Reduced resources will have had a negative impact on the organization’s ability to work effectively at ground level among the voters, which again has hampered the flow of new recruits and caused many to leave.
The trial of Babu Bajrangi might be one of several to come in Gujarat, and could have a further negative effect on the Bajrang Dal in the state. If Modi wins the upcoming elections and remains unhurt by the new Hindu nationalist party, at least partly supported by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, the future of the soldiers of Hindutva appears to be more and more insecure.
Eirik Janssen is a historian and wrote his MA thesis on the Bajrang Dal, hails from the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo. Thesis: The Bajrang Dal: The Soldiers of Hindutva, 2012
1 Hindu pilgrims organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) for the reconstruction of a Ram temple (Ramjanmabhoomi) in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
 The cause of the fire is disputed: Some claim the fire was a conspiracy by Pakistan’s ISI, a pre-planned act by local Muslims, a spontaneous mob reaction to rumors of kar sevak harassment of Muslims at the Godhra train station, or an accident caused by gas cylinders used for cooking inside the coach.
 Manas Dasgupta, «28 Years of Kodnani, Bajrangi to Spend Entire Life in Prison», in The Hindu, 31 August 2012. URL. The fast track court was ordered by the Supreme Court because of the failure of the Gujarati judicial system to prosecute cases in the aftermath of the violence, Editorial, «A Stunning Verdict», in The Hindu, 30 August 2012. URL.
 Manas Dasgupta, «Ex-BJP Minister Among 32 Convicted of Naroda-Patiya Massacre», in The Hindu, 29 August 2012. URL.
 «After Killing Them, I Felt Like Maharana Pratap», Transcript, in Tehelka, 1 June 2007. URL.
 Dasgupta, «28 Years of Kodnani», The Hindu.
 The VHP is the main driving force behind the movement to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya. For more on the organization see Eva Hellman, Political Hinduism. The Challenge of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, (Uppsala, International Tryck AB, 1993).
 Eirik Janssen, The Bajrang Dal. The Soldiers of Hindutva, Master Thesis, the University of Oslo, 2012, pp. 36, 113-115.
 «Murali Krishnan, The VHP’s Long Tax Holiday”, in Outlook, 22 March 1999. URL.
 Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, (London, Hurst & Company, 1996), p. 363.
 “15 Lakh Youth Join Bajrang Dal”, in Organiser, 29 May 2005.
 Rajesh Joshi & Sutapa Mukerjee, “Look Delhi, Aim Rome”, in Outlook, July 10 2000. URL.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal. «Crime Against Humanity. Volume I, An Inquiry Into the Carnage in Gujarat. List of Incidents and Evidence», Gujarat 2002, p. 278.
 Anand Patwardhan, In the Name of God, 1991. Movie. ‘Bajrang Dal’, however, might be translated as the ‘Strong Party’.
 Janssen, The Bajrang Dal, p. 114.
 “Points of Hindu Agenda”, Hinduunity.org. URL., & “Dangerous curve ahead”, in Organiser, 11 May 2003.
 Dionne Bunsha, ”At a Hindutva Factory”, in Frontline, Volume 20, Issue 12, 7-20 June 2003. URL.
 “Points of Hindu Agenda”, Hinduunity.org.
 Ashok Singhal, “Reconstruction of the Ram Temple After March 12”, in Organiser, 1-7 October 2001.
 “Enemies of Hindus Must Fear Us”, in Outlook, 8 February 1999. URL.
 Saji Thomas, “S Africans beaten up for ‘carrying beef’”, in The Times of India, 31 January 2007. URL.
 T. K. Rajalakshmi, “Slaughter of the Dalits”, in Frontline, Volume 19, Issue 23, 9-22 November 2002. URL.
 “Valentine’s Day Turns Into Tense Affair”, in The Hindu, 15 February 2011. URL.
 Sanjana, ”The Devoutly Disobedient”, in Tehelka, Volume 6, Issue 5, 7 February 2009. URL.
 People’s Union for Democratic Rights, «‘Maaro! Kaapo! Baalo!’ State, Society, and Communalism in Gujarat», May 2002, p. 64. URL.
 People’s Union for Democratic Rights, «‘Maaro! Kaapo! Baalo!’, p. 64.
 “An Unstoppable Zeal of Patriotism”, in Organiser, 23 September 2001.
 Ashis K. Biwas & Nitin A. Gokhale, “Estranged Pilgrims”, in Outlook,17February 2003. URL.
 See for instance: «Genocide in the land of Gandhi», in The Hindu, 10 March 2002, URL., Samar Halarnkar & Mahesh Langa, «Godhra Victims, VHP Angry With Narendra Modi», in Hindustan Times, 21 February 2011, URL., People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Vadodara & Vadodara Shanti Abhiyan, «Violence in Vadodara: A Report», 26 June 2002, p. 10, International Initiative for Justice, «Threatened Existence A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat», December 2003, p. 134, Kavita Panjabi, Krishna Bandopadhyay & Bolan Gangopadhyay, «The Next Generation: In the Wake of the Genocide. A Report on the Impact of the Gujarat Pogrom on Children and the Young», July 2002, p. 44, Human Rights Watch, «Compounding Injustice», 30 June 2003. For an account of a large number of cases see Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity Volume I, II and III».
 Ward Berenschot, Riot Politics. Hindu-Muslim Violence and the Indian State, (London: Hurst & Company, 2011), p. 164.
 «After Killing Them, I Felt Like Maharana Pratap», Tehelka.
 Sheela Bhatt, «It Had To Be Done, VHP Leader Says of Riots», in Rediff.com, URL.
 «After Killing Them, I Felt Like Maharana Pratap», Tehelka.
 «After Killing Them, I Felt Like Maharana Pratap», Tehelka.
 «After Killing Them, I Felt Like Maharana Pratap», Tehelka.
 «How Has the Gujarat Massacre Affected Minority Women? The Survivors Speak: Fact-Finding by a Woman’s Panel», in Asghar Ali Engineer (ed.), The Gujarat Carnage, (New Delhi: Orient Longman Private Ltd, 2003), Human Rights Watch, «‘We Have No Orders to Save You’. State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat», Volume 14, Number 3, April 2002 , pp. 15-18. URL.
 Human Rights Watch, «‘We Have No Orders to Save You'», pp. 15-18.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity Volume II. An Inquiry Into the Carnage in Gujarat Findings and Recommendations», Gujarat 2002, p. 120.
 People’s Union for Democratic Rights, «‘Maaro! Kaapo! Baalo!’, p. 8.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, Volume I, p. 20.
 Gujarat Riots.com, «Evidence of Involvement of Hindu Right Wing Extremist Organisations in the Gujarat Carnage of 2002.» URL.
 A shaka consists of a group of members meeting daily or regularly, forming the basis of the movement.
 Christophe Jaffrelot, “The Militias of Hindutva. Communal Violence, Terrorism and Cultural Policing”, in Laurent Gayer & Christophe Jaffrelot (ed.), Armed Militias of South Asia, Fundamentalists, Maoists and Separatists, (London, Hurst & Company, 2009), p. 212.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity», Volume II, pp. 55-56.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity», Volume II, pp. 55-57.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity», Volume II, p. 15, 227, Human Rights Watch, «‘We Have No Orders to Save You'», p. 41.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity», Volume I, p. 251.
 «How Has the Gujarat Massacre Affected Minority Women?».
 People’s Union for Civil Liberties, «Violence in Vadodara», p. 58.
 International Initiative for Justice, «Threatened Existence», pp. 23-24, 27.
 According to itself, Sandesh is the most popular Gujarati daily and among the ten biggest daily newspapers in India. «US Edition», in Sandesh, URL.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity», Volume II, p. 56.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity», Volume II, pp. 31-32.
 International Initiative for Justice, «Threatened Existence», p. 23-34, 27.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity», Volume I, p. 41.
 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, «Crime Against Humanity», Volume II, p. 35.
 See for instance Paul R. Brass, Forms of Collective Violence. Riots, Pogroms, and Genocide in Modern India, (New Delhi, Three Essays Collective, 2006) .
 P. Parameswaran, «Learn From History or Perish», in Organiser, 24 March 2002.
 Shoma Chaudhury, “Muslims Widen Your Hearts”, in Tehelka, Volume 5, Issue 44, 8 November 2008. URL.
 Brass, Forms of Collective Violence.
 Harsh Mander, «Let the healing begin», in The Hindu, 2 September 2012. URL..
 Editorial, «Inhumanity Revisited», in Economic and Political Weekly, 3 November 2007, p. 6, Rathin Das, «Modi Presents a New Face», in Hindustan Times, 29 July 2008, URL.
 Editorial, «Best Bakery Case. Welcome Judgment», in Economic & Political Weekly, 4 March 2006, p. 768.
 Dayal, «Bajrang Dal on Recruitment Drive in Campus», in Times of India, Berenschot, Riot Politics…, p. 118.
 Arvind J Bosmia, «Hindutva Icon Modi’s Enemies are From the Family», in Hindustan Times, 10 October 2012. URL.
 Bosmia, «Hindutva Icon Modi’s Enemies are From the Family», in Hindustan Times.
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