Hate slogans were allegedly shouted and seven journalists assaulted at a “Hindu Mahapanchayat” led by controversial seer Yati Narsinghanand in outer Delhi’s Burari on Sunday, an event the police said was organised without official clearance.
The journalists, including a woman and three Muslim men, alleged that they were assaulted, harassed, and subjected to religious slurs by a group of people at the event where Narsinghanand, head priest of Ghaziabad’s Dasna Devi temple who is currently out on bail in the Haridwar hate assembly case, exhorted Hindu men to wield weapons to safeguard their religion.
Police said they denied permission for the event, as did the land-owning agency Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
Later in the evening, the Delhi Police said they had registered a case against the organiser(s) of the event under Indian Penal Code’s sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) in connection with the speeches and for holding the event without clearances from police and other concerned agencies.
Officers said cases were also being filed in connection with the alleged assault, as well as against separate people for “spreading misinformation” on social media,
Despite repeated messages, DDA officials didn’t respond.
Narsinghanand allegedly told the gathering that 50% Hindus will convert to different faiths over the next 20 years if a Muslim becomes Prime Minister. The event was organised by Preet Singh, founder of Save India Foundation, which held a similar gathering at Jantar Mantar earlier where anti-Muslim slogans were shouted. Hindu Raksha Dal chief Bhupinder Tomar alias Pinki Chaudhary was also present at the Mahapanchayat. Singh and Chaudhary were arrested in the Jantar Mantar hate speech case and secured bail later.
The journalists were taken to Mukherjee Nagar police station. Three of them – Arbab Ali, Meer Faisal and Meghnad Bose – tweeted details of the harassment they faced. Journalists Shivangi Saxena and Ronak Bhatt as well as photojournalist Md Meharban were also allegedly threatened and manhandled by the mob.
The police, however, said none of the journalists was detained.
“Some of the reporters, willingly, on their own free will, to evade the crowd which was getting agitated by their presence, sat in a PCR (patrolling) van stationed at the venue and opted to proceed to police station for security reasons. No one was detained. Due police protection was provided. For spreading misinformation, due necessary action shall be initiated against such persons,” deputy commissioner of police (northwest) Usha Rangnani tweeted.
“While addressing the gathering from the stage, Preet Singh called out my name and asked if whatever he was saying would come under hate speech. Suddenly, the crowd started looking at me. Bhatt and I went back to speak to some people when suddenly Meharban came running to us and said the police were picking up journalists,” Saxena said.
Saxena said that while she was rushing to help the fellow journalists, many people from the crowd started blocking her way and asking her to show her press ID card. She saw some people dragging Meharban by his clothes. As Saxena and Bhatt started filming, the mob assaulted Bhatt and tried to snatch her cellphone.
“I screamed for help and held onto my phone. Some police personnel were standing close to us but they did nothing. Later, the policemen asked the journalists to sit in the police van. They took them away. Bhatt and I also reached the station, where we filed our complaint. We left from there around 6pm,” added Saxena.
In videos circulated on social media, Narsinghanand could be heard saying that Hindus will be killed if a Muslim becomes Prime Minister. “Once a Muslim becomes the PM of this country, then in the next 20 years, 50% of you will change your faith… 40% Hindus will be killed, 10% will get their daughters and sisters married to Muslim men and then either live in foreign country or in refugee camps. This is the future of Hindus… If you want to change this, then be a man. Who is a man? Someone who keeps weapons.”
HT couldn’t independently verify the veracity of the videos.
When contacted by HT, Narsinghanand said: “I didn’t ask people to pick up weapons but to keep them. It is to protect themselves and their families so that they don’t meet the same fate as the Hindus in Kashmir.”
Asked about Narsinghanand’s speech, Preet Singh said: “It is Yati Narsinghanand’s personal view and we don’t support what he said. We told him to stop after he made the comments. The Mahapanchayat was held to garner support for five new laws we feel should be introduced regarding education, to prevent infiltration, etc.”
Asked about the attack on journalists, he said: “There was no attack (on journalists). We made several announcements during the event saying that we will not be responsible for what is said if any journalist talks to anyone apart from the official organisers.”