A viral video that shows members of the right-wing hardline outfit Bajrang Dal allegedly training in 'self defence' with rifles, swords and lathis and 'shooting down' volunteers wearing skull caps at a school in Ayodhya, has virtually got a clean chit from Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik.
The activists organised the arms training camp in Ayodhya for party cadres purportedly to protect the Hindu community from threats.
Watch the video:
The activists are seen brandishing rifles, jumping through hoops of fire, learning to shoot at moving objects even as their "victims", volunteers dressed as Muslims, fall to the ground, pretending to be dead.
But Naik saw nothing wrong in a group of individuals getting together with firearms in a school and learning to shoot down anyone they perceive as a threat.
"This arms training is for the purpose of self defence. There should not be any objection from any quarter. The intention behind this exercise is what counts," Naik said on the sidelines of the annual function of the Saraswati Vidya Mandir school at Atrauli.
Those who cannot defend themselves, cannot ultimately defend the country and there is nothing wrong if some youth are getting arms training purely for self defence.
"Those who cannot defend themselves, cannot ultimately defend the country and there is nothing wrong if some youth are getting arms training purely for self defence," he said.
The annual 'self defence' camp of the right-wing outfit, which was organised in Ayodhya, is now scheduled to be held in Sultanpur, Gorakhpur, Pilibhit, Noida and Fatehpur, sources in Bajrang Dal, which is the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), told PTI. Bajrang Dal has faced allegations of rioting and violence against religious minorities. The outfit has also been accused of running vigilante cow-protection programmes.
"In Bajrang Dal, these all are done to build character and generate nationalistic feeling among the youth. There are different programmes, some are for the physical well-being whereas others are for mental well-being. We train men to protect and help women. Other communities are welcome to do this," Ravi Anant, a VHP leader, told PTI.
The Samajwadi party however sees the drill as "terrorist training".
"Such kind of mock drills can be conducted only by government agencies. Now organisations are conducting these in their own way, like we see ISIS, Hizbul Mujahideen and naxals doing it. I see this as a terrorist training," Syed Asim Waqar," SP spokeperson said.
There was online outrage on the issue.
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) May 24, 2016
Governor of UP Ram Naik is RSS man.He sud not forget he is a governor/sud not justify Arms training to Bajrang Dal.He can do after resigning
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) May 24, 2016
Arms Training to Bajrang Dal/creation of a private army is an indicator that BJP/RSS is planning big in UP to polarise voters for elections.
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) May 24, 2016
Bajrang Dal justifies its arms training to protect religion. Do Muslims have similar rights to train with arms to protect Islam? If not why?
— Ajay Kumar (@AjayKumar_NN) May 23, 2016
So Bajrang Dal doing arms training; preparing ground for BJP for UP elections.Polarization in full swing. Modi Ji's " development" model!
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) May 23, 2016
Bajrang Dal’s UP convener Surendra Mishra told the Indian Express that "Local workers who planned the mock drill would have used the (skull) caps.”
A report in the Hindustan Times said a similar camp was also held at the Saraswati Shishu Mandir in Sector 12, Noida.
“The participants are not only taught martial arts, but they are also being trained to overcome obstacles -- as is taught in army training courses -- and how to survive and retaliate any untoward situation. They are being trained on how to serve the country in any condition,” Umanand Kaushik, spokesperson of the Bajrang Dal Noida unit told the paper.
(With PTI inputs)