By Ila Ananya
“We want to make sure that Hindus don’t have to live in fear of Muslim boys. You can call us terrorists or moral police. We don’t mind. Now people are scared of us,” says Jagdish Shenava, a lawyer and member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Then he goes on to say just as calmly, “Police officers will tell you that if it were not for the Bajrang Dal, it would be hard to control Muslims.”
Shenava is talking to Republic TV’s South India bureau chief Pooja Prasanna when he says this. He isn’t the only one — it’s a sting operation, including interviews with men like Sharan Pumpwell, a Bajrang Dal leader in Karnataka, and Pramod Muthalik, head of the Sri Ram Sene and the man behind the 2009 pub attack in Mangalore. All of them say the same violent things we have heard even from Cobrapost and Gulail’s 2015 sting operation on right-wing terrorist politicians. But even though we’ve heard these horrifying lines before, they don’t stop being startling and disturbing — especially in the light of the batshit crazy responses to Republic TV’s sting itself.
Back when Cobrapost had done the sting, we’d written that these Hindutva terrorist men from organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh seem to consider women as property and Muslim men as criminals. This time we hear Pumpwell talking about how they get tip offs about couples, beating up Muslim men (sometimes without knowing whom they’re beating), with the aim of “educating” the boy and making sure no “injustice” is being meted out to women.
Never mind that the women are in relationships out of choice — “We don’t blame someone for using violence to save a girl because his intention is right,” Pumpwell says in the sting, referring to themselves as self-appointed “protectors” of Indian culture in the process. Muthalik, on the other hand, says grandly that he has “informers” in every school and college in the city.
This time, what is additionally surprising is the responses to Republic TV’s sting — every tweet about their expose has many commenters, almost always male, accusing them of faking nationalism and support for the BJP to now reveal their true, leftist, anti-national colours. While this is quite hilarious, what’s unsettling is the large number of people commenting that the sting is biased, that Muslim men are indeed criminals, and women need to be controlled. It obviously isn’t only the men belonging to the VHP and RSS that think so, it’s viewers too.