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ICC Note: Since the BJP-led government took power in 2014, radical Hindu nationalism has been allowed to take root in India. Hindu extremist groups across India have been responsible for a significant increase in religiously motivated violence against religious minorities, including Christians. In 2017 alone, over 700 attacks on Christians in India were recorded by the NGO Persecution Relief.  

04/08/2018 India (The Wire) – Last Sunday, I was stuck in traffic on my way to Noida’s Sector 18. Craning my neck, I saw a sea of saffron ahead of me – men in saffron kurtas and turbans, on motorbikes, carrying swords, tridents and knives. They chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’, ‘Jai Hanuman’ and ‘Hindustan Humara Hain’.

My taxi driver, a young man named Mustafa, said it was a procession by the Bajrang Dal to celebrate Hanuman Jayanti.

“But Hanuman Jayanti was yesterday?” I asked. Today was Easter.

“It doesn’t matter. They can do what they want, whenever they want. Look at those police officers,” he said. “They are standing there laughing with them. They are providing them security, not us.”

I look out of the window and spy a lone police officer laughing and chatting with a Bajrang Dal activist, leaning against a coach.

As I tried to take a video, another car inched towards us. It had two men leaning out of its windows and one on the roof, brandishing a sword. As he saw me handling my phone, he swiped at the window of my taxi. I had never seen a sword from such close quarters. The sudden gleaming steel surprised me and my phone dropped from my hand. I was glad I had not rolled down the window. I also suddenly realized that these were some very aggressive-looking young men with weapons bared and save the lone policeman, not a police escort in sight.

Mustafa asked if we could turn the cab around and if I could please let him go. I agreed. We turned back.

The population of Noida, in western Uttar Pradesh, a satellite town of the Indian capital, is a mix of economic migrants of all classes and local farmers, who now play in millions and billions after selling off their farmland to the government or to private developers. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been conducting its experimental indoctrination project here for years now.

After 2014, however, the saffronisation of Noida has been more in your face. They can be seen in the Hindu flags that flew high in balconies of various apartment complexes ahead of the ‘Hindu New Year’ that fell on March 21, and which the RSS celebrated with great fanfare this year to unite Hindus. The group asked all Hindus to hoist flags with the “Om” symbol in their houses and to light diyas on the day. Traditionally, the Hindu new year falls on different days for different states and nationally is celebrated on Diwali, a festival with secular overtones.

Shakha members marching aggressively on the roads in their khaki gear with sticks in hands, shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, is also a common sight in Noida over the weekends.

These visuals are a disturbing assertion of a resurrection of the RSS and the Bajrang Dal, and an indicator of how in the last few years militant Hinduism has grown roots in India.

[Full Story]

For interviews with William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].