Why Bajrang Muni, the priest who threatened Muslim women with rape, may go unpunished

The police have filed a case against him. But the complainant is no ordinary man.

Hate Watch

Bajrang Muni in the audience hall of the Shri Lakshmandas Udasin Ashram in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district | (Photo: Aishwarya S Iyer)

By / Scroll

On July 20, 38-year-old Bajrang Muni Udasin was stretched out on a cot draped in a soft saffron rug. The head priest of the Shri Lakshmandas Udasin Ashram in Uttar Pradesh’s Khairabad was unable to walk because of an ache in his leg, caused by a nervous condition. He was surrounded by several policemen, who had solicitously come to the ashram’s audience hall to ask if “all was well with him”.

Wearily, Udasin described his daily routine. He wakes up at 11 am and, after his morning meal, presents himself at the audience hall, where a number of followers gather daily with their grievances, many of which are complaints against local Muslims. Udasin claimed to be tireless in his efforts to sort out such problems – “even if I get a call, I reach the spot immediately”.

That day, however, Udasin had worries of his own.

Not so long ago, he was booked for hate speech after he threatened to rape Muslim women. “If you [Muslims] harass one Hindu woman then I will openly abduct your sisters and daughters and rape them,” he had said.

The comments were made at a religious rally in Khairabad in Sitapur district on April 2. The case was registered on April 8, after journalist Mohammad Zubair tweeted a video of the religious rally and the National Commission of Women wrote to the Uttar Pradesh police, urging them to take action. Muslim women in Khairabad then held a protest demanding his arrest.

Udasin was arrested on April 13. Ten days later, he was out on bail.

Soon, things were looking up for Udasin. On June 1, a case was filed against Zubair for calling Udasin and others booked for hate speech “hate mongers”. As Zubair was caught in a loop of arrests and FIRs that took him from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh, Udasin took credit for the police action against the journalist. “My followers were unhappy when Zubair tweeted,” he said. “As a result, the police took strict action by registering an FIR and arresting him.”

The priest was lauded in the Supreme Court. On July 8, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, defending the case against Zubair, called Udasin a “respected mahant… a religious leader”. Raju told the Supreme Court, “When you call a religious leader a hatemonger, it raises problems.”

But on July 20, Zubair got bail and protection from arrest. A Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna observed that the power of arrest must be used sparingly and that there was “no justification” to keep Zubair in custody. The court also refused to ban him from tweeting. “How can we tell a journalist that he will not write or utter a word?” demanded Chandrachud.

Back in Khairabad, Udasin was agitated. “I think what the Supreme Court did was grossly wrong,” he says. Railing against the Supreme Court, he said, “There are so many FIRs against Zubair, he is getting foreign money, how can he get bail? Justice Chandrachud, who is from Bengal, and Mamata Banerjee are instrumental in getting him bail. I am 100% sure of this.”

Chandrachud was actually born in Maharashtra.

This story was originally published in scroll.in . Read the full story here


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