A former MLA of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Rajasthan is seen boasting in a video clip that "we have killed five" in a reference to the lynchings of people allegedly engaged in cow slaughter or cow smuggling.
In a clip that has surfaced on the internet, BJP's former MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja mentions multiple instances of lynchings in the past and says in Hindi that he has "given complete freedom to his activists to kill". He goes on to say that he guarrantees legal protection to activists involved in these acts.
"Till now, we have killed five, be it in Lawandi, be it in Behror. By now, we have killed five. I have given complete freedom to activists to kill [inaudible] who are engaged in cow slaughter and cow smuggling. I have given them complete freedom. I have told them I would get them released and get them bails," said Ahuja in Hindi in the clip.
India TV reported that the video is believed to be from Friday when Ahuja was visiting the house of Chiranjilal Saini in Govindgarh in Alwar district of Rajasthan. Saini, a vegetatble vendor, was allegedly lynched by a mob of 20-25 people earlier this week on the suspicion of stealing tractor.
In the clip, Ahuja is referring to earlier lynchings of people over suspected cow slaughter and cow smuggling.
Pehlu Khan was lynched in Behror in April 2017 and Rakbar Khan was lynched in Lalawandi villge in July 2018, reported NDTV. Both of these places were mentioned by Ahuja in the clip. NDTV noted that both of these lynchings took place in Ahuja's constituency.
"Both of those murders —one in 2017, the other in 2018— took place in Ramgarh, the area from where Gyan Dev Ahuja was the MLA when BJP was in power in the state. It wasn't immediately clear which other three murders he was referring to," reported NDTV.
Gyan Dev Ahuja is a repeat offender
This is not the first time that Ahuja has made headlines with such comments. He is known to support vigilantism, according to The Indian Express.
The Express reported, "Ahuja’s last term as an MLA was marked by frequent instances of cow vigilantism, which often turned violent, in Alwar and neighbouring districts, with Ahuja, as an avowed gau rakshak, leading them. In 2021, he was booked by Alwar police in a hate speech case."
Ahuja also gave threat threats to those suspected to slaughter and smuggle cows in 2017 too, according to the Express.
“Gau taskari karoge, aur gokashi karoge, toh yun he maroge [If you smuggle cows, or slaughter them, you’ll be killed],” said Ahuja, as per The Express.
BJP distances itself, Congress launches offensive
The BJP has said the statement is Ahuja's and the party does not endorse it.
PTI reported that BJP's Alwar (South) chief Sanjay Singh Naruka told PTI that the party "does not have this thinking".
"These are his own views," said Naruka.
Meanwhile, the Congress party has gone after the BJP for their former MLA's comments.
Quoting Ahuja from the clip, Rajasthan Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra said on Twitter in Hindi: "These are the words of former Rajasthan BJP executive member and former MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja. What other evidence of BJP's religious terror and extremism do we need? The true face of BJP has come in front of the whole country."
Ahuja defends his statement
Gyan Dev Ahuja has defended his comments by saying that he meant "beating" people allegedly smuggling or slaughtering cows.
Ahuja told PTI that he told a person with him in the video that five Mev Muslims who were smuggling cows were "beaten up by our workers".
"It is the Mev people who smuggle and slaughter cow and Hindus have sentiments for cows, therefore, they target such smugglers," said Ahuja, adding it was his duty to protect his workers.
Ahuja also defended himself in an interview with ANI. He said, "Muslims [are] protected by Rajasthan CM Gehlot. I've told my workers that those found [engaged in] cow smuggling should be caught and if they try to escape they should be thrashed and handed over to police. Won't take law into my hands."
Muslims protected by Rajasthan CM Gehlot.I've told my workers that those found cow smuggling should be caught&if they try to escape they should be thrashed & handed over to police.Won't take law into my hands: Gyan D Ahuja,BJP on his"We've killed 5 so far"comment in a viral video pic.twitter.com/XyoNncJ0ZI— ANI (@ANI) August 21, 2022
Notably, both Rakbar Khan and Pehlu Khan, lynched in Alwar, were from the Mev Muslim community mentioned by Ahuja.
"Both [Rakbar, Pehlu] were from neighbouring Haryana and belonged to the Meo [Mev] Muslim community that's mostly engaged in the dairy trade. They were transporting cattle and were lynched by vigilantes who claimed to protect cows," noted NDTV.
Police books Gyan Dev Ahuja
Gyan Dev Ahuja has been booked by the Alwar Police for allegedly promoting hatred and enmity, according to PTI.
SHO of Govindgarh police station, Shiv Shankar, said the case was registered by police on the basis of the video clip, reported PTI.
Shankar said the FIR was registered under section IPC 153-A, which deals with "promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony".