The Sakal Hindu Samaj — a coalition of several right-wing Hindu nationalist groups — has been touring several districts in Maharashtra since November 2022, organising jan sabhas or public gatherings which they call Hindu Hunkar Sabhas, Hindu Garjana Morchas, or Jan Aakrosh Morchas.
At these rallies, controversial right-wing figures such as TV anchor Suresh Chavhanke, suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA T Raja Singh, religious leader Kalicharan 'Maharaj' alias Abhijeet Dhananjay Sarag who was arrested in 2022 over his remarks against Mahatma Gandhi, and Hindutva hardliner and YouTuber Kajal 'Hindusthani' often take to the stage and deliver communally charged hate speeches targeting minority communities.
Click here to read a detailed account of the composition of this group, their modus operandi, the conspiracy theories peddled at these meetings, and the political fallout of such events.
What is interesting, however, is that the Sakal Hindu Samaj, and the people behind it, continue to organise these rallies despite multiple FIRs registered against them in several districts across the state.
These FIRs and police notices, accessed by The Quint, reveal that while the pace of police investigation has resulted in piling up of cases against people associated with the Sakal Hindu Samaj, it did not deter them from addressing similar rallies or gatherings.
Chronology Is Key
On 27 February, the Latur Police registered an FIR against T Raja Singh under sections 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, and language), 153B (punishment against imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration), 295A (punishment for acts that are intended to insult the region or religious beliefs of certain class of citizens), and 505 (spreading of false and mischievous news intended to upset the public tranquility) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
This was in connection with a speech delivered by Singh on 19 February to celebrate the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
In his speech, he said that "if not for Shivaji, all Hindus would have been circumcised." He also urged Hindus to not be afraid of police action and teach a lesson to all "descendants of Afzal" who indulged in "Love Jihad" and "killed gaumata (cow)."
Following an investigation, the officials from the Shivajinagar Police station on 11 March served a notice to Singh under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC).
As per the notice, the former Telangana BJP MLA was supposed to appear before the Latur Police for questioning in connection with the case. Speaking to The Quint, Inspector Sanjeevan Mirkale from Latur Police said that a notice was served and Singh was questioned for his remarks made at the event on 19 February. "A notice was served asking him (T Raja Singh) to abstain from delivering any provocative speech in future. He was also called in for questioning. Further investigation in the case is underway and we are waiting for directions from higher officials in the department," Mirkale said.
Now Here's The Twist...
Neither the FIR nor the police notice could stop Singh from addressing more such gatherings. He addressed rallies at Solapur (27 February), Mumbai (5 March), Shirdi (11 March), Ahmednagar (13 March), and Aurangabad (19 March) — all under the banner of the Sakal Hindu Samaj.
Jitendra Jagdale, Latur's deputy SP pointed out that the role of the police here is to investigate the case and file a chargesheet in the court once the investigation is done. "We have all evidence in place and should be able to file a chargesheet in the next 30 days. The accused being allowed to participate in similar events despite the CRPC order is a discretion of the court. It's not under our purview," he said.
Sakal Hindu Samaj rally in Shirdi.
Sakal Hindu Samaj Rally in Karad.
Fresh FIRs under similar sections were, in fact, registered in Ahmednagar and Aurangabad against Singh.
In Ahmednagar, as per an FIR registered at the Srirampur Police Station, the former BJP MLA was charged for insulting religious beliefs of a certain class of citizens, making provocative speeches to disturb communal harmony, and criminal intimidation.
Speaking to The Quint, Srirampur PI Harshvardhan Gawade said, "We are looking at the footage of the event and recording statements of the witnesses. A notice will be served to the concerned person soon."
In Aurangabad, after attending a rally where speeches were delivered by Singh and Chavhanke among others, several supporters of the Hindu Sakal Samaj allegedly went on a rampage across the city and vandalised signboards with the name 'Aurangabad' written on them — one atop a public toilet.
At the event, Singh said, "If you want to stop love jihadis, then when you hear of an incident of love jihad, immediately take your team there and if the authorities don't support you then castrate them."
He also called for violence against AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, and said those who are still call the city as Aurangabad should be "wiped from the face of the earth".
Meanwhile, Chavhanke, called himself a representative of the government and the Hindus. Calling Home Minister Amit Shah the "new updated version" of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Chavhanke said, "These dogs should be taught a lesson that this Amit Shah will cut off their noses."
Following this, multiple FIRs were registered against Chavhanke, Singh, and several other individuals associated with the Sakal Hindu Samaj.
In the FIR registered at the Kranti Chowk police station, Chavhanke and Singh were charged under IPC sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds such as religion, race, place of birth, residence, and language), 34 (criminal act done by multiple people with common intention), and 505 (circulating statements, reports, or rumours with intent to cause fear or alarm in public).
Again, only five days after this FIR, Chavhanke — a TV anchor notorious for spreading fake news — went on to address another gathering in Nashik.
Investigating officer in this case, API Vishal Ingle said that the matter is still under investigation and the police will take necessary action soon.
Here, it is pertinent to note that a hate speech case involving Suresh Chavhanke is already being heard in the Supreme Court of India.
On 20 February, the Delhi Police told the SC that the investigation into hate speeches made during a Hindu Yuva Vahini event in December 2021 is in the “advance stage”.
Speakers at the December 2021 event — conducted by Chavhanke — had called for violence against Muslims.
“In order to make this country a Hindu nation and to keep it a Hindu nation, and to move forward, we will fight, die and kill, if required,” Chavhanke had said.
Not just Chavhanke, T Raja Singh has also been booked for similar offences in other states. The most recent complaint against Singh was filed on 1 April at Hyderabad's Afzalgunj Police Station. He was booked under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language), and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation).
At the rally, riding on the back of an elephant, the former BJP MLA said that only followers of the two-child policy would be given the right to vote if India became a Hindu rashtra.
“If India becomes a Hindu rashtra, only believers of the ‘we two, our two’ policy will get voting rights,” he said, adding that the ones who follow the ‘we five, our 50’ policy will not be allowed to vote.
The 2018 Supreme Court guidelines to deal with hate crimes such as mob violence and lynchings, prescribe both preventive and punitive measures against hate speech.
These include directing the police to conduct regular investigations into people who are likely to spread hate speech as well as registering FIRs against speech that could cause violence.
The court also prescribed taking action against police officers who did not prevent or investigate such crimes.
Speaking to The Quint, senior advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir said that whoever cognisant of these hate speeches can bring it to the notice of the law enforcement agencies.
"In cases of hate speech, the Supreme Court directions are not only to the the law enforcement agencies, but also to the Executive — the District Magistrates, District Collectors — and other concerned authorities. It is their job to ensure that as soon as a case of hate speech comes to light, FIRs are registered, people are questioned and arrested, and the process of criminal law to be set into motion," Advocate Mir said.
He added that if the due procedure is not followed, any "good samaritan" who might also be an aggrieved party can file an intervention application in the Supreme Court.
"If a person has just been booked in a case and they have not been arrested, and then they go to another district and indulge in a hate speech, it is with a clear understanding that the law enforcement agencies will do nothing. In such a situation somebody who is an affected party or a good samaritan should file an application directly in the Supreme Court," he said.
(The Quint has reached out to the Director General of Police (DGP), Maharashtra and other senior police officials for their response. This story will be updated as and when we hear from them.)