About 250 kilometres west of Assam’s capital, Guwahati, is a nondescript location in Dhubri, not far from the state’s border with Bangladesh. It witnessed unusual activity last month when 240 young men assembled for a training camp.
But this was no ordinary camp. The sessions almost resembled a commando training course, except that there was no actual firing from weapons. And it was being conducted neither by the police nor the armed forces, but by the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal (RBD), which is a branch of the Praveen Togadia-led International Hindu Parishad.
An activist of the organisation who attended the sessions said that the aim of the camp was to “prepare for the dangers from the rapidly increasing population of Bengal origin Muslims and to thwart their plan of capturing political power in Assam”.
The sessions included lessons on close combat tactics, martial arts, basics of handling small arms, yoga, survival in hostile conditions and ideological orientation lectures. A senior functionary arrived from the organisation’s headquarters in Delhi to supervise the programme, besides a host of retired government officials who lent a ‘helping hand’ to manage the sessions.
The Rashtriya Bajrang Dal was launched in 2019 in Assam. A participant of the camp claimed that the organisation has recruited close to 50,000 activists in 23 districts of Assam, out of a total of 35 in the state. Efforts are on to recruit more cadres and there are plans to organise more training camps frequently in districts that have witnessed a high population growth of Bengal-origin Muslims.
Here’s a peek into the training sessions that lasted for four days.
(Rajeev Bhattacharyya is a senior journalist in Guwahati. Views expressed are personal.)