Video journalist: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Video editors: Rajbir Singh, Abhishek Sharma and Pawan Kumar
Ever since his bail on 12 July, Sachin Pandit hasn’t had a moment to spare. Every day he wakes up to a crowd thronging his home, cheering for him, garlanding him and trying to shake his hand.
When he went to jail on 3 February for shooting at AIMIM leader and MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s vehicle, he didn’t think he would return to a hero’s welcome and celebration— a celebration that doesn’t seem to end.
When The Quint visited Sachin twenty days after his release on 3 August, his residence was packed to the rafters, with well-wishers still pouring in, wanting to hear his tales of bravado.
A law student and BJP member, 27-year-old Sachin had been arrested along with 22-year-old Shubham Gujjar for the shooting, but it was Sachin who is accused to have primarily plotted the act, the Uttar Pradesh police’s chargesheet accessed by The Quint said.
The two were captured on a CCTV camera attempting to shoot at Owaisi at a toll plaza when the leader was returning to Delhi from Meerut after addressing a rally ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections.
When we arrived at Sachin’s house in Duryai, a village in Greater Noida, two black Scorpios with the BJP’s sticker were parked outside.
Inside, milk and ghewar were being distributed among the visitors, their chairs facing Sachin, who was sitting on a sofa at the end of the room. The Quint’s reporter and cameraperson were asked to wait in a corner for Sachin to get free. After about an hour, Sachin managed to whisk himself away from the crowd to meet us.
“Jai Sri Ram! Hail the martyrs of this country. I am your Deshbhakt Sachin Hindu Bhaiya,” Sachin said to the camera, right on cue without missing a beat.
‘Deshbhakt Sachin Hindu’ is what he goes by, on social media as well as among his followers.
'No Power On Earth Can Make Me Apologise'
Sachin didn’t want to divulge details of how he planned the shooting, because of legal reasons, but said he has no regrets.
“There isn’t any power on earth which can make me apologise for what I did. I got many individual messages advising me to ask for forgiveness. But I said I cannot make any sacrifice with my self-respect. Even if they hang me. They can hang me today or later, I don’t care. There is no question of an apology,” he said.
He then went on to weave a convoluted analogy between himself and Bhagat Singh and Maharana Pratap. The former because, in Sachin’s view, like Bhagat Singh, he isn’t scared of being hung either. “Would anyone remember Bhagat Singh’s name if he hadn’t faced capital punishment?,” he asked. And for some reason he is certain it is Maharana Pratap’s blood that runs in his veins.
Sachin also said he wants to remind Owaisi that the leader’s ancestors are “from among Hindus."
“Madam, listen. I have an advice for him (Owaisi). He should not forget that his ancestors were also from among us. They were also Hindus, they were sanatani dharmis. They are also our progeny, they became Muslims later, but he is also Ram ji's progeny. Everyone in India is Ram ji's progeny,” he said.
Sachin's 'Warning' For Owaisi
While Sachin showed no sign of remorse, he instead gave a warning to Owaisi; a threat shrouded in a history lesson.
“I want to give him a message. Look, one should not have arrogance that no one can do any harm to them. He (Owaisi) should have knowledge of our history. Our former PMs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi...they were very powerful people, had a lot of security. But when it’s time for you to meet God, there is no one who can save you,” Sachin said.
Sachin was motivated to shoot at Owaisi because, he said, the leader had “hurt Hindu sentiments.”
But despite being repeatedly asked which statement of Owaisi was offensive to Hindu religious sentiments, Sachin didn’t give a straight reply. He then said that this isn’t just about religion, he will also not tolerate any “disrespectful language against Modi ji and Yogi ji.”
“In politics, if he (Owaisi) is speaking against Modi ji or Yogi ji or BJP...that is fine. But even that should be in respectable boundaries. For Modi ji or Yogi ji, he can’t use disrespectful language. Sure, do your politics. But after all, they (Modi and Yogi) don’t have a family of their own. They are fighting for us. It's not as if they are working for their personal family. They are fighting for us. So we will not tolerate insulting words for them either,” he said.
Owaisi, who is the Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad, has been a staunch critic of the BJP and PM Narendra Modi, and UP CM Yogi Adityanath.
On Links With BJP
Prior to his arrest, Sachin had, for many years, actively posted pictures with BJP leaders on his Facebook account. These include a picture with him standing next to Mahesh Sharma, BJP MP from Gautam Buddh Nagar, as well as one in which he is flanked on either side by Arun Singh and Laxmikant Bajpai, BJP MPs in the Rajya Sabha. In one picture from 2017, he is seen clicking a selfie with Amit Shah close behind him, presumably at the latter’s rally.
In 2019, he also posted a picture of his BJP membership card.
All of this made many question the BJP after Sachin’s arrest. But he was quick to defend the party.
“No, no. I didn’t get any support from BJP. The crime for which I was arrested, it is unconstitutional. Yes, I am a strong BJP voter. But even our party won’t encourage anyone to do illegal or unconstitutional acts,” he said.
However, the black scorpios which The Quint had spotted outside his home bore stickers which said ‘Zila Mantri, Gautam Buddh Nagar, BJP’. The Quint also took pictures of local BJP leaders with Sachin at his home, but their team forced us to delete those visuals.
At an individual level, Sachin claimed to have no immediate interest in electoral politics. He said his only mission is to strengthen Hindutva.
“I am not interested in politics. I mean yes, they are our brothers—the MP, MLA, Councilor, whoever, the party's (BJP’s) workers are my brother. But my personal mission is to strengthen Hindutva. Afterall, it is because of our shortcomings that he (Owaisi) is speaking so much. It must be because of that. So we need to fix those,” he said.
Sachin added that while he is still a “student of politics”, his ultimate aim is to work for religion. “Hindu faith...Hindutva. Strengthening Hindutva...that’s my only mission.”
'Will Keep An Eye': Police On Sachin's Threats
Sachin and Shubham were charged with Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): attempt to murder. But despite spending over 5 months in jail, Sachin is unabashed and citing former PM late Indira Gandhi’s assassination as a ‘warning’ to Owaisi.
The Quint reached out to Uttar Pradesh police about this.
“Now that we have some information about this, we have circulated a regular note...the concerned district heads have been asked to keep an eye on him,” Station House Officer (SHO) of Pilkhuwa Police told The Quint. It is Pilkhuwa Police which had arrested him and Shubham in February.
Asked about the celebrations done in the village on his return and if his statements violate his bail conditions, the SHO said: “We haven’t yet received the grounds and conditions of the bail. We don’t have the bail order yet.”
A few days prior to The Quint’s visit to his residence, an even grander celebration was organised for Sachin and Shubham near the former’s village. This was attended by many hindutva groups and individuals, including Rambhakt Gopal, who has a history of being accused of communal violence.
'UP Govt Must Go To SC To Cancel Bail': Owaisi
In February, soon after the attack, amid the outrage, many had raised questions over the level of security enjoyed by or members of parliament. Home Minister Amit Shah, in the Lok Sabha, had requested Owaisi to accept Z level security.
However, the MP had rejected the offer, saying he wants to be an ‘A category citizen’, and demanding that the attackers be booked under UAPA.
Speaking to The Quint about Sachin’s warning to Owaisi after his release from jail, the leader said: “The UP government must immediately provide security to UP AIMIM president Shaukat saheb as he is a witness to the shooting /attack and he was in my car, so also Sarim saheb a resident of Sambhal who is also a witness. UP government must go to Supreme Court to cancel their Bail.”