Taking cognisance of the viral video purportedly of a mahant (priest) giving rape threats to Muslim women, Uttar Pradesh's Sitapur police have registered a case against the accused who has been identified as Bajrang Muni.
In the video purportedly shot on 2 April, the priest, clad in a saffron robe and sitting inside a jeep, can be seen addressing a gathering from his car to cheers and chants of 'Jai Shree Ram' by the crowd. It is alleged that as his procession came near a mosque, he was heard saying that he will kidnap and rape Muslim women if any Muslim man harasses the women in the area. He also alleged that Rs 28 lakh had been allocated to get him murdered by Muslims in the area.
A video that shows him seated in a car and addressing a group of men emerged online this week and was shared by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair.
Who Is Bajrang Muni?
Originally a native of Pratapgarh district, Bajrang Muni alias Anupam Mishra claims to be the mahant of Badi Sangat Udaseen Ashram in Khairabad locality, a minority-dominated area in Sitapur. He hogged the media limelight, in February 2021, over a land dispute which escalated to full-blown conflict. Two rival groups had clashed and people from both sides had sustained injuries in varying degrees.
Later in October, he had threatened to kill himself outside the chief minister's office in Lucknow claiming that police wanted to bump him off. The local police in its defence had claimed that Bajrang Muni wanted an arms licence that could not be approved because of criminal cases against him.
Interestingly, Muni has round-the-clock police protection apart from a PAC deployment at his Ashram.
Facing Death Threats from Muslims, Says Bajrang Muni
Bajrang Muni had confirmed to reporters that he was the sadhu in the video but added: “It (audio) was tampered with. It was posted on Twitter by one Mohammed Zubair. His Twitter handle should be checked.”
He added: “He posts only anti-Hindu messages. If he were secular, he would have also criticised the Muslims who make hate statements against Hindus. But he posts only those speeches in which the Hindus are seen angry.”
After this video of Muni speaking to reporters made it to social media, Zubair wrote: “When exposed, this so called ‘Mahant’ who gave rape threats is doing whataboutery by blaming me. What next? File an FIR against me for sharing his video?”
The priest had also claimed he had received "death threats from Muslims".
Later on Friday evening, Muni issued an apology, saying: “To all the mothers and sisters, I would like to apologise. If my video, which is viral, has hurt them, please forgive me for it. All sisters and mothers are worth worshiping for me. I respect all women.”
'Don’t Be Mute Spectators': Women’s Commission Writes to UP Police
Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate condemned Muni for insulting the Hindu religion. She appealed to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to ensure justice and take stringent action, reminding him that he too wears saffron.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) had also sought action in the matter.
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said, "People talking like this in public about raping women of a certain community is not acceptable. We have written today itself to UP DGP and I'm going to take up this matter personally with him whether they are religious godmen or anybody, they should be taken to task."
"Women are their target, whether it's Hindu threatening Muslims or Muslims threatening Hindus. Though we're taking such complaints again and again and taking them up with police, it seems cases aren't decreasing," the chairperson said.
Following the outrage, Sitapur Police said in a video statement on Twitter, "In the viral video case of police station Khairabad area, a case has been registered against the concerned under appropriate sections as per rules. On the basis of available evidence, necessary legal action is being ensured in advance as per rule."