Inside The Sakal Hindu Samaj: a TV Anchor, an Ex-BJP MLA and Rampant Hate Speech

An amorphous organisation of right-wing outfits is evading the law to fuel communal divide in Maharashtra.

10 min read
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Gautam Rabadia, a resident of Mumbai's Andheri, joined the Bajrang Dal — a Hindu nationalist organisation — in 2013.

"My sangathan (outfit) and I have been fighting against love jihad, land jihad, and forceful conversions for over 10 years. In fact, not just us, VHP, RSS, Durga Vahini, and several other organisations have been working for a similar cause. But now, we have decided to fight it together with the common people joining us, at least in Maharashtra," the 36-year-old told The Quint.

The 'coming together' which Rabadia referred to, is in the form of an organisation called the Sakal Hindu Samaj — a coalition of several right-wing Hindu nationalist outfits — which is on a spree of organising public gatherings across Maharashtra.
An amorphous organisation of right-wing outfits is evading the law to fuel communal divide in Maharashtra.

At a Sakal Hindu Samaj rally in Mumbai. 

(Photo: Twitter)

As per a report published by the Indian Express, at least 50 such rallies have been organised across districts the state since November 2022.

Rabadia, a regular at these rallies, said that their aim is to 'save Hindus' and these rallies will continue till the state government acts on their request to bring in laws to safeguard the religion.

But what is the Sakal Hindu Samaj? Who are the people leading these protests? What are the main themes of conversations at these rallies? and what laws are being flouted?

The Quint spoke to people who participate in these gatherings, went through broadcasts of speeches delivered by leaders on stage, and accessed paperwork related to complaints registered against them to understand the social and political impact of a rise of the Sakal Hindu Samaj and hate speech in Maharashtra.


Fighting The 'Hindu Cause' — One Rally at a Time

On Friday, 24 March, Nashik's Hutatma Anant Kanhere Maidan, formerly called the Golf Club Ground, was awash with saffron.

With at least 4,000-5,000 people in attendance, Suresh Chavhanke, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sudarshan News, was on stage. "1,825 cases have been registered against us. After this rally in Nashik, this number will go up. But we aren't afraid, this is the land of (VD) Savarkar," said Chavhanke, whose news channel is infamous for broadcasting communally charged speeches against minority communities, as he greeted the crowd by calling them Hindu 'shers and shernis'.

An amorphous organisation of right-wing outfits is evading the law to fuel communal divide in Maharashtra.

Through the course of his hour-long speech, Chavhanke made multiple references to conspiracy theories on 'love jihad', 'land jihad', forcible religious conversions, and a '10-point offer telling Muslim women why it's better to marry Hindu men over Muslim men.'

This rally, came only days after multiple FIRs were registered against Chavhanke, suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA T Raja Singh, and several other individuals associated with an organisation called the Sakal Hindu Samaj, at four different Police Stations in Aurangabad district.

In the FIR registered at the Kranti Chowk police station, Chavhanke and Singh were charged under 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) of the Indian Penal Code.

An amorphous organisation of right-wing outfits is evading the law to fuel communal divide in Maharashtra.

T Raja Singh at the Sakal Hindu Samaj rally in Aurangabad.

(Photo: Facebook)

Chavhanke and his group, however, remained unfazed by the complaint and went on to organise a similar rally in Nashik within a week.

It is pertinent to note that the FIR filed in Aurangabad stated that when a person called Bhagyatushar Joshi, who claimed to be a member of the coordination committee of an organisation called the Sakal Hindu Samaj, came seeking permission for a public rally, the Aurangabad Police denied the permission citing the law and order situation in the district.

"The organisation, however, went ahead with the rally which had approximately 15,000-20,000 people in attendance," the FIR said.

What followed were incidents of rioting and damage to public property allegedly by suspects returning from this rally.

How did it come to this? At the rally, communally charged speeches targeting the minorities were delivered by Chavhanke and Singh.

“There is no body of Aurangzeb in his grave, the Marathas have done with him what America did with Osama bin Laden,” claimed Chavhanke challenging history writers to dig up his grave.

Singh, on the other hand, used anti-Muslim slurs in his speech and said, "I just want to tell you all, and to all those traitors too, that this conspiracy of love jihad should be stopped now. Or else, we Hindus are 100 crore in number, if we do our Jihad, you won’t even find girls to marry.”

An amorphous organisation of right-wing outfits is evading the law to fuel communal divide in Maharashtra.

An invite to a Sakal Hindu Samaj rally featuring suspended BJP MLA T Raja Singh.

(Photo: Facebook)

Singh, an MLA — representing Hyderabad's Goshamahal constituency — was suspended from the BJP in August 2022 after he was booked in a case over his alleged objectionable remarks against Prophet Muhammad. 

The Aurangabad rally was attended by several BJP and Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) functionaries. These include Shiv Sena MLAs and Maharashtra Cabinet Ministers Sandipan Bhumare and Atul Save, Shiv Sena MLA Pradeep Jaiswal and BJP MLA Shivendra Raje Bhosale.

The Quint has reached out to Aurangabad Police for an update regarding the action being taken against Chavhanke and others in connection with the case. This story will be updated when we hear from them.

These rallies in Aurangabad and Nashik are just two examples from a long list of similar gatherings organised in districts such as Ahmednagar, Nanded, Nashik, Dhule, Pimpri Chinchwad, Patan, and Navi Mumbai — all under the banner of the Sakal Hindu Samaj.

But What Is The Sakal Hindu Samaj?

A cursory Google search of the terms 'Sakal Hindu Samaj' does not bear extensive results except for the protests and rallies organised by the outfit over the last few months.

Interestingly, even social media has no mention of the outfit as an entity. The use of the word as a hashtag, however, can be traced back to June 2022 when the group organised a rally in Rajasthan's Ajmer to protests against the alleged 'disrespect of Hindu culture and deities' in the district.

Rabadia, a regular at the events organised by the Samaj, claimed that it is an umbrella outfit of 'like-minded' organisations. These include Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Vishwa Shriram Sena, Shri Ram Pratishthan Hindustan, Durga Vahini, and Sanatan Sanstha.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from Nashik spoke about the amorphous nature of the Sakal Hindu Samaj.

"The Sakal Hindu Samaj represents a common Hindu in Maharashtra. There is no single leader or body governing the outfit. This has its own advantages. To begin with, it makes the functioning of the group much flexible and at the same time, it is difficult for the police and law enforcement agencies to trace the activities back to one particular organisation," he said.

As per the RSS leader, organising rallies under the banner of the Sakal Hindu Samaj instead of individual Right-Wing organisations also ensures greater participation by general public and politicians alike.

While much is not known about the origin of the phrase 'Sakal Hindu' Samaj, it can be traced back to a composition by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, popularly known as the father of Hindutva.

In 1922, when Savarkar was imprisoned in the Ratnagiri jail, he penned 'Tumhi Aamhi Sakal Hindu, Bandhu Bandhu' — a poem that states that all Hindus are bound by blood and they must unite beyond the divisions of caste and region.

As per Rabadia and the RSS leader The Quint spoke to, this is also in line with the goal of the organisation. "The Sakal Hindu Samaj is a platform for all Hindus to come together," Rabadia said.


Suresh Chavhanke and T Raja Singh Are Not The Only Suspects

In addition to Chavhanke and Singh, Hindutva leader Kalicharan Maharaj alias Abhijeet Dhananjay Saraag is at the forefront of multiple rallies organised by the group.

Sample this: On 9 February, at a rally in Baramati — called Hindu Jangarjana Morcha — organised by the Sakal Hindu Samaj, Kalicharan Maharaj delivered hate speech rife with conspiracy theories.

At the event, he said that Muslims want to convert everyone to Islam because those who are not Muslims are kaafirs and it is written in the Quran that a Kaafir should be killed. “I am kaafir which means I am eligible to be killed (by them),” he said. He said, “wives of kaafirs are stolen property and one woman being raped by 50 men is not a big deal,” he said.

A class eight dropout, Kalicharan was arrested by the Chhattisgarh Police in 2022 over his controversial remarks against Mahatma Gandhi. He was then granted bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties of Rs 50,000 each.
An amorphous organisation of right-wing outfits is evading the law to fuel communal divide in Maharashtra.

A class eight dropout, Kalicharan Maharaj was arrested in Chattisgarh over controversial remarks against Mahatma Gandhi.

(Photo: Twitter)

YouTuber and hardline Hindutva leader Kajal Shingla who goes by the name Kajal 'Hindusthani' is also a frequent speaker at the gatherings organised by the Sakal Hindu Samaj.

At a rally organised on 13 March in Mira Bhayander, on the outskirts of Mumbai, Kajal called for an economic boycott of Muslims while making unfounded claims about about incidents of 'love jihad' and 'land jihad'.

This particular rally was also attended by BJP leader Nilesh Rane, BJP’s Mira Bhayandar unit President Ravi Vyas, and party MLA Geeta Jain.

An amorphous organisation of right-wing outfits is evading the law to fuel communal divide in Maharashtra.

Invitation to the event shared by Kajal 'Hindusthani' on Twitter. 

(Photo: Twitter)

  1. Is There a Recourse in Law?

    The Supreme Court on 3 February said that no action is being taken against hate speech despite several orders passed by the Court.

    This was in response to an application filed by a lawyer request the top court to take action against a rally that was to be organised by the Sakal Hindu Samaj on 5 February in Mumbai.

    Hearing the matter, the bench of Justices K.M. Joseph, Aniruddha Bose and Hrishikesh Roy said, "We have already passed an order which is clear enough. Just imagine rallies happening all across the country. Every time there will be an application before the Supreme Court. How can that be feasible? We have passed so many orders yet nobody is taking action. The Supreme Court should not be asked to pass an order on an event-to-event basis.”

    The applicant claimed that a rally organised by the Sakal Hindu Samaj on 29 January featured "open calls to kill Muslims" by former BJP MLA T Raja Singh and a rally by the same group on 5 February is likely to have 15,000 people in attendance.

    "The very nature of all the previous rallies clearly indicate the kind of hate speeches that will in all likelihood be delivered at the rally,” the applicant said.

    Speaking to The Quint senior Supreme Court advocate Sanjay Hegde said that while the Supreme Court guidelines in hate speech cases are clear, just the passing of an order does not mean that law enforcement agencies and governments will follow the order.

    "In such a scenario, somebody may have to move the Supreme Court to force the government to take action. But then the contempt of court proceeding itself might take a long time. After having passed an order, the judiciary cannot suo moto execute it. Somebody will have to move the court in contempt against the responsible public officials," Hegde said.

The Politics Behind These Rallies

June 2022 saw a major political shift in Maharashtra as the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition under former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray fell after an internal split within the Shiv Sena. This saw the return of the BJP in power in the state in partnership with the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena.

Even as the Opposition parties including the Congress, NCP, and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray faction) have largely remained silent on hate speeches made at these rallies, it is the BJP-Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde factions) government that is set to reap the political benefit from them, argued a senior journalist and political commentator based out of Maharashtra, on the condition of anonymity.

During the budget session in the state assembly on 24 March, state's deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the Maharashtra government is examining the need for a law against forceful religious conversion in the form of marriage, and a decision will be taken by the state government after scrutinising the existing laws.

An amorphous organisation of right-wing outfits is evading the law to fuel communal divide in Maharashtra.

Crowds at a rally in Aurangabad which allegedly led to violence in the district.

(Photo: Facebook)

Fadnavis spoke about the public rallies that have taken place across Maharashtra since November, organised by right-wing outfits, demanding a law against alleged rise in cases of ‘love jihad’. “Close to 40 such rallies have taken place. Each of them has seen over 40,000-50,000 people who have gathered for this demand. This is the demand from within the society, and it has to be acknowledged,” he said.

"Such events do not take place without political patronage. And while we are seeing an increased number of these rallies being organised over the past few months since the BJP-Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde) government returned to power in the state, we must not forget that in the past the Congress and the NCP have nurtured Hindutva hardliners such as Sambhaji Bhide," the political commentator said.

An amorphous organisation of right-wing outfits is evading the law to fuel communal divide in Maharashtra.

At a Sakal Hindu Samaj rally in Navi Mumbai. 

(Photo: Facebook)

A Hindutva activist from Sangli, Bhide was a member of the RSS before he left it to form his own outfit called the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan. In 2018, he was named in an FIR for inciting violence against Dalits in Bhima Koregaon.

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