About 20 kilometers east from Delhi’s border with Uttar Pradesh lies Dasna, a small town in Ghaziabad. Muslims are a majority in Dasna but it is also home to one of the shrillest voices in the Hindutva ecosystem - Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati.
The chief priest of Devi Mandir at Dasna, Narsinghanand is also the leader of a Hindutva organisation called Hindu Swabhiman and president of the Akhil Bharatiya Sant Parishad.
Narsinghanand has been calling for a “final war against Muslims” and believes that “Islam must be removed to save humanity”.
On number of occasions, his name has come up in connection with raising the communal tensions in western Uttar Pradesh, including the areas adjoining Delhi.
In the context, let us take a look at some of the statements he has made in the last one month, especially directed at Muslims and those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Many of these statements were made in the run-up to the communal violence in Delhi.
These statements were mainly through videos posted on his official YouTube channel ‘Narsingh Vani’ and a few were in the form of interviews.
Narsinghanand’s Statements in February
- “When your religion needs, you should fight a war. And to pick up arms for religion is not a paap (sin) but punya (virtue). (9 February)
- “Shaheen Bagh is calling for the genocide of Hindus”. (9 February)
- “All Hindus must stand with Kapil and Gopal who showed the courage to fight Shaheen Bagh. Support these warriors and fight Islam.” (11 February)
- “A community which forgets how to sacrifice its own blood, ends up dead.” (19 February)
- “Only Kapil Mishra stood for Hindus against Jihadis in Delhi. Gautam Gambhir is a eunuch. All Hindus must stand with Kapil Mishra.” (25 February).
Who is Narsinghanand and What’s His Message?
Narsinghanand Saraswati is reportedly from Ghaziabad. In an interview to The Quint in 2015, Narsinghanand said that he is an engineer and holds an M-Tech degree, which made him understand the importance of using technology to spread his message.
In another video, he also claimed to have worked for various organisations associated with the Sangh Parivar, but got disillusioned.
Narsinghanand identifies BJP leaders Baikunth Lal Sharma ‘Prem’ and BP Singhal as his mentors.
According to reports, there are cases registered against him in connection with at least three incidents:
- 2005: A case registered at Ghaziabad’s Kavi Nagar police station, involving his protest against the construction of a Haj House
- 2010: A case at Ghaziabad’s Mansuri accusing him of inciting people to kill themselves
- 2014: A case of attempt to murder, dacoity and creating disturbance at Niwari in Ghaziabad
The central narrative in Narsinghanand’s utterances is that Hindus are under an existential threat from Islam and Muslims, and that they need to fight as well as procreate in order to survive.
Unfortunately, his statements aren’t empty rhetoric that doesn’t translate into actions on the ground.
His organisation, Hindu Swabhiman, and affiliate Dharam Sena gives arms training to Hindu youth and children. This initiative is headed by Narsinghanand’s right-hand man Parminder Arya, a former army man.
In 2017, a video of gunshots being fired at the Dasna Devi temple went viral, exposing how people were being trained in the use of guns at the temple.
On being asked if the guns being used are legal, his response was, “License? When the war with ISIS begins, these laws won’t make a difference.”
In a documentary by The Quint in 2015, Hindu Swabhiman functionary Chetna Sharma - also known as Yati Maa Chetnanand - could be seen telling a child that he needs to learn weapons to “fight Muslims who are exploiting Hindu women”.
Another interesting player in Narsinghanand’s network is Pinky Chaudhary, alias Pinky Bhaiya, who claimed that he was involved in the attack on JNU students earlier this year.
Pinky is a supporter of Narsinghanand and the priest had reportedly even threatened to “embrace Islam” in protest against a police case against Pinky.
What Are His Relations With the BJP?
What emerges in Narsinghanand’s videos is a love-hate relationship with the BJP. In one video, Narsinghanand claims that he has only voted for BJP his entire life except in one civic election where the only Hindu candidate was from a non-BJP party.
Besides supporting Kapil Mishra, he also hails Yogi Adityanath as a “karmayogi” who has “saved Uttar Pradesh from an Islamic onslaught”.
He also openly praises Union Home Minister Amit Shah and credits him with the pro-Hindutva policies of the second Narendra Modi government. Interestingly, he doesn’t openly praise Modi and says that he gained faith in Modi only because of Shah.
On 15 February, he claimed to have sent a letter to Shah regarding BJP’s defeat in the Delhi Assembly elections. Hailing Shah as a hero, he urges him not to lose heart and urges him to crush “Jihadis” and “those protesting at Shaheen Bagh” and protect Hindutva supporters resisting them.
It appears that while supporting BJP overall, Narsinghanand and his followers have closer ties with some BJP leaders more than others.
For instance, on 16 February, Chetnanand organised a ‘Dharm Samvad’ in Meerut, which was attended by Union Minister Giriraj Singh. Addressing the audience at the event, Giriraj Singh spoke about a “battle to resist Ghazwa-e-Hind”.
The content of his speech was similar to Narsinghanand in some aspects.
“In several villages and places in India, our (Hindus) population is 99 percent. But whenever this is reduced, they (minorities) get emboldened,” he said.Giriraj Singh, at Chetnanand’s event in Meerut
During his speech he also gave a slogan, “Bharatvanshi, tera mera rishta kya? Jai Shri Ram, Jai Shri Ram”.
“My hands are tied because I hold constitutional office. But I urge Hindu religious leaders to take the lead and mobilise people,” Singh said.