In Part II of The Wild West of Uttar Pradesh, The Quint explores how self-appointed Hindu vigilante groups recruit and proliferate. (Watch Part I of The Wild West of Uttar Pradesh here). Apart from the tried and tested door-to-door campaign, these groups have extensively taken to social media to spread their message.
Swami Narsimhanada Saraswati, the head priest of a temple in Ghaziabad is the ideological head of many such extreme Hindu groups in the region. Saraswati who carries a tablet with him, claims he has an M.Tech degree. He not only advocates the use of social media, but also believes that the internet is an important tool to learn and read about the perceived threats from Islam.
Swami records small video messages, typically to radicalise the youth against Islam and inspire them to join forces with the Hindu groups. These video messages are uploaded on Facebook and are also widely shared via WhatsApp groups, as Chetna Sharma, Zonal Commissioner of the Akhand Hindustan Morcha explains,
I have over a hundred WhatsApp groups on my phone and one message is broadcast to approximately 2.5 lakh people.
The insecurities of the Hindu fringe in the region are rooted in western Uttar Pradesh’s history of communal violence. Official statistics show that western UP has recorded the maximum instances of communal violence in the last decade. The Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 killed over 60 people and displaced 50,000. Chetna says it’s a do-or-die situation. She claims (unverified) that AK-47s were used in the Muzaffarnagar riots and justifies the arming of Hindu cadres, arguing that young Hindus who are not trained in armed warfare will be brutally killed.
In Part III, The Quint visits another training centre on the outskirts of Delhi where young wrestlers who harbour Olympic ambitions are being fed visions of an Islamic State (ISIS) takeover of India.