- The Bajrang Dal claimed that the camp was just a routine exercise
- The only events held were running, long-jumping, rappelling and yoga
- An NGO had approached the police with photos from the programme
The Bajrang Dal has denied reports that participants of a camp held at a school on Mumbai's Mira Road were trained in handling firearms late last month. The matter first came to light when a non-governmental organisation (NGO) -- the Democratic Youth Federation of India -- approached the Navghar police with photographs from the programme that extended from May 25 to June 1.
The NGO claims it came across images of Bajrang Dal participants allegedly handling rifles on the premises of the Seven Square Academy, owned by BJP legislator Narendra Mehta, on Facebook. "What kind of danger are they trying to avert in this country by holding arms-training camps? This is just an attempt to brainwash the youth and create an environment of fear against the members of a specific community. We want a police complaint to be filed against Narendra Mehta and the school authorities on charges of trying to create tensions between different communities," NGO member Sadiq Badshah told NDTV.
Mr Badshah also said that his group was planning to launch a protest against the Bajrang Dal camp this evening. "Our group -- the Democratic Youth Federation of India -- will hold an agitation in coordination with secular parties at 8:30 pm today. We just have one demand: That the authorities clamp down on events intended to create divisions in society," he said.
A complaint has been lodged, and the police are investigating the matter.
The Bajrang Dal, however, claimed that the camp was just a routine exercise. "We only held events such as running, jumping, rappelling and yoga at the camp. The allegations levelled against us are untrue. This is a conspiracy to defame Hindi organisations at a time when the BJP is in power," event coordinator Sandeep Bhagat said.
Police are currently inquiring into the purpose of the camp as well as the kind of permissions taken in that regard.
The Bajrang Dal has been pulled up for organising arms-training camps on previous occasions too. In 2016, police registered a case against Ayodhya Bajrang Dal chief Mahesh Mishra after a video showing activists training with weapons at a "self-defence camp" emerged on social media. The footage allegedly showed activists tackling volunteers in skull caps.
The Bajrang Dal made headlines in December 3 last year, when one of its members -- Yogesh Raj -- allegedly incited communal tensions in Uttar Pradesh's Bulandshahr. Two people, including a police officer, were killed in the mob violence that followed. A month later, Yogesh Raj's face appeared prominently in Bajrang Dal billboards put up across Lucknow on the occasion of Makar Sankranti and Republic Day.