Men Who Attacked Kashmiri Traders Claim Links With BJP, Party Denies

Two Kashmiri traders were heckled and assaulted in Lucknow by men from a right-wing fringe group

Four of the attackers of the Kashmiris in Lucknow have been arrested.


The attack on two Kashmiri traders in Lucknow, which triggered widespread condemnation, was carried out by four men from a right-wing fringe outfit called the Vishwa Hindu Dal, and claim to have links with the state's ruling BJP. In cellphone videos of their attack, the men were seen beating the traders with sticks, hauling them by the collar, abusing them and finally, demanding that they prove they are Indian.

The attack was part of a countrywide backlash against Kashmiris after it became known that a 19-year-old from Jammu and Kashmir was the suicide bomber responsible for last month's terror attack in Pulwama, in which 40 CRPF personnel died.

The assaulted men claimed that the attackers had called them terrorists. "They (attackers) said we are terrorists. We were told that we sell merchandise here and throw stones there. They started thrashing us. They asked for our Aadhaar cards," Mohammed Afzal Naik told the media and the police, reliving the traumatic moments of Wednesday morning.

"We are BJP supporters and work under the protection of the BJP and also for the BJP," said Ambuj Nigam, the group's chief who is behind the bars.

He was one of the five men arrested hours after the videos triggered shock and outrage in the city. The police said whatever the political ideology, no one is above the law.

But six hours after his arrest on Wednesday night, accused Bajrang Sonkar's Facebook page was updated with a new photograph. It showed him with Abhijaat Mishra -- listed as a general secretary on the website of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha or BJYM, the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Lucknow police said Bajranj Sonkar is a repeat offender and even has a murder case against him.


Another accused, Himanshu Awasthi, who calls himself the state president of the Vishwa Hindu Dal, claims on his Facebook page that he is a former member of the BJP.

A third accused, Amar Mishra, claims on his social media profile that he works for the BJP.

The BJP has denied any links of the men and said the law will take its course. "A lot of people can subscribe to our ideology ...but those who don't follow the law will be dealt with in the appropriate manner," said party spokesperson Hero Vajpayee.

The remark was echoed by the police.

Asked if the police would be under pressure because of political affiliations of the accused, state police chief Anand Kumar told NDTV, "They may belong to any trust, any group... but as individuals, they cannot take the law into their own hands".

But till late on Wednesday night, when the Lucknow police claimed he was on the run, Himanshu Awasthi was updating his Facebook page with photos and videos of the assault and even seeming to threaten more violence. The videos were taken down after his arrest.