Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday condemned the accosting of a Muslim journalist by a group of men, believed to be members of the Bajrang Dal, reported NDTV, the channel for which Munne Bharti works. On June 28, Bharti said the accused forced him and his family to say the Hindu chant “Jai Shri Ram”. In an account for the BBC, Bharti said the group had allegedly threatened to set their car on fire on the national highway if they did not do so.

Kumar, who heads the Janata Dal (United), said such incidents will not be tolerated. Bharti had informed Kumar about the incident on Twitter.

Bharti was travelling with his parents, wife and two children from Karneji village in Vaishali district of Bihar to Raheemabad village in Samastipur. On reaching the Muzaffarpur National Highway 28, he noticed a major jam near the toll booth. When he asked a passerby about the reason for the jam, the youth warned him to go back, saying their car would be set on fire by members of the Bajrang Dal.

Bharti said a group of men dressed in saffron clothes and armed with bamboo sticks noticed his bearded father and veiled wife, and started chanting Jai Shri Ram and thumping their sticks on the ground. The men then shouted “Say Jai Shri Ram or we will burn you down”, Bharti said.

The journalist said he and his family were allowed to leave the site only once they complied with the group’s demands.

Intolerance on the rise

On July 1, President Pranab Mukherjee had raised the matter of the spate in violent lynchings across the country, which have largely targeted Muslims. “We should ponder about this country when we see someone being lynched,” Mukherjee had said during his address in a reference to the number of cow-related atrocities across the country. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has been criticised for doing very little to curb the increasing number of such incidents across the country.

Modi had broken his several month-long silence on June 29 with a statement condemning the killings in the name of cow worship. His comments were followed by that of Congress leader and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who said that some people are “spreading negative influence in the name of religion”.

The JD(U)’s allies have been upset with Kumar, especially after he said he backed the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind.

On June 28, thousands of citizens across the country took to the streets to protest against the recent lynching of Muslims and other incidents of communal and caste-based violence. The latest in this string of incidents is the killing of a young Muslim boy aboard a local train to Ballabhgarh, Haryana, on June 22.