The leader of right-wing outfit Hindu Mahasabha on Friday denied reports that his organisation would honour the gunman who shot a student near Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi the day before. Chakrapani Maharaj, who is the Mahasabha’s national president, said action would be taken against the outfit’s Uttar Pradesh president for making the statement.

“We condemn all forms of violence,” Maharaj told The Week. “An inquiry committee of three members has been formed to look into the statement made by Gajendra Pal Singh, the state president of the organisation. There will be disciplinary action against him once the report is submitted.”

The attack near Jamia took place as a group of demonstrators, including the university’s students, marched towards Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial Rajghat to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The shooter brandished a gun before the demonstrators and threatened to shoot them even as Delhi Police personnel stood metres away. The attacker was heard shouting “Yeh lo azaadi [here’s your freedom]” before he fired the gun, injuring the student, who was identified as Shadab Farooq. He was taken into custody by the police. Since he is reportedly a minor, his name cannot be published. A review of the gunman’s Facebook page – it has since been taken down – showed him in the company of Hindutva activists from the Bajrang Dal, including one leader who had access to Union Minister Giriraj Singh, among others.

After the incident, Gajendra Pal Singh declared that the shooter would be honoured and provided with all legal help. “Mahatma Gandhi’s policies had turned the country into a ‘dharamshala’ [sanctuary] instead of the Hindu rashtra it should have been,” Singh added. “They are talking about Gandhism without realising that Gandhi destroyed the country due to Partition.”

Maharaj said the outfit supported the Citizenship Amendment Act and added there were democratic ways to oppose those on the other side of the political spectrum. “People get swayed by emotions, forgetting that there is a Constitution and laws which have to be adhered to,” he told The Week.

The Hindu Mahasabha leader described the shooter as a “man of poor intellect”. “The Hindu Mahasabha will take strict action against all those who use violence to support the CAA,” he added. “This is a fight of ideologies and we have no objection to those who are opposing the CAA and NRC peacefully.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. The government also wants to conduct NRC across India to identify undocumented immigrants. Its critics fear that the amended law, clubbed with the National Register of Citizens, will be misused to target Muslims since the Citizenship Act now has religion as a criterion.

Also read:

  1. ‘Delhi Police did not do their job’: Retired officials critical of how Jamia firing was handled
  2. In Uttar Pradesh town, neighbours of Delhi shooter shout slogans in his support