The charred bodies of two men, Junaid (35) and Nasir (25), both residents of Ghatmeeka in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district, were found on February 16 in Bhiwani, Haryana, inside a four-wheeler. The two were allegedly attacked and abducted by a mob that later set them ablaze inside their car. Junaid’s cousin Ismail told The Wire that the family complained to local police after learning that Bajrang Dal members had allegedly abducted the two men on suspicions of cow smuggling.

Rinku Saini, a resident of Firozpur Jhirka in Haryana’s Nuh district and one of the five accused in the case, was arrested on February 17. According to senior Rajasthan Police officer Shyam Singh, the four others named in an FIR registered at Gopalgarh police station were Anil, Srikant, Lokesh Singhla and Monu Manesar. Saini, a taxi diver by profession, was involved with a cow vigilante group.

As the news of two men allegedly burnt to death in Haryana by cow vigilantes associated with the Bajrang Dal came out, Monu Manesar, the district coordinator of Bajrang Dal Manesar who leads a team of approximately 50 ‘gau rakshaks’, released a statement denying any role of the Right-Wing outfit in the incident. “My team & I have nothing to do with this incident. Police must probe to find the real culprits. Our organization should not be defamed by dragging it into this. Whatever claims being spread on social media are absolutely wrong,” said Monu in a statement to ANI.

Monu and his team members also released a video statement. “No teams belonging to Bajrang Dal were at the scene of the crime. I got to know about the incident from social media and it is extremely unfortunate. Whoever is responsible for this should be given strict punishment. Neither I nor my team is involved in the incident. I request the people to fully cooperate with the police in their investigation. However, whoever has been named as the accused is completely innocent,” Monu said.

Surendra Jain, the joint secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), also released a video statement, claiming the Bajrang Dal was being defamed in the context of the incident. “The discovery of the charred remains that were found in a burnt vehicle in Loharu, Haryana is an extremely unfortunate incident. The car belongs to Rajasthan but whose remains were found? Was the fire an unfortunate accident or a case of arson? The answers to these questions still need to be investigated. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad demands an impartial investigation into the matter and strict punishment for those involved. Two cow smugglers from Bharatpur, Rajasthan are missing. Several cases of cow smuggling are active against them. One of the cow smuggler’s brother mentioned the names of some influential persons belonging to Bajrang Dal. Without initial investigation, Rajasthan Police believed that the accused named by the brother are responsible for the incident. Unfortunately, Bajrang Dal is being defamed through this course of action……”. Jain went on to demand a CBI investigation into the case. He also demanded that the Rajasthan government should apologize for the false allegation against Bajrang Dal. (Archive)

The Bajrang Dal functions as the youth wing of the VHP.

According to an Indian Express article dated February 21, Rinku Saini and two other accused in the case, Lokesh Singla and Shrikant Pandit, were described as informers in at least four FIRs lodged over the past two months in the Ferozepur Jhirka and Nagina police stations in Nuh. They had close ties with the police in Haryana’s Nuh district as informers on suspected cattle smugglers, even accompanying police teams on raids. The FIRs accessed by Indian Express were filed on February 14, January 23, January 19 and January 1.

The Indian Express published a report on February 23 which quoted Rajasthan Police as saying that at least two vigilante groups were involved in the alleged crime. Speaking to the newspaper, a senior police officer said, “In our investigation so far, we have found that two groups of cow vigilantes were involved in the crime. One group, comprising accused Rinku Saini, Anil and Shrikant, operates in the Mewat region. On February 15, it was working in tandem with another group that comprised accused Monu Rana, Kalu, Vikas, Shashikant, Kishore and Gogi. The second group is active in Jind-Bhiwani-Karnal areas of Haryana.” The name of Mohit Yadav alias Monu Manesar, who was earlier named as an accused, wasn’t on the list but the police maintained that he is still a suspect, the report said.

Fact Check

It is worth noting that police have gone on record saying that Rinku Saini and Shrikant Pandit were involved in the alleged crime, whereas Monu Manesar and the VHP have vehemently denied any role of Bajrang Dal in it. However, there is enough evidence on social media which suggests that Rinku Saini and Shrikant Pandit have close ties with the Bajrang Dal and its cow vigilantes for quite some time.

Rinku Saini’s Bajrang Dal connection

To begin with, there are several posts on Facebook congratulating Rinku Saini on becoming the chief of the cow protection team for Bajrang Dal Mewat at a provincial meeting in Kurukshetra. All of these posts are from January 22 and 23, 2023. Rinku was congratulated by Himanshu Hindu, an active Bajrang Dal worker who has been pictured alongside Monu Manesar attending several programmes and conferences organised by Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. (Links to Facebook posts here, here, here, here and here)

Apart from this, there were several other congratulatory posts for Rinku Saini by users Shreyas Kumar, Gaumata Seva Parivaar and others.

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Rinku Saini’s Facebook profile has been locked after the accusations against him surfaced. According to his profile, he works at the Bharatiya Janata Party. The cover photo in his profile, which is still visible, has him posing with Monu Manesar and several others. In the following picture, Monu Manesar (circled in black) is seen seated in the centre with Rinku Saini (circled in red) standing at the back.

On February 12, Bajrang Dal Mewat’s Facebook page uploaded a video of a high-speed chase where the gau raksha dal can be seen firing at a truck suspected of smuggling cows. In the latter half of the video, Rinku Saini can be seen sitting on the bonnet of a vehicle while his teammate summarizes their ‘operation’. The words ‘Bajrang Dal Mewat’ are imposed at the top of the screen. A text appears on screen at the beginning of the video which reads “बजरंग दल मेवात द्वारा आज एक टाटा 407 गाड़ी पकड़ी 12 गौवंश बचाए।।” (Translation: “Bajrang Dal Mewat captured a Tata 407 vehicle and saved 12 cows”). The same video had also been uploaded on Bajrang Dal Mewat‘s YouTube channel.

We also found some pictures of the team, which were clicked after the said operation on February 12. A man in a police uniform can be seen posing with the team. Rinku is seen sitting on the bonnet of the car.

For the reader’s advantage, we have compared Rinku’s image that was released by the police after his arrest and the one above.

Thus, contrary to the statements released by Monu Manesar and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad denying any involvement in the alleged crime, it is evident that Rinku Saini is actively involved with the Right-Wing outfit’s activities. In videos uploaded on Bajrang Dal Mewat’s page itself, Rinku can be clearly seen participating in their ‘operations’ of capturing alleged cow smugglers. Furthermore, several Facebook posts suggest that Rinku had been made the chief of cow protection for Bajrang Dal Mewat in January.

Who is Shrikant Pandit?

Shrikant Pandit, another accused in Junaid and Nasir’s alleged murder, is an active member of Bajrang Dal Haryana. He has been pictured in a Bajrang Dal T-shirt with Surendra Jain, general secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad in his cover photo on Facebook. He also runs a separate page “Shrikant (बजरंग दल हरयाणा)” (Bajrang Dal Haryana) with 51000 followers on Facebook.

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One of the congratulatory posts for Rinku Sharma was shared by Shrikant Pandit. The SHO of Nagina Police Station confirmed to Alt News that the man seen in the Facebook display picture in the second slide above is accused Shrikant Pandit.

Shrikant, also a gau rakshak, participates in chasing and capturing alleged cow smugglers. He was a part of the team during the February 12 ‘operation’, after which he live-streamed the process of rescuing the cattle on Facebook. Shrikant can be heard addressing Rinku Saini by his name at the 6:05-minute mark in the following video.

Moreover, there is photographic evidence to show Shrikant attended the two-day meeting in January organised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad where Rinku Saini was made the chief of cow protection for Bajrang Dal Mewat.

In the following reel uploaded by Shrikant Pandit on Facebook, he can be seen leading what seems like a Bajrang Dal rally in a car with others while a barrage of vehicles carrying saffron flags follow them. The words ‘Bajrang Dal’ in Hindi are imposed at the top of the video.

In December 2022, several photos of Monu Manesar’s team had been uploaded on the now-locked Facebook profile of Bajrang Dal Manesar, after yet another ‘operation’ wherein they had reportedly salvaged cows that were being illegally smuggled. In one of the images, Rinku Saini (circled in red) and Shrikant Pandit (circled in black) can be seen posing with the rest of the team and a policeman in front of the truck that was seemingly used to smuggle the cows.

In a Facebook reel uploaded by Shrikant, he himself, Rinku Saini and several others can be seen raising slogans like “jab take todenge nahi, tab take chhodenge nahi“. A policeman present at the scene can also be seen chiming in.

Accused Shrikant Pandit had tweeted a video of a similar chase on March 27, 2022, where Rinku Saini can be seen posing with the team. The video has the words “Bajrang Dal Mewat” and “Team Shrikant Pandit” in Hindi imposed at the bottom.

In another reel uploaded by Shrikant, he can be heard wishing Monu Manesar on his birthday. Rinku Saini is also seen with him.

Rinku and Shrikant were seen in several images alongside Monu Manesar and others, after their successful ‘operations’ or attending conferences. A lot of the images have been posted on Monu Manesar’s Facebook page itself. One can find the links to these posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. A lot of these images have the #बजरंग_दल_हरियाणा in the caption.

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According to a report by NDTV, Rinku Saini and other cow vigilantes beat up Junaid and Nasir, who had been travelling in a Bolero, on suspicions of cow smuggling on February 15. When they could not find the cattle in the duo’s possession, Rinku and his associates took the grievously injured Junaid and Nasir to a police station in Firozepur Jhirka, Mewat. However, the police refused to take Junaid and Nasir into custody since no cows could be found and they asked the cow vigilantes to take the two men to Rajasthan. The two were so grievously injured that Rinku reportedly told the police that it is plausible that Nasir and Junaid had already died of injuries. On being denied assistance by the police, Rinku and his associates took Nasir and Junaid 200km away to a place called Loharu in Bhiwani district of Haryana and set the car on fire. They had tied the two men with seat belts. After the bodies were found, police tracked the car back to Junaid and Nasir’s village in Rajasthan.

As per a police statement dated February 17, Rinku Saini was first detained and brought to Bharatput for interrogation. He was cross-questioned based on the technical evidence and ground intelligence available to the police. Police further said that based on evidence, it was clear that Rinku Saini was involved in the incident and hence he was arrested.

To conclude, the active participation of Shrikant Pandit and Rinku Saini in Bajrang Dal Haryana’s functioning is quite evident, contrary to the claims by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. The former is an accused and the latter is already arrested in the alleged murder of Junaid and Nasir. Rinku and Shrikant have been pictured with various influential people belonging to the VHP, starting from Surenrdra Jain to Monu Manesar. They participate in meetings organised by Bajrang Dal and VHP, and are cow vigilantes themselves.

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