File photo of Himanshu Awasthi | Facebook
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New Delhi: India saw the assault on a Kashmiri man in Uttar Pradesh in a viral online video Thursday, but it now appears that the attack may not have been a one-off.
On Wednesday, Bajrang Sonkar, the main accused in the assault case and purportedly the president of the Vishwa Hindu Dal, along with Himanshu Awasthi, Amar Mishra and Anirudh Kumar reportedly beat up a Kashmiri dry fruit seller in Lucknow. Kumar shot the video and broadcast it live on social media platform Facebook.
SHOCKING: Some goons in saffron kurtas throttle, assault a Kashmiri dry fruit seller in Lucknow. Passersby come to rescue of the Kashmiri. Case yet to be registered.
Hope @Uppolice@Igrangelucknow@lkopolice register an FIR and jab these goondas at the earliest. pic.twitter.com/zXjI3Anh2n
— Prashant Kumar (@scribe_prashant) March 6, 2019
In the video, the men can be seen assaulting one vendor with sticks. They can also be heard asking the vendors to produce identification. Eventually, a passerby intervened to prevent further violence. When asked why they were beating the vendor, the men responded — because “he is a Kashmiri”.
A case was registered under IPC sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 323 (wrongful confinement), and 504 (intent to provoke breach of peace).
All four men have now been arrested, Lucknow senior superintendent of police Kalanidhi Naithani told ThePrint.
“We have spoken to the vendors, and reassured them,” Naithani said.
However, a slew of posts on Awasthi’s Facebook profile show the men have claimed attacks on other Kashmiris and Muslims too in the area, ever since the 14 February Pulwama attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel.
In his profile, Awasthi identifies himself as former Bharatiya Janata Party “politician”.
On Thursday, barely a day after Awasthi featured in the live video thrashing Kashmiris that led to his arrest, he wrote on his profile, “We are fighting for Hindus and the army, how many people are with us?”
‘Thrash on live video’
A post from 22 February on Awasthi’s Facebook profile said that he and Sonkar had “gotten Kashmiris arrested for selling groundnuts without identification”.
“Today, at the bridge in Lucknow, the stonepelters who attack the army and the Amarnath Yatris in Kashmir and spread terrorism, were selling nuts without identification. First we removed their shops, and then got them arrested,” wrote Awasthi.
Screengrab of Awasthi boasting about harassing other Kashmiris on a Facebook post.
He has continuously engaged in Islamophobia, and as recently as Wednesday attended a Republic Bharat debate after which he wrote, “Mullo ne nahi lagaye vande mataram ke naare.” It can be translated to “Muslims didn’t shout Vande Mataram” if the derogatory reference to Islam is removed.
Earlier, Awasthi also shared details of a Muslim student from the Lucknow University whom he threatened to thrash on live video because he was “celebrating” the attack in Pulwama. He also invited people to join him in beating the student by commenting on the post.
He claimed in his post that the student was expelled from his college.
Sonkar, the other accused, has a criminal record dating as far back as 2011, according to the police.
“We’re looking into Sonkar’s record,” Naithani said.
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