Days after Union minister Anurag Thakur stoked controversy with his "shoot the traitors" sloganeering, a man opened fire at protesters opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act outside Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi.
The man was caught on tape brandishing a gun and pointing at protesters at large, even as police officials watched meekly from a distance.
It was only after he fired the gun, injuring a student, that police intervened and caught him. In the videos capturing the attack, the man can be seen yelling 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'ye lo azadi' while asking protesters to chant 'Vande Mataram' if they want to live in India. The shooter has since been taken into custody.
But who is the shooter?
According to preliminary information by the police, the shooter is a minor who lived in UP’s Gautam Buddha Nagar, on the outskirts of the national capital. While not much else is yet known about the assailant, his Facebook account revealed a number of consistently disturbing and communal posts.
'Rambhakt' is the prefix to his name on Facebook as well where he posted live videos from the protest at Jamia moments before opening fire.
Here are some of the posts that that were shared on the man's page in the past 24 hours.
'Shaheen bhag..khel khatam': The post is an allusion to the ongoing anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh-Kalindi Kunj which have been led by women for over 40 days. The protests have stoked widespread controversy in Delhi, especially in the run-up to Delhi Legislative Assembly 2020 elections.
'Koi Hindu media nahin hai yahan' (No Hindu media here), "Main yahan akela Hindu hoon" (I am the only Hindu here): Another attempt to polarise by claiming there is no "Hindu" media at Jamia protests and that he was the only Hindu there.
In another post, he claimed, "Chandan Bhai, ye badla aapke liye hai" (Chandhan brother, this revenge is for you). Chandan Gupta was a 22-year-old commerce student who was killed during communal violence that broke out in Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh, in January 2018 after Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP) organised a 'Tiranga bike rally' in the Muslim-dominated area.
He also made cryptic posts in which he appeared to predict his death or that some grave situation was going to befall him soon. In one post, he wrote, "Meri antim yatra par, mujhe bhagwa mein le jaaye, aur jai shri ram ke naare ho" (On my last journey (after death), carry me in saffron cloth and ensure there are chants of Jai Shri Ram). In another he wrote, "Mere ghar ka dhyaan rakhna" (Take care of my home).
In yet another post, he said, "Azadi de raha hoon" (I will give you freedom). The comment is an allusion to the 'Azaadi' (freedom) slogan that is popular among anti-CAA protesters. Incidentally, all these posts were made just hours before the man opened fire upon protesters.
In fact, in what seems like a teaser for today's act, the shooter posted on January 28, "Dhyan de. 31st tarik tak meri posto ko nazar andaaz na kare" (Attention! Don't ignore my posts till the 31st).
His Facebook account has since been suspended. But from all his posts, it seems evident that the shooter was deeply radicalised and was seeking an audience for his stunt. His posts, which now have thousands of views, garnered lots of positive responses from his followers, many of whom praised the shooter's "bravery". One comment read, "Inspired by you, many Chandans will rise". Several commenters also repeated the ‘shoot the traitors’ slogan raised at Thakur’s rally.
The shooter seems to have joined Facebook on July 2018 and since then, most of his posts have been either outright or borderline communal. Nevertheless, the account existed on Facebook well over a year and managed to avoid Facebook's privacy policies that prohibit hate speech and divisive/communal posts, photos and videos.