'Kashmiris Pelt Stones at Our Soldiers': Hindutva Group Leader Defends Beating of Traders in Lucknow
VHD president Ambuj Nigam said he had ordered his 50,000 members across India to 'keep an eye on Kashmiris' to check if they are engaged in 'illegal acts'.
People clad in saffron Kurta assaulted Kashmiri youths with sticks and abused them in broad daylight.
New Delhi: The leader of the Hindutva group, whose members attacked two Kashmiri traders in Lucknow on Wednesday, has justified the beating by saying "suspicious" Kashmiris had to be watched after the Pulwama terror attack.
The assault on the dry fruit sellers by the saffron-shirted activist, the latest in a series of attacks on Kashmiris across the nation in the aftermath of the February 14 terror strike, has been widely condemned.
The assailants slapped and hit the two men with a wooden stick, and a posted video of it on social media. The attackers were members of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Dal (VHD) group and their leader was unapologetic.
"Yes, my workers beat them. After the attack on our army men with the help of Kashmiri jihadis, there is anger among the public,” the group's president, Ambuj Nigam, told Reuters by telephone from Lucknow.
"The Kashmiris pelt stones at our soldiers and wave the Pakistani flag. Why should we tolerate that?"
Nigam said the two hawkers had looked "suspicious" so his members asked them for identity cards. His men had called the police but they had taken too long to arrive, he said.
"Sometimes, when the police are late, we have to take matters into our own hands,” he said.
He said he had ordered his 50,000 members across India to “keep an eye on Kashmiris” to check if they are engaged in “illegal acts”.
The videos show the Kashmiri men cowering on the pavement as they are slapped and beaten with a stick by two men wearing saffron-coloured shirts.
One of the Kashmiris is heard wailing as he is pulled up by his shirt collar and slapped, before he runs off. A passerby intervened and managed to stop the other Kashmiri man from being beaten further.
The victims said the attackers suddenly descended on them and started beating them. “They called us terrorists. We have been coming for 20 years. Something like this has never happened with us before," one of the dry fruit sellers told reporters.
"They said we are terrorists. We were told that we sell items here and throw stones there. They started thrashing us. They asked for our Aadhaar cards," he added.
Police said the four assailants have been arrested for the assault and the two Kashmiris were free to sell their goods at the spot again. "We will take action against the people responsible,” senior police official Anand Kumar told a news conference.
While one of the accused, Bajrang Sonkar, was arrested late on Wednesday night, Himanshu Garg, Anirudh Kumar and Amar Mishra were nabbed on Thursday, the police said.
The central government has ordered authorities across the country to protect Kashmiris.
Nigam said Facebook had blocked his account after he posted video of the assault on the vendors.
(With inputs from Reuters)
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