A former Bajrang Dal worker, a man claiming to be a freelance journalist and a Bengaluru-based man who returned to Ayodhya during the Covid lockdown in 2020 are among seven men arrested for allegedly throwing objectionable objects and torn religious texts outside three mosques and a shrine in an attempt to break the peace. Police said 11 people were involved in the Wednesday incident in Ayodhya — four are absconding.
These are the seven men, according to police:
Mahesh Mishra (37)
Mishra, who the police are calling the “mastermind” of the incident, is a former Bajrang Dal worker. Currently unemployed, Mishra was earlier booked in four cases, including one in 2016 for holding an “arms training programme for youth using toy guns” in Ayodhya.
“He had held a mock drill with local youth acting as terrorists and soldiers. He was booked under IPC section 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups),” a police officer said.
According to police, Mishra’s father worked in the Income Tax department before retiring a few years ago. His brothers work as teachers.
After he was thrown out of Bajrang Dal in 2015 for his “extremist views”, Mishra, a police officer said, formed his own group called Hindu Yodha Sangathan.
“This group is not registered anywhere. Mishra used to say he is the national president of the outfit,” the officer said.
Sharad Sharma of the VHP in Ayodhya too said Mishra was associated with the Bajrang Dal earlier.
“I don’t know why he was thrown out,” Sharma said.
According to police, Mishra, who is married, regularly uploaded posts against the minority community on social media. “He uploaded provocative posts,” the officer said. “Mishra was the one who incited the other accused… They had been planning this incident for the last 10 days and used to meet frequently… He assembled the other accused through social media. These people were selected by him after they posted comments on his post,” the officer said.
Pratyush Srivastava (23)
An unemployed youth from Ayodhya, Srivastava was “impressed by Mishra’s posts”, the officer said. “He comes from a humble background. He used to spend time with Mishra and agreed to undertake this activity on Wednesday after being incited by him,” the officer said.
Nitin Kumar (30)
Kumar returned to Ayodhya from Bengaluru in Karnataka during the Covid lockdown in 2020. He used to work as a helper in the services sector in Bengaluru. “After shifting to Ayodhya, he started working for a private firm in the city and used to make Rs 20,000 per month,” the officer said. Kumar is a graduate and studied in Ayodhya. He is married and has a child.
Deepak Kumar Gaur alias Gunjan (33)
Gaur worked as a labourer at a wheat mill in Ayodhya. He spent a lot of time with Mishra in the last 6-7 days to plan the incident, police said.
“He was in touch with Mishra for a year or two, and used to regularly engage with him through social media posts. He has no criminal background,” police said.
Brijesh Pandey (35)
Police claim Pandey is not a qualified medical practitioner but is known as “Doctor Sahab” in his neighbourhood. “He used to regularly visit government offices, try to befriend officials. He is a very social person,” a police officer said. Pandey is close to Mishra and has known him for years. “After learning that police had figured out who all were involved in the incident, he ran away with Mishra, but was nabbed,” the officer said.
Shatrughan Prajapati (50)
Prajapati is a daily wager who does odd jobs. “He was not among those who threw the objectionable objects, but he knew about the plan and provided the other accused with food and other resources. He wanted to accompany the others on Wednesday night, but they didn’t take him along,” the officer said.
Vimal Pandey (28)
Police say Pandey claims to be a freelance journalist. “He tries to stay close to police officers and gets photographs clicked with them. He is very active on social media,” the officer said. “He was involved in the Wednesday incident. His role was to relay information to the other accused about the probe. No one suspected him because he claimed to be a journalist,” the officer said.