On Friday, a video began to do the rounds of social media, in which an alleged ‘Nepali’ man’s head was tonsured by a mob of what the media called members of a ‘fringe right-wing group’, while they also harassed the man into chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’. Having tonsured his head, the mob used a black marker to write ‘Jai Shree Ram’ over it. Almost instantly, the media picked up the story and went about like a bunch of enthusiastic teenagers reporting upon a narrative of Indian right-wing groups attacking Nepali nationals to spite Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli who made outrageous remarks about Bhagwan Ram being born in Nepal and Ayodhya belonging to Nepal and that India encroached upon Nepal’s cultural heritage and created a ‘fake Ayodhya’.
The incident drew condemnation from all quarters, especially the right-wing. It is appalling that a mob, consisting of people claiming to be proponents of ‘Hindutva’ would indulge in harassment and borderline abuse of a fellow Hindu, who happens to be a ‘Nepali’. However, it turns out the man was not a Nepali national in the first place. As a matter of fact, the entire episode was staged, revealed Varanasi police, with the ‘victim’ being paid Rs. 1000 to indulge in the act. The police also revealed that the ‘victim’ is not a citizen of Nepal at all but was born in Varanasi, India. This was verified by police through his Aadhaar and voter ID cards, which confirm his identity.
The culprit behind the staged act has turned out to be Arun Pathak, allegedly the chief general secretary and spokesperson of Shiv Sena in Uttar Pradesh state. Arun Pathak was also the district chief of Shiv Sena in Varanasi from 2000 to 2003. Apparently, the man is also the convenor of ‘Vishwa Hindu Sena’, under whose aegis the staged act was orchestrated to gain social, or perhaps even political mileage. The Shiv Sena, however, claims that the man is not a member of the party any longer.
It is important to mention here that the Shiv Sena angle to the incident has been given a complete miss by the media, presumably owing to its new ‘secular’ avatar in the country after the party wed Congress and the NCP to form the government in Maharashtra. Nevertheless, why would a former Shiv Sena ideologue, stage such an act in Varanasi?
Who the hell is this Arun Pathak? Tag him on twitter and shame him! Some people will go down to any limit for a little limelight! pic.twitter.com/m9Z7rz6Q5t
— Vikas Sankrityayan (@MODIfiedVikas) July 17, 2020
— Vaishali Sawant (@vaishali_s14) July 18, 2020
Arun Pathak is quite a specimen. Reportedly, after the alliance between Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena, the man rebelled and left the party, and formed the Vishwa Hindu Sena. Yet, recent pictures of the man with Uddhav Thackeray have raised suspicion in many quarters. The said pictures, which now seem deleted from his Facebook profile, conflicted with the Shiv Sena’s version of the man not being a member of the party any longer. As a matter of fact, the Shiv Sena claims to have sacked Pathak eight long years ago for ‘anti-party activities’. However, allegedly, the individual only left the party last year, going by news reports.
The timing and intent of the move is highly suspicious, and one should not be surprised if a larger political conspiracy emerges out of the fake incident. Why was Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency chosen to stage such an act? Is it possible, that at a time the nation is facing challenges from multiple fronts, which include souring relations with Nepal, some political outfits have jumped in to exploit the situation for their own petty gains? Already, Nepal has conveyed its disappointment to both Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and South Block as well. All for a staged and fake incident that has the name of a backstabbing political party written all over it. Was this the motive? Only time, and a comprehensive investigation into the matter will tell.