Saurabh Sharma | Feb 2, 2020 | 4 min read
Who killed Hindutva leader Ranjeet Bachchan in Lucknow? And why?
The police are investigating a ‘domestic dispute’ as the motivation for the Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha leader’s murder. His wife and some associates insist he was targeted because of his politics.
By Saurabh Sharma
Early Sunday morning, Ranjeet Bachchan, a prominent Hindutva leader in Uttar Pradesh, was killed in Lucknow. According to the police, Ranjeet, 40, was shot point blank by an unidentified man while he was out for a morning walk near Globe Park in the heart of the city.
The police suspect Ranjeet’s murder wasn’t linked to his Hindutva politics. “Based on an eyewitness statement, it seems to be a case of mobile and gold chain snatching,” said Joint Commissioner of Police, Lucknow, Naveen Arora. “Police are also looking at a domestic dispute. Ranjeet succumbed to bullet injuries on the spot while his distant cousin, who was on the morning walk with him, was injured.”
The police have released a CCTV videograb of the suspected killer and announced a prize of RS 50,000 for information on him.
Ranjeet’s is the second murder of a Hindutva leader in Uttar Pradesh in the last five months. In October, Kamlesh Tiwari, president of the Hindu Samaj Party, was shot dead in his office.
So, who was Ranjeet?
Originally from Gorakhpur, Ranjeet started out in politics with the Samajwadi Party. He organised statewide cycle campaign tours for the party between 2002 and 2009 for which he was felicitated by its chief, Akhilesh Yadav. But his “interest in the Samajwadi Party began diminishing in 2014 because of his Hindutva ideology”, said the party’s Gorakhpur district president Kirti Nidhi Pandey. “And he went to the Hindu Mahasabha.”
He was with the Hindu Mahasabha for two years but floated his own outfit, Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha, after being overlooked for the post of state chief.
It was during the Samajwadi Party’s cycle tour that Ranjeet met his second wife Kalindi Sharma. His first wife, Smriti, lives in Gorakhpur, and he had visited her on Friday, as per the FIR filed in connection with his murder.
Ranjeet’s second marriage had reportedly been in trouble. This apparently is the “domestic dispute” Arora was referring to. In 2017, Ranjeet had been booked by the Gorakhpur police for assaulting Kalinidi’s sister “with intent to outrage her modesty”.
“We are probing all the angles, but so far it seems to be a matter of family dispute or personal enmity,” a police official involved in investigating the murder said, requesting anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to speak with the media. “The police are also not ruling out the angle of killing by radicals as is being alleged by the widow, Kalindi Sharma. A brother-in-law of the slain politician is also on the police’s radar.”
The official added, “There are several aspects of the incident that we are investigating. First, Ranjeet used to go to Jhandewala Park for morning walks. Why did he go to Globe Park that day? Second, he used to do brisk walks, so why was he running and why was he about half a kilometer away from his wife?”
Some of Ranjeet’s family members and associates insisted he was killed for his political activities. “Babaji was getting threats to his life from people of different faiths. I had requested him to hire private security guards but he never paid heed. He recently told me he had applied for security from the government because he was getting threats but the government did not provide him any security,” said Shiv Karuna Prasad, a close associate of Ranjeet’s who heads the Lucknow chapter of the Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha. “Had the government provided him security he would still be with us today.”
He continued, “The Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha was growing and Babaji was planning to appoint presidents in every district of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana. He was also planning to visit Delhi in a couple of days to meet his guru, Swami Chakarapani Maharaj of Hindu Mahasabha, take his blessings and discuss the Citizenship Amendment Act. He was very much in favor of the CAA and very vocal about it.”
Kalinidi, speaking briefly with this reporter before being taken away by the police for questioning, alleged, “Muslims got my husband. For the past few days, he had been getting threats to his life from Muslims.”
She wouldn’t elaborate on who precisely was allegedly threatening Ranjeet or why.
Hanuman Birda, vice president of the Vishwa Hindu Mahasabha, told Newslaundry on the phone from Jaipur that Ranjeet had been “getting threats” for several months. Birda too couldn’t say who was threatening Ranjeet or why.
Some of Ranjeet’s associates, however, pointed out that he’d “never made hateful or provocative speeches”, so there was no reason why he would be targeted by “radicals”.
Saurabh Sharma, a reporter based in Lucknow, is a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of freelance journalists.
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