Jamia protest shooting: ‘He followed protests, said need to fight for Hindu community’

Amil Bhatnagar

The attacker points a countrymade pistol at the anti-CAA protesters near the Jamia Millia Islamia campus in New Delhi, Thursday. (Reuters)

Seventy-four kilometres away from New Delhi’s Jamia, a locked house in Jewar had a huge crowd outside on Thursday. It was the home of the Class XI student, who shot at a Jamia student earlier in the day. His father, who runs a pan shop, and his mother, a primary school teacher, were both not home on Thursday. Relatives said they were away for a wedding, and the boy had told them he would join them there on Thursday morning. Instead, he headed to Jamia.

“He has nothing to do with anyone and minds his own business. He told us in the morning that he has to go to school, after which he would join the family for the wedding. We had no knowledge of his actions," said his grandfather. Neighbours said he would often be seen hanging around the local bazaar. A friend who accompanied him on the kanwar yatra last year said he would often talk about a "threat" to the Hindu community, and how one must stand up to it.

“He never came across as violent, but yes, he would often say we must stand up and fight for the Hindu community. We have a WhatsApp group of about 100 people where we would discuss protests and rallies in support of CAA and other issues. He was very active and vocal," said his friend.

Those who knew him said that over the past month, he had been discussing the CAA protests, Shaheen Bagh as well as protests in JNU and Jamia. "He was very active on Facebook and would consume a lot of information on the protests," said an acquaintance.

In one of the boy's pictures on Facebook, he can be seen with Deepak Sharma, a right-wing activist against whom the National Security Act was slapped by the Gautam Budh Nagar administration following an attack on Afghan students from Sharda University in 2018.

"I have uploaded a lot of videos on Facebook talking about Hinduism and he was one of my many supporters. I got in touch with him during protests in Aligarh following the murder of a minor in June last year. While I never interacted a lot with him personally, he would send WhatsApp messages to many of my friends saying that 'something big' needs to happen. We never interacted after that," said Sharma.

While locals in the village said he was associated with the Bajrang Dal, and his own Facebook page claimed this too, the outfit distanced itself from the minor. In the evening, some villagers shouted the slogan, ‘Tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hain’.