Article: Pooja Shakun Pandey, who called for Namaz ban, has a history of anti-Muslim hate speech

Alishan Jafri

New Delhi: Following the violence in Kanpur during the Friday protest against anti-Muslim statements by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, Hindutva leader Pooja Shakun Pandey who uses the alias ‘Annapurna Maa’ is back in news after making yet another hate speech against Muslims.

On June 5, 2022, Pandey inked a letter “with her blood” to President Ram Nath Kovind, asking him to take action against Friday prayers, which she claims are an “anti-Hindu congregation”.

Parts of the letter read:

“Friday is not a day for prayers. Instead, it is a day for terrorism. The Friday congregations by Muslims are not for worship but for the genocide of non-Muslims, loot, arson and sexual harassment. Hence, the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha presents the following demands before you:

On Fridays, the entry of Muslims in small mosques should be restricted only to 10 Muslims while 25 Muslims should be allowed in bigger ones.

Mass prayers should be immediately banned… Mosques, where there are riots and conspiracies on Fridays, should be demolished with bulldozers.”

Taking suo motu cognisance, a first information report (FIR) has been registered against the Hindu Mahasabha national secretary by the Uttar Pradesh police. “The case has been registered under the following sections of the Indian Penal code— 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 505,” Aligarh SSP Kalanidhi Naithani said in a video statement.

After the FIR was filed, Pandey appeared in a TV panel discussion on Aaj Tak, where she summarised the contents of the controversial letter. Pandey defended and justified Nupur Sharma’s comments, for she has been suspended by the BJP following massive international outrage in as many as 20 countries.

Pandey is a repeat offender who is known for her anti-Muslim remarks. At the Dharma Sansad in Haridwar in December 2021, where calls to kill Muslims were made, Pandey, the mahamandleshwar of the Niranjani Akhara, gave a call to arms and incitement to genocide.

Without any ambiguity, she gave a direct call for the mass murder of Muslims. “Nothing is possible without weapons. If you want to eliminate their population then kill them. Be ready to kill and be ready to go to jail. Even if 100 of us are ready to kill 20 lakhs of them (Muslims), then we will be victorious, and go to jail… Like [Nathuram] Godse, I am ready to be maligned, but I will pick up arms to defend my Hindutva from every demon who is a threat to my religion,” she said.

At the same event, in an interview with a YouTube channel, Pandey said, “Today is the time when women need to take swords in one hand along with belans in the other. I request my mothers to not become the weakness of their sons but instead become their strength. Tell them if adharma is happening anywhere I will come with you to cut them up. There won’t be any cases but only a little inconvenience for some days; call us, we will be there with you.”

When asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s critical reaction in 2019 to Sadhvi Pragya’s endorsement of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse, she said that Modi had to “compromise” because of the constitution. But she said it was “Modi and others like Modi” who had in the past explained what Godse and Gandhi were all about.

Pandey is a prominent leader of the Hindu Mahasabha and is often in the headlines for hate speech against Muslims. Just recently, she was in the news for comments on Modi after the prime minister announced his government’s decision to repeal the three farm laws in the wake of a year-long protest by the farmers in Delhi and other parts of India. Pandey had Modi’s portrait from the Aligarh office of the Hindu Mahasabha removed, saying, “Jiski baat ek nahi, uska baap ek nahi.”

In April 2020, a video showed Pandey making purportedly provocative comments against Tablighi Jamaat members. A criminal case was filed against her for promoting enmity between different groups on religious grounds and issuing a statement conducive to public mischief. She was briefly arrested. In March 2021, after a minor Muslim boy was beaten up by Hindutva activist Shringi Yadav for entering a temple in Dasna, Pandey demanded that other temples put up boards prohibiting the entry of Muslims, like the one in Dasna.

In May 2019, Pandey distributed knives to minor girls on the birth anniversary of V.D. Savarkar. In January 2019, Pandey shot at an effigy of Mahatma Gandhi and raised slogans in support of Godse. She later set the effigy on fire. While the BJP dismissed its association with Pandey, she regularly interacts with leaders of the party like BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya and the Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, as The Wire had revealed.

Despite her open call to murder Muslims on multiple occasions, the UP police is yet to arrest Pandey. She is still invited by mainstream media channels to amplify her speeches targetting the Muslim community.

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