Atheist Activist Assaulted by Mob Inside Police Van in India

A mob in India’s southern state of Telangana attacked an atheist activist while inside a police van, according to reports by Indian media outlets. The assault happened in the state’s Hanamkonda district.

On February 27th, anti-caste and atheist activist Bairi Naresh, also the chief of the Bharata Nasthika Samajam (Atheist Society of India) for Telangana, was informed while attending an event at a law college in Gopalapuram that a mob of Hindu nationalists was planning to assault him. He was arrested last year for criticizing the Hindu god Ayappa and is currently out on bail.

A well-wisher of mine reached out to me and said that there are some BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] and RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh] activists outside,” Naresh told The Times of India. “Fearing an attack on me, I contacted police, who provided me protection and arranged a vehicle for safe transport. But en route, the attackers stopped the police vehicle and then repeatedly attacked me.

A video showing a group of Hindu nationalists trying to assault Naresh while he was inside the police van while police officers were dragging the men away was shared on Twitter by an Indian lawyer named Dr. B. Karthik Navayan. According to police commissioner A.V. Ranganath, all the men seen in the video were put in prison. 

Condemn the Hindutva goons' attack on the atheist activist Bairi Naresh today in Hanmakonda town, Telangana.” Dr. B. Karthik Navayan wrote in a Tweet of the video showing the incident. “Police can be seen dispersing outside goons, but one guy appears to be repeatedly hitting Naresh in the vehicle. Police should have stopped the guy inside the vehicle.

A member of a community known as the Other Backward Class (OBE), Naresh was criticized by Hindus for the speech he made at a public gathering in the Vikarabad district last December. A video of his remarks went viral on social media.

In his speech, Naresh was heard describing the birth of the Hindu deity Ayappa in a sexually explicit manner. Hindus protested against him in several places and even demanded strict action against him.

In a report by The Scroll, authorities arrested Naresh on December 31st for promoting enmity and outraging religious beliefs and communities. But according to the Dalit-Bahujans of Telangana, he was targeted because of his caste.

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