One of the masterminds of last month’s attack on director Prakash Jha and his crew on the set of his web series “Ashram” in Bhopal was a Bajrang Dal leader who had earlier been convicted of murder, NDTV found.
Suresh Sudel, the regional head of the Bhopal unit of the right-wing organization, was among the seven people arrested by police for attacking the ashram set. One day later, all seven including Sudel got bail. Police say they are not responsible as the ashram team was not interested in filing a complaint. Police have sued Mr Sudel and others under a relatively small section of the law, meaning they were able to get immediate bail.
But Mr. Sudell has a violent past that seems to have escaped the attention of police. He was convicted in 2011 of killing Bhopal-based businessman Bhagchand, and was granted bail four years later.
Legal experts suggest that the police should have gone to court immediately to cancel Mr Sudel’s bail in the murder case after the attack on Prakash Jha. State Home Minister Dr Narottam Mishra did not respond to a query.
The Congress has alleged that the ruling BJP is harboring criminals and Mr Sudel is enjoying impunity because of his political connections. The right-wing leader is seen in many pictures with state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Home Minister Narottam Mishra, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and other BJP and RSS leaders.
“Suresh Sudel organized the attack and was praised by many, including the state home minister. He is out on bail in a murder case. If the government gives shelter to people who break the law, how can we create a film city and create more jobs? He should be sent to jail immediately.” “It is unfortunate that the state government is sheltering him,” said PC Sharma, a former state law minister and Congress leader.
After the attack, Narottam did not stop defending the violence by the Bajrang Dal men on the set of the mixed web series. He supported the right-wing group’s demand for renaming the web series. He said in a tweet that such television content was an “intentional attempt to target Hinduism”.
“I also support it. Why is the name of the web series Ashram? If others (religion) name it (web series or story) will they understand (consequence)? We think looting is wrong. Four people have been arrested. And more legal action will be taken. But , Jha Saheb (Prakash Jha), think of your mistakes too, “said Mishra, referring to the mixed web series.
Mr Sudel avoided it when questioned by NDTV about his past and the demand to cancel his bail. “We did not threaten Prakash Jha, it was a symbolic protest. Their bouncers from Bhopal first attacked us then this incident happened,” he said. He did not answer specific questions about bail.
A group of Bajrang Dal members rioted on the set of the web series, police said. Videos shot by eyewitnesses on mobile phones showed members of the right-wing group chasing the crew, capturing at least one of them and brutally beating him with a metal light stand. Prakash Jha was also scolded and his face was smeared with ink. Mr Sudel bragged about it on camera and said they were looking for actor Bobby Deol, who is playing the lead role in the series.