Members of a Bajrang Dal forum have received offers from Facebook users to buy “handguns, rifles, shotguns, and bullets,” according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which describes the Bajrang Dal as “an extremist Hindu organisation with a history of violence in India.”
Raqib Hameed Naik, the creator of Hindutva Watch, an organisation that keeps track of assaults on religious minorities in India, discovered eight posts, some of which had been up since April 2022. He started telling Meta about them in January, according to WSJ, as They go against “the company’s publicly stated policy that prohibits private individuals from buying or selling firearms or ammunition on Facebook platforms.”
According to the newspaper’s review of the documents, Facebook “denied to remove them, saying the posts didn’t violate the company’s rules.” According to the newspaper, Facebook removed the posts on February 7 after being contacted about them and claiming that they “ran afoul of the company’s policies.” The WSJ cites a Meta spokeswoman saying, “We prohibit individuals from buying or selling guns on our apps” and “remove violating content as soon as we see it.” The newspaper says the spokesperson “declined to comment on why the posts hadn’t been removed when first reported.”
The now-deleted advertisements for firearms appeared in social media groups “that pledge allegiance to Bajrang Dal,” the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
In 2018, along with the VHP, the Bajrang Dal was classified by the US Central Intelligence Agency as a “militant religious organisation.” According to the WSJ report, Bajrang Dal members have previously been “jailed in India for religiously motivated killings.”
Raquib Hameed Naik, the founder of Hindutva Watch, tracked the posts offering guns for sale in five groups dedicated to the Bajrang Dal. According to posts reviewed by the WSJ, some sellers allegedly promised to deliver firearms within 24 hours.
“A user shared images of five pistols, some silver and some black in colour, with one resting on a motorcycle seat and another held in someone’s hand. Bronze-coloured bullets emerge from a clip in one photo,” the newspaper reports.
According to the WSJ, one Hindi post instructed “brothers” in need of an Indian homemade gun known as a “desi katta pistol” to “contact the user via Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service at a mobile number provided.”
Through WhatsApp, Naik was able to reach the seller, who informed him that each pistol was available for sale for Rs 11,000. The WSJ asserts to have examined these messages.
According to various posts the newspaper claims to have seen, Bajrang Dal supporters have also threatened to use weapons against Muslims.
According to the newspaper “VHP is affiliated with Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh organisation, known as the RSS, for which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked for decades before his landslide election victory in 2014.” It requested comments from the RSS and the Prime Minister’s Office as well, but neither party responded.