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Dhananjay Desai

Dhananjay Desai

Affiliation: Hindu Rashtra Sena ( HRS)
Vocation/ Title: Founder-President HRS
Location: Maharashtra, Pune

Dhanajay Desai is the chief of Hindu Rashtra Sena, a Hindu extremist organization operating in the suburbs of Pune, parts of Mumbai, and some districts across the Maharashtra state.

Desai is a notorious criminal with more than 20 police cases pending against him, including extortion, robbery, and illegal possession of firearms.

Through his organization, Desai has been stoking communal sentiments against Muslims by peddling propaganda of supposed Islamic aggression on India. His organization advocates the idea of a Hindu Rashtra ( nation) for India, usually by resorting to threats and violence. 

In 2007, members of the HRS ransacked the Mumbai office of Star TV for broadcasting the news of an inter-faith marriage between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy.

The HRS has been accused of involvement in the February 2010 German Bakery bomb blast case in Pune, which claimed at least eighteen lives and injured more than sixty people.

Police questioned Desai about the murder of rationalist and anti-superstition activist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, who was shot dead in Pune in August 2013.

In March 2014, Desai and other members of his group were booked by the Pune Cantonment Police on charges of mass distribution of objectionable pamphlets printed by them to hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims.

Since 2014, he conducted several rallies in support of the rape convict Hindu Monk Asaram Bapu.

His organization, HRS, however, came to light after the lynching of a Muslim engineer named Mohsin Sheikh in Pune on June 2, 2014. Goons associated with Desai’s Hindu Rashtra Sena lynched Mohsin to death while going home with his friend Riyaz Ahmed Mubarak Shendure after offering prayers at a mosque.

Desai and several other members of his organization were arrested in the matter. The Pune Sessions Court rejected his bail application eight times until the Bombay High Court granted him regular bail in 2019.

According to the two eyewitnesses, Desai had asked his men to thrash Muslims for putting derogatory pictures of Shivaji Maharaj on Facebook, just sometime before they murdered Shaikh. (All the accused, including Desai, were acquitted by a local court in Pune in 2019 due to lack of evidence.)

In January 2020, Desai was arrested in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, for threatening to disrupt a meeting organized to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the National Population Register (NPR).

He reportedly branded the protest as “treasonous” and its organizers “anti-national” and “traitors.”

“If marches and rallies are being organized to support the anti-national issues, all the countrymen must oppose such things,” he said.

HRS kept issuing threats and actively disrupted anti-CAA marches and rallies in the region during 2019-20.

Emboldened by his acquittal in the 2014 lynching case, Desai regularly organizes and participates in rallies and gives hate speeches calling for making India a Hindu Rashra, threatening violence against Muslims, promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories such as ‘land jihad’ and ‘love jihad’ and advocates for an economic boycott of Muslims.

In a video on his Twitter account, a journalist could be heard saying, “Not every Muslim is a terrorist,” to which Desai reacts, “I can’t sit to check which mosquito carries dengue; I need to have a good sleep.”