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Mahamandeleshwar Swami Akhileshwarnand Giri

Mahamandeleshwar Swami Akhileshwarnand Giri

Affiliation: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP )
Vocation/Title: Minister of State
Location: Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh

Akhileshwaranand Giri, also known by his title Mahamandaleshwar Swami, is a BJP and RSS-affiliated Hindu monk from Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. He serves as Minister of State in the Madhya Pradesh government and a Cabinet Minister in Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet. Under his influence, the Madhya Pradesh state government established a ministry solely focused on protection of cows. He currently chairs the Madhya Pradesh State Gau Samvardhan Board, which is tasked with cow protection and implicitly signals support for violent cow vigilantism.

As a former Pracharak (preacher) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Giri was an active participant in the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation, which led to the demolition of the historic Babri Mosque and the killing of nearly 2000 Muslims across the country. During the commencement of the construction of the controversial Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir in 2020, Giri assumed the role of chairman of the state-level committee of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), leading the efforts to raise funds for the temple.

Regarded as a ‘spiritual guru’ and a prominent hard-line Hindu leader, Giri is often invited to various programs across the country, where he unreservedly promotes anti-Muslim sentiment and disseminates baseless conspiracy theories to demonize the vulnerable religious minority.

In April 2022, during an interview with the news channel IBC24, Giri criticized the use of loudspeakers during the Azan (Muslim call to prayer), suggesting that it does not align with traditional Islamic practices, and proposed a potential ban. He stated that Hindus are “made to listen to the Azan,” mockingly adding that if Muslims have no issue listening to the Hanuman Chalisa (hymns of the god Hanuman), they should not object to others listening to it, referencing the common Hindu supremacist practice of playing the Hanuman Chalisa and music with genocidal lyrics outside of mosques.

In December 2022, Giri launched a vehement attack on Muslim film star Shahrukh Khan and his recent movie “Pathan,” urging Khan to leave India due to the film’s humanization of Pakistanis. He also criticized a song in the movie featuring actress Deepika Padukone dressed in an orange bikini, claiming the scene disrespected the Hindu faith’s symbol of the color orange, associated with the Hindu God Surya (sun).

In October 2023, he delivered an anti-Muslim speech at an event organized by the Hindu militant group Bajrang Dal in Udupi, Karnataka, threatening Muslims with violence over false claims of ‘Love Jihad.’