Shortly after the death of Waris Khan, Monu Manesar made headlines again when two Muslim men, identified as Junaid and Nasir, were found dead in the back of a burnt vehicle in Haryana’s Bhiwani region on February 16. The two were residents of Gopalgarh village in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur.
Speaking to Frontline, Ismail, a cousin of the two men, alleged that they had been burnt alive after being kidnapped by six members of the Haryana wing of the Bajrang Dal, including Monu Manesar.
In his complaint to the police, Ismail stated that Junaid and Nasir had left for Bharatpur town on the morning of February 15 for some personal work. Around 9 am, a stranger informed him that Junaid and Nasir had been “brutally beaten up” by a group of men before being kidnapped. “Monu Manesar and his group are behind their murder. They kidnapped Junaid and Nasir from Rajasthan’s Piruka forests and took them to Haryana’s Bhiwani, where they were burned alive,” he said.
“The people at the spot said they were from the Bajrang Dal,” states Ismail’s complaint, “including Anil, resident of Multhan; Shrikant, resident of Maroda; Rinku Saini, resident of Ferozepur Jhirka; Lokesh Singla, resident of Hodal; and Monu resident of Manesar”.
Based on this complaint, the Rajasthan Police filed an FIR on February 16 against six members of the Bajrang Dal under Indian Penal Code Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person), 367 (kidnapping or abducting in order to subject person to grievous hurt, slavery, etc.) and 368 (wrongfully concealing or keeping in confinement, kidnapped or abducted person). Monu Manesar is widely considered the face of cow protection in Haryana.
According to the Rajasthan Police, Junaid has five previous cases of cow smuggling registered against him, and Nasir does not have a criminal record.
Shortly after the FIR was filed, Monu Manesar took to social media saying that the charges against them were baseless. “No team of the Bajrang Dal was at the spot where the incident took place. No member of the Bajrang Dal is involved in this. The incident, as we have seen on social media, is unfortunate. Strict action should be taken against the perpetrators, and no one should be spared,” he said.
In a press conference held in Gurugram on February 17, the Bajrang Dal denied the involvement of any of its members in the deaths of Junaid and Nasir. Calling the allegations baseless, Bajrang Dal representatives said there was no evidence against any member and that it was wrong to register an FIR against them. The group also accused the Congress government in Rajasthan of using this opportunity to target gaurakshaks and use them for political gains.
Monu, a native of Manesar, joined the Bajrang Dal in 2011 as a district coordinator. Bharatpur IG Gaurav Srivastava told reporters that Manesar’s phone has been switched off since the FIR was filed. Further investigations in the case are under way, the police said.
On his several social media accounts, Manesar describes himself as a “gaurakshak” and social activist. In a montage uploaded on his Facebook page on January 30, 2023, he writes, “Jab tak todenge nahin jab tak chodhenge nahin.” (Till the time we don’t break them [cow smugglers], we will not leave them.)
His Instagram account, which has now been made private, was seen by Frontline, and it showed him posting videos boasting of his many guns and vehicles. Social media posts from the early days of Monu’s vigilantism frequently showed group members grabbing their victims by the hair. His mentor, Dharmender Manesar, employed the same strategy. All his social media sites revealed a pattern that ran counter to his claims of non-violence.
When Frontline first spoke to Monu Manesar about his role in Waris’ death, he flatly rejected the allegations. However, following the filing of the FIR in the Rajasthan case, Manesar’s phone has been switched off, and his team members are not answering their phones. And those seen as being close to him from his social media feeds now deny knowing him.