Exclusive: Bajrang Dal leader convicted of murder behind Ashram Sete attack

The Bajrang Dal leader was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2011 but got bail in 2015.

Bhopal:

NDTV has found that one of the masterminds of the attack on director Prakash Jha and his crew on the sets of their web series “Ashram” in Bhopal last month is a Bajrang Dal leader, who was earlier convicted of murder.

Suresh Sudele, the provincial chief (regional head) of the Bhopal unit of the right-wing outfit, was among the seven people arrested by the police for allegedly attacking the sets of the ashram. A day later, all seven, including Sudele, got bail. Police say they are not guilty as the team at the ashram was reportedly not inclined to register a complaint. Police booked Mr Sudele and others under a relatively minor section of the law, which meant they were able to get bail immediately.

But Mr. Sudeley has a violent past that appears to have escaped the attention of the police. In 2011 he was convicted for the murder of Bhagchand, a Bhopal-based businessman, getting bail after four years.

Legal experts suggest that the police should have moved the court immediately to get Mr Sudele’s bail in the murder case that was quashed after the attack on Prakash Jha. State Home Minister Dr. Narottam Mishra did not respond to a query in this regard.

The Congress has alleged that the ruling BJP is harboring criminals and Mr. Sudele is free from impunity because of his political ties. The right-wing leader appears in several photographs in the company of state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Home Minister Narottam Mishra, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and other BJP and RSS leaders.

“Suresh Sudelay organizes the attacks and many people, including the state home minister, praise him. He is out on bail in a murder case. If the government will give shelter to people who have broken the law then how will we build a film city and How will he create more jobs? He should be sent to jail immediately, former law minister and Congress leader PC Sharma said, it is unfortunate that the state government is giving him shelter.

After the attack, Narottam Mishra stopped shortly before defending the violence perpetrated by the Bajrang Dal men on the sets of the web series. He supported the right-wing group’s demand to change the name of the web series. In a tweet, he said such television content is an “attempt to deliberately target Hinduism”.

“I also support this. Why is the web series named Ashram? They will understand (results) if they name it (web series or stories) after others (religion)? We consider sabotage to be wrong. Four people were arrested and further legal steps will be taken. But, Jha sahib (Prakash Jha), think about your mistakes too,” Mr Mishra had said, referring to the web series.

Mr. Sudele was hesitant when asked by NDTV about his past and the demand for cancellation of his bail. “We didn’t threaten Prakash Jha, it was a symbolic protest. His bouncers from Bhopal first attacked us, then this incident happened,” he said. He did not respond to a specific question on his bail.

The police had said that a group of members of Bajrang Dal had created a ruckus on the sets of the web series. Videos shot by witnesses on mobile phones show members of the right-wing organization chasing the crew, managing to nab at least one of them and brutally thrashing him with a metal light stand. Prakash Jha was also misbehaved and his face was inked. Mr. Sudelle bragged about it on camera and said that they are looking for actor Bobby Deol, who plays the lead role in the series.

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