On Christmas eve, members reportedly belonging to the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal and other rightwing groups set an effigy of Santa Claus on fire in the middle of a street in Agra while shouting “Santa Claus Murdabad”.
According to a report in India Today, this was a protest against “using the ruse of Santa Claus during Christmas”. The main instigator appears to be one Ajju Chauhan, who reportedly said, “Santa [Claus] does not come bearing any gifts, his only goal is to convert the Hindus to Christianity. It’s not going to work anymore. Any attempt at conversion will not be allowed to succeed. If this is not stopped, then there will be agitations at missionary schools.”
In 2015, Ajju Chauhan, whose real name is Avnindra Pratap Singh, and who was then a senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader, made headlines for organising a ‘ghar wapsi’ (return home) programme to convert ‘1,500 Muslim families’ to Hinduism. He was later reportedly sacked from the VHP after distributing pamphlets for a ‘Beti Bachao, Bahu Lao’ (‘save a daughter, bring home a daughter-in-law’) campaign. This movement was Chauhan’s purported rejoinder to the Sangh Parivar’s bogey of ‘love jihad’, which claims without evidence that Muslim men are involved in a conspiracy to convert Hindu women by marrying them.
At the time, Chauhan said, “Only Hindu girls are being targeted by Muslim youths in love jihad. They hide their Muslim identity, wear sacred threads on wrists, tilak on forehead and even recite Hanuman Chalisa to trap Hindu girls…We will teach them a lesson in their own language.”