Face to face, Vikram Singh Chauhan's self-confidence can be unnerving unless you are one of the posse of fellow lawyers who have just garlanded him and are hanging on his every word.

By Ananya Sengupta
  • Published 20.02.16

New Delhi, Feb. 19: Face to face, Vikram Singh Chauhan's self-confidence can be unnerving unless you are one of the posse of fellow lawyers who have just garlanded him and are hanging on his every word.

Chauhan, 38, who led the lawyers' attacks on JNU students, teachers and journalists at the Patiala House Courts on Monday and on arrested student leader Kanhaiya Kumar two days later, had just been felicitated by his colleagues when he met The Telegraph on Thursday.

"I'm news, that's why people like you are coming to talk to me," the tall and well-built district court lawyer boasts, standing on the steps of the bar association office at the Karkardooma court complex in east Delhi.

"I stand for nationalism and will do what I did again and again," he adds crisply, appearing to thrill the hero-worshipping crowd of lawyers around him by ignoring their pleas to speak with caution.

An early hint of the atmosphere in which the interview would be conducted came just as Chauhan led this correspondent from the gates of the complex towards the bar association office.

"Party ke order hai, Umar Khalid aaye toh uske haat-payr tod dena, marna nahin," he told a colleague in a loud enough voice, referring to a student who has been in hiding since being accused of sedition for allegedly organising the February 9 protests at JNU. Translated, it means that there are orders from "the party" - the BJP - to break Khalid's arms and legs but not kill him.

(The Supreme Court today declined to entertain directly the bail pea of Kanhaiya and asked him to approach Delhi High Court.)

"I have 5,000 friends on Facebook and 8,000 contacts on my phone. There isn't a state in this country where I don't have friends," Chauhan volunteers as the interview begins, almost daring this correspondent to ask an uncomfortable question.

The theme of his having many "friends", some in high places, recurs again and again as the small-time lawyer seeks to underline his clout. Chauhan has ignored a police summons for questioning on Thursday but claims he plans to answer it on Saturday.

Today, he organised a march by some 1,000 lawyers protesting his alleged victimisation by the police.

"I have so many friends that I have been living in Delhi for the past three years without paying any rent," the Haryana native declares.

Chauhan’s “friends”, standing in a tight circle around him, break out in titters.

Chauhan’s Facebook page is full of photographs showing him with senior BJP leaders — from Rajnath Singh to J.P. Nadda and Kailash Vijayvargiya — and small-time Bollywood actors.

“I like clicking pictures with well-known people,” he confesses. He then makes an attempt at a humorous putdown: “If you were from the (names a big-selling newspaper) I would have clicked a picture with you too.”

Chauhan, who calls himself “a BJP worker”, is more likely to be seen at a political rally than inside a courtroom, fellow lawyers said.

“He mobilises people for BJP and RSS meetings in Delhi and neighbouring states and helped organise the ABVP campaign during last year’s Delhi University elections,” said one.

“He is an inveterate name-dropper too, always mentioning this or that big leader in conversations with us.”
A close woman friend of Chauhan cited “another side” to the former student of the Kendriya Vidyalaya in Rewari (Haryana) and law graduate from Rohtak.

“You will often find him dining in swank restaurants or driving big cars, music blaring. His seatbelt would likely be untied.”

Chauhan seems to have used Facebook and WhatsApp to muster the crowds of lawyers at the Patiala House complex this week, urging them to teach “anti-nationals” a lesson.

He bristles at the mention of the violence. “I’m a true patriot. My blood boiled when I heard them (JNU students) chant pro-Afzal Guru slogans. My father fought in the 1971 war — how can I tolerate these slogans? They started hitting us, so we did what we thought appropriate.”

Some of his colleagues make another attempt to check him but Chauhan has already warmed to his subject. He raises a hand, motioning his men to step back, and requests this correspondent to go on and ask anything she wants. “I will speak, I’m not afraid of anything.”

Chauhan cites how, as an 11-year-old, he would write to foreign embassies to send him literature on their countries’ struggles and how he acquired a German pen-friend at 14.

Between mentioning Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose and Chandrashekhar Azad to explain his “brand of nationalism”, he claims he has “many friends” in the army.

“How can I forget their sacrifice? I come from an area that has given this country more soldiers than any other,” Chauhan goes on.

“Just because I’m a lawyer doesn’t mean I can’t be a patriot. Every drop of blood in my body is that of a nationalist.”