“This is not a hand (Congress symbol), it is the power of the lotus (BJP symbol). It will cut the head of… Jai Shri Ram,” a PTI report quoted Varun Gandhi (29) as telling an election meeting in Pilibhit, his attack directed at the Muslims. At another meeting, the PTI report said, he said: “If anyone raises a finger towards Hindus or if someone thinks that Hindus are weak and leaderless, if someone thinks that these leaders lick our boots for votes, if anyone raises a finger towards Hindus, then I swear on Gita that I will cut that hand.”
(Varun Gandhi’s hate-Muslim speech makes his BJP squirm; Express News Service: Lucknow, Tue Mar 17 2009)
Mr Varun Gandhi, BJP M.P. was all smiles when he emerged from the courts which had acquitted him in the second hate speech case. Expressing confidence in the Indian Constitution and India’s Legal System he said ‘truth has prevailed’. Only a few days ago another court in UP had acquitted him of the first hate speech case. It may be added that when extracts of the speeches he had allegedly delivered during election campaign in 2009 had appeared in a section of the press, the then Mayawati government had promptly filed cases against him and ordered his arrest and had to spend some time behind bars before bail was ultimately granted to him then.
It is interesting to recall how BJP, had then reacted to his alleged hatespeeches. Officially it was stated then that the BJP party squirmed when his controversial speeches had made headlines, with one of its spokesperson claiming that Varun’s outburst “did not reflect BJP’s traditional culture”. It it was a different matter that the then party president Mr Rajnath Singh had gone to visit him in jail supposedly to show solidarity.
Coming back to the case and looking at the legal proceedings, one finds that there are many gaps, which have allowed this acquittal to happen. In fact, the role of the Akhilesh Yadav led government in the whole case has also come under scanner. Few months back newspapers carried out a report wherein it was mentioned that Akhilesh led government was contemplating withdrawal of cases against the young M.P. As this report – which was never confirmed nor rejected – raised an uproar in the state, no formal withdrawal of cases was done. A fact which has been noted by activists is that once it was known that state government was not keen to follow the case witnesses started turning hostile..
Another point concerns the issue of voice sample. The forensic report had stated that unless and until they get a voice sample they would not be able to confirm it whether the said speeches were made by Mr Varun or not. It is really surprising that despite repeated instructions by the honourable court Mr Gandhi had not agreed to submit his voice sample to the police which would have validated the prosecution’s charge against him. According to him his speeches had been edited by local channels to make it seem like he was promoting communal hatred. Interestingly the broadcasters were unable to furnish the original, unedited footage to the police. 51 witnesses produced by the prosecution did not indict him for delivering speeches to provoke communal hatred.The same witnesses were used for the second case. The courts also did not deem it necessary to call reporters of the TV channels as well as the print media, which had carried report about the controversial speeches.
A statement issued by ‘Rihai Manch’ – A forum for the release of innocent Muslims imprisoned in the name of Terrorism’ , Lucknow, (email- email@example.com) has thrown light on the way the witnesses in the case turned hostile – en masse. According to them it cannot be called mere coincidence that during hearings in the said cases held on 24 th November and 29 th November, total 18 witnesses turned hostile, The press release further underlined that when Mr Gandhi refused to give voice samples to the public prosecutor, he neither apprised the courts of Mr Gandhi’s refusal nor deemed it necessary to emphasise the point and ensure that it was done.According to them it rather vindicates the fact that the state government was keen to release Mr Varun Gandhi and not to punish him.
‘Rihai Manch’ also questioned the role of the judiciary in the whole case. It added when advocate Asad Hayat, associated with the Manch put forward a prayer before the CJM court in Pilibhit on 25 th February that since Mr Varun Gandhi’s said speeches had hurt his religious feelings therefore the channels who had shown his speeches be called as witnesses. The petition also requested to the honourable courts to ensure Mr Varun Gandhi’s voice sample be taken and if he does not comply then consider it adverse inference in his case and declare that it was his speech only. The court did not admit the petition and because of the insistence of public prosecutor rejected it on 27 th February.
Mr Asad Hayat then put a revision application in the highcourt and also petitioned the CJM’s court a second time that since an application is pending before the highcourt in connection with rejection of his case on 27 th February, it is requested that the CJM’s court does not decide on the matter till the highcourt gives its decision. Here also because of the resistance put forward by the public prosecutor, the CJM court rejected his application on 4 th March and finally gave its verdict on 5 th March.
One does not know what will happen next. With more than eleven communal riots in a period of less than a year, under a government which has received fullsome support from the minorities, Akhilesh Yadav led government has exhibited its ineptness in handling communal elements. If justice is to be done in the hatespeech case it is incumbent that the state government challenge this decision by moving a fresh application in the high courts. Looking at the fact that there is a world of difference between what the Samajwadi Party claims and does, the possibility seems really dim.