Varun’s Acquittal Shocks Muslims
The Uttar Pradesh government’s role in the clean chit given to BJP leader Varun Gandhi in the hate speech he made in the 2009 electioneering has come under scanner. The case was filed against Varun by the then Chief Minister of UP Mayawati on March 8, 2009. In blatant disregard to secular sentiments, the young Turk had allegedly during one of his election campaigns in Pilibhit unleashed rhetoric like cutting off the hands of the Muslims. Varun was charged with spreading hatred against a religious community, inciting violence and firing at police. He spent 20 days in jail before he was released on bail. Overnight Varun gained popularity in the saffron brigade and became the poster boy of the BJP. Varun later won his Lok Sabha election on a BJP ticket from Pilibhit.
It is being alleged that the present government had struck a deal with Varun and ensured that the case was not properly pursued by the state, leading to witnesses turning hostile and administrative and police officers too withdrawing statements. This attitude of the government has greatly hurt the Muslim sentiments and they are feeling let down by the party, whose chief, Mulayum Singh Yadav, they have held in high esteem.
Azam refutes CBI inquiry ruled out
Senior cabinet minister Azam Khan has refuted the statement that he had said that there was no possibility of a CBI probe into provocative speech cases against Varun Gandhi. The statement had been attributed to him by a news agency when he was speaking to media persons at Badaun. Khan was reported as saying that by instituting a CBI inquiry the government will be giving undue importance to a person whose speech is cheap and not one befitting of a politician.
Giving strength to the party’s ant-minority allegations is the former close aide of Mulayam now turned foe, Union minister Beni Prasad Verma, who is openly calling Mulayam “communal” and far from being a messiah of the Muslims. Beni has alleged that Varun was cleared due to tacit understanding with Akhilesh Yadav’s SP government in Uttar Pradesh. He alleged that the witnesses were pressurised by the state government not to depose.
“Of course, Muslims are angry and hurt; they feel let down and cheated. It is clear that Varun was free of these grievous charges because of pure laxity on the part of the government, which did not pursue the case,” says Sajjad, a warq-maker in the bylanes of old Lucknow.
“Varun was recorded on tape for inciting communal passions and targeting minorities in his speech and was booked by the then Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government, but this government just let him go so easily. How is it possible that all 88 witnesses turned hostile?” asked Yasoob Abbas, spokesperson of the Shia Muslim Personal Law Board.
Appeal against order: A damage control exercise?
The Uttar Pradesh government will challenge the Pilibhit court’s order that acquitted Varun Gandhi in two hate speech and one vandalism cases. Inspector General of Police for a Special Task Force Ashish Gupta informed the media persons about this.
He said there were two cases of hate speech against Varun lodged during Lok Sabha elections in 2009, whereas another case of vandalism was filed in the same year. Among hate speech cases, one was lodged at the Kotwali police station in Pilibhit, while another was filed at Bharkhera of the same district. In the cases related to hate speech, Varun was acquitted by the court of chief judicial magistrate on February 27 and March 5. In the case relating to vandalism, he was discharged on May 3 by the session court.
Demanding that Mulayam and party clear their stand on Muslims, Yasoob told Uday India that Varun’s acquittal has not gone well with the minority, which feels cheated and totally let down by the SP. He said the party must never forget that its strength lies in Muslim support, because it is ultimately the Muslim votes that will tilt the balance and Mulayam cannot afford to ignore this vital fact. “Varun is another Modi and BJP is nurturing him as a substitute. See the way BJP has rewarded him first with the post of general secretary and now with the charge of West Bengal. Can we afford a second Modi?” he asked.
Deploring the purposeful negligence and non-serious attitude of the government in pursuing the case against Varun, Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangimahli said the Muslims have taken Varun’s acquittal as an insult to their community.
An expose by a national magazine has alleged that the 88 witnesses, who had turned hostile during the trial, have alleged, off camera in a sting operation that they were ‘coerced’ or ‘bribed’ to change their testimonies. They even alleged that their statements were drafted by the lawyers and their thumb impression or signatures were forcefully put on them. Their statements were taken in absence of judge.
Naseem Iqtedar, a social activist, also appeared very disturbed over the issue. “Yeh kaun sa insaaf hain jo sirf Musalmaan ko hi pakarta hain aur sub ko clean chit deta hain?” (what kind of law is this that only catches the Muslims and gives clean chit to others), she asked.
Terming it a judgement that has humiliated and hurt the sentiments of Muslim community, Iqtedar said that the Muslims have very high regard for the Indian judiciary and while many of its judgements have been just and welcome, a few like this one on Varun Gandhi have raised doubts in the mind of the minority. “This judgment has shaken us, humarey etbaar par dhakka laga hain” (our trust has been shaken), she said. She laid full blame on the state government for showing laxity and unconcern in pursuing this important case.
Meanwhile social scientist, Dr Ramesh Dixit, is of the view that the Muslims must keep their cool and not retaliate or shun Mulayam, for he is the only force to tackle the saffronism of Modi and Varun. Dixit opines that this is the propaganda of the Congress Party, which wants to appear as the only messiah of the Muslims and which is, through Varun case, trying to malign the state government for electoral gains.
He said 2014 elections will be a true litmus test for both democracy and secularism of India and issues like Varun Gandhi are little aberrations in the way which must be ignored in the larger interest of minority. Dr Dixit added that the bigger danger lurking in the background is saffronism.
By Kulsum Mustafa from lucknow