Hyderabad: The Mangalhat police station on Thursday served a notice to Goshamahal MLA Raja Singh in connection with a “provocative speech” made at Ajmer Dargah last year. The complainant in the case is Syed Mahmood Ali and is registered at the Kanchanbagh police station under Section 295-A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The case was investigated by Mangalhat police station after it was re-registered under its limits.
Following investigations, Raja Singh has been directed by Mangalhat police station to not commit any offenses in the future, not tamper with any of the evidences in the current case. He has also been directed to not threaten, induce or coerce any person acquainted with the facts of the case.
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Further, Singh, an elected member of the Telangana state assembly, will have to cooperate with the investigation and have to appear before the court whenever ordered to do so. All documents regarding the case have to be produced by Singh and he has been ordered to not destroy any evidence in connection with the case. Any failure to comply with the notice could result in the MLA’s arrest as per Section 41 A (3) and (4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Who is Raja Singh?
T Raja Singh has been consistently, like several of his party men, following his tried and tested way of becoming popular l on social media via video clips of speeches that are incendiary and peddle hate. Since 2018 right until now, this trend by the BJP MLA has been meticulously documented.
Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has continuously tracked, and complained about this hate offender for years. In February, 2019 CJP’s Hate Watch team had identified how one false rumour has proliferated, and prompted a hate-filled speech by Raja Singh that was broadcast via Facebook. The CJP had highlighted Singh’s influential position as a sitting member of the Telangana Legislative Assembly as well as a party whip in the state, noting that he had half a million followers on Facebook. This incident took place right after the BJP-PDP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir collapsed, and ahead of the Amarnath Yatra scheduled for July-August.
Way back, five years ago, in 2018, Singh had posted on his Facebook account explicitly asking his followers not to buy anything from the “terrorist Kashmiris” for the annual Amarnath Yatra and Citizens for Justice and Peace (cjp.org.in) had complained to the platform, Facebook. By July 2019, the video had been viewed 3,00,000 times. Singh has also had FIRs registered against him for promoting enmity between groups but Facebook continued to entertain his account harbouring venomous content. CJP had also discovered in 2019 that his page which was supposedly taken down, was not the case and his official page was active. The CJP was invited to a Roundtable on Online Hate Speech: Facebook Community Standards, on February 5, 2019 where during the question answer session with Facebook’s Varun Reddy, the CJP team showed examples of hate speech, like the page of Raja Singh, which was not taken down even after repeated reporting.
The record continues. In year 2020, Raja Singh was among the central figures named in an August Wall Street Journal report that documented how Facebook ignored hate speech by BJP leaders to protect its business interests in India. By March of that year, they concluded Singh not only had violated the company’s hate-speech rules but qualified as dangerous, a designation that takes into account a person’s off-platform activities. By March 2021, when Facebook finally concluded that Raja Singh had violated its own Community standards (Objectionable Content) and Violence and Criminal Behaviour rules, he was removed from FB. However, the hate words of this offender are also spread via so called “fan pages” named Tiger Raja Singh Fan Club and T Raja Singh Samarthak Jalgaon PRK Group which collectively have lakhs of followers.
UP Election campaign of BJP garners hate offenders
During to the run up to last year’s state elections in the north Indian state, around February 15, 2022, a video showing T Raja Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the Goshamahal Assembly of Hyderabad, Telangana, threatening Uttar Pradesh’s Hindu voters with dire consequences if the Adityanath-led BJP government is not re-elected, began circulating on social media. He was then heard and seen warning the voters that if they do not vote for a “Yogi-government” then their houses will be identified and destroyed with bulldozers and JCBs.
Singh, a serial hate speech maker, said, “Jo log Bharatiya Janata Party ko vote nahi karte unko mai kehna chahunga ki Yogi ji ne hazaron ki sankhya mein JCBs, bulldozers mangwa liye hai. Uttar Pradesh ki awr nikal chuke hai. Election ke baad mein jo jo log Yogi ji ko support nahi kare, unn sabhi areas ko identify kiya jayega. Aur pata hain na JCBs aur bulldozers kiske liye use mein aate hai? Toh mai Uttar Pradesh ke un gaddaaron ko kehna chahunga, jo ye chahte hai ki firse Yogi ji mukhya mantri na bane, toh beta agar Uttar Pradesh mein rehna ho toh Yogi-Yogi kehna hoga, nahi toh Uttar Pradesh chhod ke tumlogon ko bhaagna hoga.”
This threat, ostensibly telling Hindu voters that they will be severely punished if they do not vote for BJP, translates as, “To those who do not vote for Bharatiya Janata Party, I want to tell them that Yogi ji has ordered JCBs and bulldozers in thousands. These have already left for Uttar Pradesh. After the election, the areas of each person who did not support Yogi ji will be identified. And you know right what JCBs and bulldozers are used for? So, I want to say this to those traitors of Uttar Pradesh who do not want that Yogi ji becomes the Chief Minister again – beta (child) if you want to live in Uttar Pradesh then you have to say ‘Yogi-Yogi’ (support Yogi), otherwise you people will have to run out of Uttar Pradesh.”
At the time, while the Election Commission (EC) issues notice, it appeared to be lax in follow up.Once this video went viral the Election Commission issued a notice to T Raja Singh, for his statement. Issued on Wednesday, the notice put on record that Raja was seen and heard in the video clip saying, “Those who do not vote for the BJP, I would like to tell them that Yogiji has arranged thousands of JCB bulldozers…” The ECI told Singh to give his explanation within 24 hours on why action should not be initiated against him for allegedly violating the model code of conduct, the Indian Penal Code, and the Representation of the People Act.
Raja Singh’s use, in intimidatory speech of the ‘bulldozer threat” was clearly part of a collective party effort to garner support for the publicly announced policy of the Adityanath government –then seeking re-election to its second term – of ‘bulldozing graveyards’ and the ‘mafia’ –in a crude and brazen misnomer (reference) for the state’s Muslims. The 2022 state election in Uttar Pradesh (UP) had seen several such speeches being made, including those by other BJP MLAs from the state like Brij Bhushan Singh from Kaiserganj.
Even before the complaints on social media platforms, in 2016, Mohammed Irfan Quadri, a Hyderabad-based social activist-turned-politician filed a complaint against BJP MLA from Goshamahal Raja Singh. Quadri’s complaint to the police was about the vitriolic videos of Raja Singh in general; however, he mentioned three videos as examples in his complaint. In one speech, Raja Singh warned Muslims against slaughtering cows, and threatened that if they continued to, they would be slaughtered in the same way. Five years later, on December 17, 2021, Raja Singh was acquitted by a Special Court that specifically examines cases against lawmakers in the state. At the time, The News Minute had undertaken a detailed investigation on the reasons why the evidence did not hold. The TNM analysis concluded that the court had two reasons to acquit Raja Singh — firstly, the police had skipped a procedure that required recording the material evidence properly; and the more serious reason — the police did not ask for sanction from the government to prosecute the MLA before or after filing the chargesheet. To prosecute an elected representative in certain cases, a sanction is needed from the government concerned.
Significantly this MLA, Raja Singh has about 101 criminal cases registered against Thakur Raja Singh Lodh, popularly known as T Raja Singh, who is a habitual offender when it comes to communal hate speech against Muslims. Of these, Raja Singh has been convicted in just one single case till date. In fact, he has been acquitted in a majority of the hate speech cases booked against him. And the way he escapes conviction is usually on ‘technical grounds’. Media speculation is rife about whether a lack of will from the state government led by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) ensures that Raja Singh does not get convicted.
What are the crimes of Raja Singh?
From referring to old Hyderabad as a mini-Pakistan to calling Rohingya Muslims ‘terrorists who should be shot’, to calling for the burning down of theatres that screened the Bollywood film Padmaavat in 2018, Raja Singh makes the news under the ‘controversy’ tagline often. His most recent controversy was when he warned comedian Munawar Faruqui against coming to Hyderabad to perform his stand-up act. Singh also stoked angry agitations and protests over his remarks against Prophet Mohammed.
Following public protests, on August 25, 2022 Singh became the first public representative to be booked under the Preventive Detention (PD) Act by the Hyderabad Police. The 45-year-old Goshamahal legislator was then detained under Act no 1 of 1986 on the same day, and was sent to the Cherlapally Central Prison.
India has hate speech laws to prevent discord among religious communities. The law allows a citizen to seek punishment for anyone who creates a disruption in social harmony “on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language or caste.” India prohibits hate speech by several sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and by other laws which put reasonable restrictions on the freedom of expression. A person indulging in hate speech is usually booked under section 153A or 295A of the IPC. The BJP legislator has several cases booked against him under these two sections.
Under section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), “No Court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under Chapter VI or under section 153A of Indian Penal Code or Section 295A or sub section (1) of section 505 of the Indian Penal Code…except with the previous sanction of the Central Government or of the State Government.” Section 153A refers to ‘Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence’; and 295A refers to ‘Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’. In several of the cases against Raja Singh — which tend to fall under these sections — the police have either not sought permission from the state government, or they haven’t received the requisite sanctions.
Lone successful conclusion
It is only in one case booked in 2015 at the Bollaram police station regarding a beef festival organised at Osmania University that Raja Singh was convicted in 2020. He was sentenced to one month rigorous imprisonment and a Rs 5,000 fine. However he was also granted bail in the case.
Witnesses turned hostile
According to the TNM report, among the several cases against Raja Singh, one particular case was booked at the Shahinayathgunj Police Station in 2010. This pertained not to hate speech alone but actual physical attack and Raja Singh was allegedly involved. According to reports on the case, on March 30, 2010 a mob led by Raja Singh attacked a CRPF officer and vandalised a police vehicle. This mob also set fire to a mosque at Gandhi Galli, and to the gates of another mosque, apart from vandalising a paan shop and setting it on fire.
Of the 11 witnesses in this case, several turned hostile during trial. The star witness in the case, Ismail, also the defacto complainant in the case, denied any knowledge of the case during trial even stating that 12 years ago he had signed and handed over a blank paper to the Shahinayathgunj Police Station at the behest of the police officers! Naturally, the Prosecution declared him hostile. Thereafter, eight other witnesses in the case who were the panch witnesses in the case did not support the version of the prosecution.
This case also had two police personnel as witnesses. Muniratnam, a police constable, told the court that a mob of 300 persons had pelted stones when the police tried to stop the procession. However, he also said that he could not identify any of those who were in the procession.
Finally, the last witness was Mazher Mohd Khan, who was one of the investigating officers. He deposed that the crime was registered by him as per statement of the witnesses against unknown offenders. However, he had registered a case against unknown offenders 12 years ago but since none of the witnesses could identify the accused as the ones involved, the court acquitted all those accused in the case, including Raja Singh.
There were more physical attacks by Raja Singh, nevertheless chosen by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to be its since successful candidate in the state polls. The same day that he was acquitted in the Gandhi Galli attack case, in 2010, two more cases were booked against Raja Singh and others at the Afzalgunj police station. Two different cases were booked on March 30, 2010 for attacking the Gandhi Galli Mosque and setting fire to the gate of the Bahadur Jung Mosque. In both these cases too, Raja Singh and others were acquitted 12 years later by the Special Court for MPs and MLAs in 2021. According to the defence, in these two cases too the prosecution failed to prove the accused as guilty.
The fear of reprisals, a tardy ad hostile system is notorious for not just prolonging trials but rendering witnesses hostile. Repeat offenders like Raja Singh, who appear to have no difficulty in garnering professional legal support, triumph and hate-spilling continues, unabated.
Image Courtesy: deccanchronicle.com