Hate Watch: Choudhary Lal Singh’s bigoted diatribe knows no end Part of our India's Most Offensive series

26, Jun 2018 | Preksha Malu

Choudhary Lal Singh is no stranger to controversy. His antics have been scandalous even before he took part in the Hindu Ekta Manch march supporting the alleged perpetrators in the Kathua rape and murder case. He is one of the worst serial offenders when it comes to spreading hate.

There was absolute silence from BJP when the senior leader and former minister Lal Singh openly threatened Kashmiri journalists. “Kashmiri journalists should draw a line on the journalism they do. Do they have to face [something] like what happened to Basharat [referring to Shujaat Bukhari], so that such a situation emerges. So mend your ways and draw a line, so that this brotherhood remains intact and there is progress,” Singh said in an interview on Friday.

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The BJP and its IT cell were busy sending messages about the importance of freedom of press on the 43rd  anniversary of the Emergency and pointing fingers at Congress’ legacy. They didn’t mention how their own member was threatening journalists. Amit Shah tweeted about Emergency and media’s freedom and had even accosted Rahul Gandhi on June 23 demanding an apology from him over remarks made by Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saifuddin Soz on Kashmir and asked him to act against the two.

On June 25, The New Indian Express  quoted BJP Jammu and Kashmir president Ravindra Raina as saying that no action would be taken against Singh for his statements. No other leader from the party has so far condemned Singh. The J&K BJP, thus, seems officially okay with one of its leaders threatening journalists on a public forum.

Singh’s diatribe against journalists, in unambiguous terms, is a threat. Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code defines criminal intimidation as threatening a person with harm to make them do something, “or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do”.

Reporting and writing about the happenings around them is a journalist’s job. The Constitution guarantees jourtnalists freedom of speech and expression. Singh has a personal grouse against mediapersons – he has been railing against them since April, after he was forced to resign as the state forests minister over his role in defending the Kathua gangrape and murder accused.

Lal Singh was one of the two BJP ministers in the BJP-PDP Mehbooba Mufti led government and was forced to resign in April this year after he took part in the Hindu Ekta Manch campaign to free the accused arrested for the gang-rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua.

“Kashmiri journalists have created wrong atmosphere about the whole case,” he complained on Friday and it is believed that he holds journalists responsible for his ouster. His dramatic exit from BJP has created a lot of tension for the party in J&K, especially since it ended its alliance with PDP and the state is currently under governer’s rule.

Who is Choudhary Lal Singh?

Choudhary Lal Singh is no stranger to controversy. His antics have been scandalous even before he took part in the Hindu Ekta Manch march supporting the alleged perpetrators in the Kathua rape and murder case.

He is a member of the 12th Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir and represents the Basohli constituency. He was Minister for Forest, Environment, Ecology of J&K in PDP-BJP coalition government. He was earlier inducted into state cabinet as Minister for Health and Medical Education in Congress-PDP coalition government. In August 2014, he left Congress after being denied ticket as a candidate for the 16th Lok Sabha elections and joined BJP at an event held in Kathua. Singh has remained a state cabinet minister thrice and parliament member twice till now.

In March 2015, reports of him misbehaving with a doctor started doing the rounds. “Dr Gurmeet Kour, registrar of the state-run Hospital for Psychiatry Diseases, said Minister for Health and Medical Education Choudhary Lal Singh shouted at her in public, leaving her “mentally harassed and wrecked.” “This amounts to outraging the modesty of a lady medical officer in public,” she wrote,” a report by The Indian Express said. In July the same year, a picture of him adjusting the collar of a medical student went viral.

His younger brother Rajinder Singh also has an FIR lodged against him for abusing Mehbooba Mufti and calling her a dog in a rally. “The 26-second video clip purportedly shot during the ‘Dogri Swabhiman’ rally shows Choudhary Rajinder Singh, younger brother of Lal Singh, atop a vehicle and using abusive language against the chief minister,” reported Times of India.

“In May 2016, when a group Gujjar community had gone to Choudhary Lal Singh’s residence in Jammu in connection with an issue pertaining to their orchard land, he allegedly went to the extent of threatening the Gujjars with a repeat of the 1947 massacre of Muslims. Singh was referring to the incident in November 1947 when thousands of Muslims were killed in Jammu by paramilitaries led by the army of Dogra ruler Hari Singh,” reported News18.

“During his tenure as the forests minister, he had promised to “retrieve forest land,” which the Muslim Gujjar Bakarwal tribes had feared was a ploy to evict them,” reported DailyO.

Marching for rapists and its aftermath

His controversial participation in the rally organized in support of the accused in the Kathua rape incident cost him his new friends. He was asked to resign from the cabinet in April.

Since then, he has been adamant in demanding a CBI enquiry for the incident and is enraged that Dogras (his community) have been defamed by labelling them as ‘rapists and pro-rapists.’ He even said that Maharaja’s ruled Kashmir better than the current government.

“Ever since his sacking, Singh has upped the demand for probe by the CBI in the rape and murder of eight-year-old girl from the Bakerwal community despite the J&K police’s crime branch investigation proving that the victim was illegally confined, sedated and gang-raped before she was killed with an aim to drive away her nomadic community from Rassana village in Kathua,” reported The Wire.

After he was sacked, Kattha factories linked to Singh were raided. Kattha is a raw material obtained from Khair trees. The police is probing his involvement in charges of favouritism in the supply of wood in excessive quantities to some factory owners, more than what was permissible under the rules.

“Soon after Singh was sacked, the J&K chief minister assigned additional charge of the forest department to deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh. Within days of taking over the charge, Nirmal Singh ordered a crackdown on the factories apart from carrying out a massive reshuffle in the forest department at top levels, removing all officials who were seen to be close to his party colleague. According to a government official, the forest department, under Singh, had rejected a proposal by the deputy chief minister for permitting commercial exploitation of Khair trees from his constituency of Bilawar and some villages recommended by him. While the capacity of the three factories doesn’t exceed 10,000 cubic meters annually, the availability of raw material from private land and non-forest area is 20,900 cubic meters, according to a study by Himalayan Forest Research Institute, Shimla. Despite the adequate availability of raw material, the forest department hadn’t allowed the establishment of more units, forcing the farmers to sell the raw material to these three units only,” reported The Wire. It is believed that Lal Singh had direct investments in these raw material companies.

Winning the battle, losing the war

Lal Singh is now playing politics straight out of the Game of Thrones series. He has consistently shown BJP over the last few months as to where the allegiance of Jammu’s people lies.

“Under fire for the support that two of its (now-dumped) ministers Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga and some MLAs extended to the Kathua rape accused, the BJP tried to minimise the damage – by sacking them and getting Mehbooba to reshuffle her ministry. However, this move too backfired, with Lal Singh going on the offensive and taking out a big rally and following it with up mega rallies. The huge crowds that came to hear Lal Singh, who mostly criticised the PDP, were a grim reminder to the saffron party, which had won 25 seats in the last assembly elections, that the people of Jammu were no longer ready to follow it. There were also indications that Lal Singh and several other BJP leaders were planning to set up a regional party, which would raise the rights and interests of the people of Jammu. This would have hurt the BJP nationally, harder than even its inability to form the government in Karnataka,” a report by The Print stated. There were also reports of people attending his rallies in huge numbers as opposed to BJP s retaliating rallies.

“In an open revolt against his party and the government, Lal Singh has addressed more than 20 rallies in different villages of Kathua during past one week, rejecting the crime branch investigation and in a bid to drum up support for demand for the CBI probe into the gruesome crime. “He (Singh) is openly revolting against his party’s stand and has turned into a fugitive, bringing shame to the party,” said a senior BJP leader. That Singh didn’t attend two meetings called by the party during the past 10 days shows his “disregard for party dharma”, said another BJP leader. “We have communicated to the high command about his (Singh) activities which are detrimental to the party at the state as well as national level,” said the party leader,” in the report by The Wire.

Mashaal March

Lal Singh has organized another rally called ‘Mashaal March’ for CBI enquiry into the Kathua rape and murder incident. It begins at 6 pm on June 27, Wednesday, with the march starting from his residence in Gandhinagar.

 

 

Related:

Wrapping up the Kathua Rape in Tri-colour

How the Crime Branch under SSP Jalla resisted political pressure to get justice in the Kathua Rape Case

Hindu Ekta Manch allegedly targets man who provided burial ground for Kathua rape victim

 

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