09, Feb 2019 | CJP Team
Social media can be wielded as a powerful tool tool to educate, and elevate voices that may not be acknowledged by the mainstream. However, it can also work as a platform for the powerful target those very voices it may seek to elevate. Recently, a CJP team met with Facebook executives, and was told that that the Facebook page for Telangana BJP MLA Raja Singh, who has a history of making inflammatory and inciteful remarks, had been taken down. However, CJP has discovered that this is not the case. An official Raja Singh Facebook page is, in fact, currently active.
ThePrint had then reported that the Facebook post had been shared more than 27,000 times, and that “similar tweets” had “also been retweeted and liked hundreds of times.” However, as ThePrint noted, Abdullah told SMHoaxslayer that had not said such a thing. “It’s a total lie. Show me a clip of me saying anything like what I’m being accused of saying,” he said. The Facebook post was a hoax.
However, Raja Singh, seemingly in response to this, broadcast a Facebook Live video. While the video in question is no longer available, the caption posted with it can be seen the screenshot below:
When CJP viewed the video then, Singh had begun with a warning to “mere dushmano” (my enemies), saying, “The time of war has arrived and we have to see who is standing with the nation and who is not.” Singh stated, “Ek Kashmiri k#*%a bhaunka, Omar Abdullah” (A Kashmiri dog barked, Omar Abdullah), and then alleged that Abdullah would stop the Amarnath Yatra. Singh went on to recall deceased Shiv Sena leader Balasaheb Thackeray’s hate speech in which he had said, “If Amarnath Yatra stops then no flight for Hajj will take off from Mumbai.”
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Singh said in the video that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have broken the PDP-BJP alliance much earlier, and added that the day Hindus stopped going for the Amarnath Yatra, the Muslims of Kashmir would die of starvation because that is the only source of earnings for them. He said, “Every year I request my Hindu brothers and sisters to boycott Kashmiri Muslims when they go for Amarnath Yatra and they should only buy products and take services of Hindus”. Singh had also warned the Muslims of India in the video, saying, “Till now there was the government of impotent people, now under Modiji’s government you can survive (only) by keeping quiet and obeying us. Otherwise, we’ll pull the carpet below your feet and you won’t even know.”
When CJP wrote about this video in late June, just a day after it was broadcast, it had already been viewed 1,72,000 times, and had been shared 6,600 times. Later, in mid-July, CJP saw that the video had been viewed more than 3,00,000 times.
Raja Singh is no stranger to controversy. He has had multiple cases of hate speech filed against him.
In December 2015, DNA reported that Raja Singh said that he was “ready to ‘kill or get killed’ to protect the ‘Gau Mata’ (cow)”. Singh was responding to a planned beef festival at Osmania University in Hyderabad, DNA said. He told CNN IBN, “People are entitled to eat whatever they wish. However they should not hurt anyone’s religious sentiments. If religious sentiments are being hurt, we have the right to stop this festival,” adding, “We warn them against a Dadri-like incident in Telangana. We can both give our lives and take life for the sake of protecting the cow”. In September 2015, a Muslim man, Mohammed Akhlaq, was a victim of a mob lynching over suspicions that he had stolen and slaughtered a cow calf. DNA reported that, remarking on the Parliamentary debate on ‘growing intolerance’, Singh said, “First of all I am a Hindu. It is our duty to protect cows. Those who do not understand the spoken word must be taught a lesson by other means”.
In February 2018, ANI reported that a case was registered against Raja Singh “for allegedly spreading hatred between two communities”. A video had surfaced, in which “Singh had allegedly said every Hindu should carry weapons like lathis and attack other communities’ members if they said anything wrong,” ANI said. According to the police, Singh was booked under Indian Penal Code sections 295A (Maliciously insulting the religion or the religious belief of any class) and 505 (2) (Statements conducing to public mischief). Singh purportedly made this remark after violence broke out “between two communities” in Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh, on Republic Day, January 26; one person died and two people were injured during an “illegal” Tiranga Yatra rally in Kasganj, where provocative slogans were also raised, ANI said.
In August 2018, Raja Singh, in response to the publishing of Assam’s draft National Register of Citizens (NRC), from which more than 40 lakh people were excluded, made inflammatory and hate-filled remarks in a video posted on his Facebook page. The News Minute reported that Singh said, “Today, a very good decision was taken. I agree completely with the NRC’s decision because what work do these Bangladeshis have in India? They are living in Assam with an intention to destroy India. The Centre must take steps to send them back as soon as possible. This is my request,” adding, “If these people don’t leave our country peacefully, I believe that there is a need to make them understand in another language, just like in other countries, they are shot and made to flee, in India as well, if they don’t leave, there is a need to shoot them and make them leave with bullets (sic)”.
Also in August, Raja Singh tweeted that he had sent his “resignation from MLA Post & BJP party to our state president,” Dr. K. Laxman. He added, “For me Dharma & Nation first, Politics Next. #GauRaksha is what I would be working on”. Scroll reported that Singh “claimed he had raised the matter of cow protection several times in the Assembly but ‘the party did not provide any support,'” adding that he said he resigned because he did not want to embarrass the BJP.
In last year’s Telangana Assembly elections, Raja Singh was the sole BJP MLA to take office. His office, per usual, seems not to have hindered his antics.
In January 2019, The News Minute reported that he had “turned a cow vigilante as he and his team stopped a truck more carrying more than 50 cows which were allegedly headed to a slaughterhouse in Telangana”. He was captured on video climbing on top of the truck and scrutinising the cows and calves in it. The News Minute reported that he later released a video statement, in which he said, “The truck was illegally carrying 57 cows and calves to the slaughterhouse. Based on a tip-off, we stopped the truck along with constables from the police station and handed it over to the authorities. When we inspected the truck, we saw that it was well planned as the container was sealed from below and on the sides, but open from above,” adding, “This is not happening in Telangana alone, but across India. I request ‘Gau Rakshaks’ (cow vigilantes) to take the help of police and prevent cows from being slaughtered by approaching it legally. We want to legally protect cows and ensure that they do not get slaughtered”. According to the police, three people were detained, and an FIR was registered in the case, with animals being sent to a gaushala.
In February 2019, Raja Singh made a series of inflammatory and communal remarks at a public meeting, a Hindu Rashtra Sammelan, in Solapur, Maharashtra. He said that “those who oppose Hindu religious feelings cannot stay in the country,” and that “Anyone who does not say ‘Bharath matha ki jai’, or worship gau (cow) matha cannot be in Bharath,” the New Indian Express reported. Singh went on to say that “India is a Hindu majority and everyone who wants to identify themselves to be Indians should respect the feelings of Hindus”. Singh said that several temples were being brought down, stating, “We will give you a list of illegal (masjids) that are to be brought down. I will give you the authority to do so. Then it would be equality on what is happening to Hindu temples that are being demolished,” the New Indian Express said. Moreover, it reported that “according to Singh, Muslims are not terrorists but all those who have been caught in India for terror activities are Muslims,” and that “several Hindus were being converted in the name of ‘Love Jihad'”.
In spite of this clear pattern of making provocative and inflammatory statements, and, contrary to what Facebook executives seem to think, Raja Singh has an active Facebook page, albeit seemingly a new one as links to his previous page yield a message that that content is unavailable. His current page has more than 1,23,000 followers, and has also been verified by Facebook, with the much-coveted blue checkmark. Moreover, his handle remains the same as before: @RajaSinghOfficial. As of writing this, the Facebook page’s banner image reads, “Let us establish Hindu Rashtra by awakening Dharma and uniting Hindus under the guidance of Saints!”
CJP has highlighted multiple instances in which social media has been used to spread hate speech and target vulnerable and marginalised communities in ways that could lead to violence. Social media has certainly democratised the internet, but this means that it has also elevated those voices who seem to stand against democracy itself. An elected official has no business issuing such statements, but it seems that Facebook (and Twitter) are complicit in his hate speech, having provided a platform for it, and one that is officially authenticated, no less. Raja Singh’s Facebook page must be taken down. Giving open bigotry a platform, whether it is on social media or elsewhere, can have deadly consequences for the communities it targets and socio-cultural fabric of this country.
Feature image: Screenshot of Raja Singh’s Official Facebook page.