New Delhi: BJP MP Paresh Rawal on Sunday got called out on Twitter for playing fast and loose with facts.
The MP, who was forced to delete an outrageous tweet about author Arundhati Roy in May, tweeted: “Maj Sandip Unnikrishnan who [was] martyred in Mumbai Taj attack was from Banglore, was not given 21 gun salute by the state!”
This was meant to be in contrast to the speculation that the Congress government in Karnataka had given the assassinated journalist Gauri Lankesh a state funeral.
In reality, Major Unnikrishnan, the 31-year-old National Security Guard officer who sacrificed his life fighting terrorists at Mumbai’s Taj Hotel during the 26/11 attack, was cremated with full honours and a 21-gun salute, according to news reports of the time, in Bangalore on November 29, 2008.
Hundreds had gathered to bid farewell to the officer who, trapped in a corner at the Taj, had refused to be rescued lest the effort endanger his men.
Rawal also conveniently forgot that Karnataka had a BJP-led government (under B. S. Yeddyurappa) at the time of the incident.
Instead of the usual ‘my nephew tweeted from my account’ or ‘my account was hacked‘ explanation, Rawal later claimed that he used the word ‘not’ by mistake. Which sort of begs the question of why he had wanted to tweet in the first place.
Since journalist Gauri Lankesh’s assassination, the Right wing has been working in overdrive to try and change the ‘courageous journalist targeted for her anti-communal views’ narrative around the story.
First, pro-Hindutva social media warriors labeled her a Maoist sympathiser, applauded her death, claimed “she got what she deserved”, and bashed media and ‘pseudo-liberals’ for questioning the RSS and BJP’s role in the shooting.
Then they turned to promoting the theory that the Maoists might have killed her. The latest theory being promoted by the Hindu right is that Gauri Lankesh was a Christian who somehow hid her true religion.
Gauri, who belonged to the Lingayat community which buries their dead, was laid to rest on Wednesday.
Putting all speculation to rest, an official at the chief minister’s office told the Times of India: “There is no politics here. There was no state honour given, the national flag was not used. She was a reputed journalist and a writer, the police salute was given as a mark of respect for her selfless service and not for ideological reasons. In the past too, litterateurs such as G S Shivarudrappa and U R Ananthamurthy were given such an honour.”
Ignorant of this tradition among the Lingayats, many trolls claimed that she was buried and not cremated because she was a Christian and that her surname was ‘Patrick’. Lankesh ran a newspaper called ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’. Patrike in Kannada means publication.
Armed with forwards from WhatsApp and fake news sites, trolls have been relentlessly pushing these “facts” on social media.
This is the second incident of the Right wing commentariat playing communal politics over murder. Soon after a student of Ryan International School in Delhi was killed allegedly by a school bus conductor, who also tried to sexually assault the boy, Shefali Vaidya, a columnist for Swarajya and who describes herself as a vocal ‘Indian Hindu woman’, tweeted:
The irony is that the same school started a ‘voluntary’ BJP membership drive in 2015 and allegedly held back the salary of teachers who resisted joining the party.
“Every staff member, from school gardener to senior teachers, was asked to get 10 members. Forms of the BJP membership were distributed and party’s toll-free number was sent through WhatsApp,” a Ryan staff member told the Times of India.
When others noted that the school and its promoter, Grace Pinto, had BJP rather than ‘Christian’ links and tweeted photographs of her with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh, Vaidya accepted the fact but tried to argue that the fact that she had criticised the school proved her objectivity:
Not denying the pics at all. You should be happy I am criticising a 'BJP loving' school, considering I am accused of writing 4 the BJP! https://t.co/BysVWmZGhc
— Shefali Vaidya (@ShefVaidya) September 10, 2017
She did not, however, delete the original tweet, leading many on Twitter to accuse her of communalising the tragic death of a child:
it is a sick mind that communalises the tragic death of a child. Shocking and toxic tweet
— rekhagm (@rekhagm) September 10, 2017