New Delhi: It is a case of a top Central ministry caught clueless about what its high profile minister has been talking about in public.
Less than a month ago, Union home minister Amit Shah said at an event in Delhi, “It is time to teach Delhi’s tukde-tukde gang a lesson.” The BJP top gun reportedly linked this “gang” to opposition Congress and the ongoing public protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and incidents of violence around it. He asked the Delhi electorate to punish that party in the February 8 assembly polls.
“Citizenship Amendment Act was discussed in the parliament. Nobody (the opposition leaders) said anything… Once they were out (of parliament), they started misleading people,” Shah said, addressing the crowd at an event organised by the Delhi Development Authority.
“I want to say that it’s time to punish the tukde-tukde gang led by the Congress. They are to be blamed for the violence in the city. People in Delhi should punish them.”
However, weeks later, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which Shah heads, has said in an RTI response, “The Ministry of Home Affairs has no information concerning tukde-tukde gang.”
The RTI applicant, Saket Gokhale, submitted his request to the MHA hours after Shah spoke at the event. The Maharashtra-based journalist questioned how the ministry defines the term, if any; whether the government had drawn up any standard operating procedure to identify the alleged gang that not just Shah but Prime Minister Narendra Modi too have been referring to, aside from seeking information on whether Shah’s reference to it was based on any “specific briefings by the Ministry or other law enforcement agencies.”
He also sought clarification from the MHA on whether it had prepared a list of leaders and members of this “gang” that Shah had mentioned to be behind the recent violence.
According to media reports, the MHA was “dumbfounded” by such an RTI.
PEOPLE – IT’S OFFICIAL
The Home Ministry has responded to my RTI saying:
“Ministry of Home Affairs has no information concerning tukde-tukde gang.”
Maanyavar is a liar.
The “tukde tukde gang” does not officially exist & is merely a figment of Amit Shah’s imagination. pic.twitter.com/yaUGjrqI4f
— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) January 20, 2020
The term ‘tukde-tukde’ has been used by BJP leaders, from Modi and Shah and downwards, to target opposition and individuals who don’t subscribe to its ideology. It came into use first in 2016 to describe Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid among others when BJP and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) accused them of using ‘anti-national slogans’.
Though an investigation into the matter said videos allegedly showing students chanting the slongs were doctored, the term has since been used by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to refer to their detractors. While waiting for the RTI response, Gokhale told India Today, “The home minister and the even the prime minister have used the term ‘tukde-tukde gang’ on several occasions. When they refer to such a gang, then it is safe to assume that as a standard operating procedure, the home ministry maintains a list of members of this gang.”
He also tweeted, “Now I hope they don’t say it was just an ‘election jumla’ by Maanyavar. That would look very embarrassing. This bullying of people by the home minister needs to stop outright and cannot go unquestioned.”
I appeal to MPs of the Opposition to ask Maanyavar to clarify his remarks on the “tukde tukde gang” during the upcoming Budget Session of the Parliament in light of his Ministry’s response.
As a citizen, I’ve done my part.
I only hope you’ll do yours & ask for an apology.
— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) January 21, 2020
In 2017, after Modi said at a campaign speech prior to the Gujarat assembly polls that Pakistan was trying to influence the elections and referred to a ‘secret meeting’ between Pakistani officials and former prime minister Manmohan Singh, then vice president Hamid Ansari and army chief Deepak Kapoor among others, Gokhale had filed an RTI seeking more information from the government. The PMO had replied that it had no information on that count on its records.
On January 20, after receiving the MHA’s response to his December 26 RTI application, Gokhale tweeted, “The tukde-tukde gang doesn’t officially exist and is merely a figment of Amit Shah’s imagination.”
‘Will petition ECI, work with opposition parties’
Gokhale told The Wire that his next step would be to petition the Election Commission of India, appealing that the home minister be asked to explain his remarks on the “tukde-tukde gang” in a sworn affidavit.
He said, “I will also reach out to activists who have been tagged as ‘tukde-tukde gang’ and seeing if a defamation suit can be filed against the home minister and other ministers [who have been using the term to refer to their detractors].” Recently, Union minister of state for external affairs, S. Jaishankar also referred to the term and said that there was “no tukde-tukde gang” in JNU when he was a student there.
Gokhale said he would also be “working with opposition MPs to ensure that the issue is brought up during the question hour in the upcoming Budget session of Parliament for a clarification by the home minister.”
In 2017, after Gokhale filed an RTI based on Modi’s speech against Manmohan Singh and Hamid Ansari, Arun Jaitley tendered a “half-apology” for it in parliament. Jaitely had said that the prime minister’s statements “did not question, nor [were] meant to question the commitment to this nation of either former PM Manmohan Singh or former VP Hamid Ansari.”
“Any such perception is erroneous, we hold these leaders in high esteem, as well as their commitment to India,” he said in the Rajya Sabha.