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New Delhi: Amidst a political row over a doctored video circulated by Zee News that wrongly shows Congress leader Rahul Gandhi justifying the heinous killing of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur, police in Chhattisgarh have registered a first information report (FIR) against the former information and broadcasting minister Rajyavardhan Rathore at the behest of Congress party, which said that it was intended to spread communal disharmony through the video.
Congress spokespersons Pawan Khera and Supriya Shrinate told the press that the FIR was lodged against Rathore and other senior BJP leaders – two MPs, Subrat Pathak and Bhola Singh, and Uttar Pradesh MLA Kamlesh Soni – who have not yet removed the doctored video from their Twitter timelines.
The video in question was aired during Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan’s show which took Gandhi’s remarks that implied he had forgiven the students belonging to the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) who attacked his Wayanad office in Kerala and mischievously doctored it to say that the Congress leader sympathetically called Kanhaiya Lal’s killers as “children” and was willing to let them go off the hook.
Since then, Congress leaders have been hitting out at the BJP for “portraying” Gandhi and the Congress wrongfully and “spreading communal disharmony”. Following the backlash, Zee News removed the video and issued an apology.
“Yesterday, in our show DNA, Rahul Gandhi’s statement was taken in the wrong context by linking it to the Udaipur incident. It was a human error for which our team apologises,” the channel showed Ranjan as saying.
However, the Congress party seems determined to pursue the matter in the courts, as the FIR against BJP leaders indicates. On July 2, Congress’ general secretary Jairam Ramesh wrote a letter to BJP president J.P.Nadda to protest against the doctored video, and take immediate action against the channel and those leaders who hosted the video on their Twitter timelines.
On Monday morning, Khera said that an FIR against Zee News had also been filed, as it was a “repeat offender”, and by the time it issued an apology, the “damage had already been done”. He also said that the party was taking action against the BJP leaders as no action had been initiated by the BJP against those leaders who shared the video on social media despite Ramesh raising the issue personally with him.
Khera said that apart from the FIR in Chhattisgarh, complaints had been filed in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi too.
Shrinate, who shared the dais with Khera, lashed out at the BJP leaders to say that “apart from the fall from grace, this is conspiracy”, pointing out that the BJP machinery continued to share the doctored video on WhatsApp and other messengers apps, even after some deleted it from their Twitter timelines.
Khera said that Zee News and the BJP appeared to be working together as minutes after Rohit Ranjan had aired the doctored video on his show, the BJP’s social media cell began to amplify it by sharing it widely.
“If anybody thinks that our decency is our shackle, they are sadly mistaken. It is our ornament and we are free to take that ornament off and take legal action. Gone are the days we continued to be decent because we have been watching the BJP and its IT cell,” he said.
Shrinate said that such circulation of a doctored video was being done with an intention to provoke religious frenzy and communal disharmony among Indian people. The Congress’s complaint alleged that Zee News conspired with former Union minister Rathore, Major Surendra Poonia (Retired) and others to whip up a religious frenzy.
“The anchor and the promoters of the TV channel were clearly aware that what Gandhi stated was for the youngsters in Wayanad and not the killers of Kanhaiya Lal,” the complaint noted.
Rathore, on the other hand, has refused to apologise. In a tweet, he hit out at the Congress by alleging that the party is trying to divert public attention and investigation by making “baseless allegations” against the BJP and the RSS. Rathore’s criticism appears to be an attack on the grand old party for releasing photographs on Saturday, July 2, to suggest that one of the alleged killers of Kanhaiya Lal had been a close associate of the local unit of BJP.