New Delhi: Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jayant Sinha, who caused an uproar recently by felicitating eight men who were convicted for lynching cattle trader Alimuddin Ansari when they were released on bail, has said in an interview to the Hindustan Times that he regrets garlanding the men because it gave people a chance to say that he was condoning lynching.
Sinha claimed that since they were released on bail by the high court, the men were “innocent”. “The people who came to my house had come after a year in jail. They had been released on a bail order by the high court. They had been released because there was no evidence against them. Ergo, they were innocent,” the Union minister said.
According to Sinha, the men came to meet him privately he had “legally assisted them, and they were very relieved that they would get a fresh trial”. However, that matter became public and was represented as him condoning lynchings was incorrect, he continued. “To take what happened there and interpret it as me condoning vigilantism, which I have always rejected, is the work of this outrage factory where independent of facts, to serve ideological ends and vote-bank politics, you manufacture a narrative. That is toxic.”
The high court’s bail order is not an acquittal, and says that the eight men were part of the mob that attacked Ansari. When asked about this, Sinha said, “I did not participate in the case when it was under trial. I said, let the judicial process do what it has to do. After the sentence was pronounced, it was obvious for some people that it was a matter of justice, not of lynching. Anyone who participated in lynching – and there is evidence that some people participated in violence against the victim – deserves the full punishment. But the innocent should get justice. And it is my duty as the MP that everyone gets justice. They have constitutional rights too.”
In an interview to the New York Times a few days ago, Sinha was quoted as saying that he felt “horrible” for garlanding the men. “In a highly polarised environment, this became a spark and I regret giving the spark,” Sinha said. “I wouldn’t do it again.”
Sinha has not met Ansari’s wife, even though she is also a member of his constituency. Claiming that he “would have helped her” if she came to him, the minister told Hindustan Times, “I did not go to either the accused or victim in this case.”
The convicts were released on bail on June 29 and went to Sinha’s house, where they were felicitated with garlands, on July 4.
Sinha is not the only BJP lawmaker who has helped those accused in lynching cases. BJP lawmaker from Jharkhand Nishikant Dubey said in June that he would be paying the legal fees for four men accused in the Godda lynching, because the entire village was involved and these men were being “singled out”.