By Paul Oommen / The News Minute

In 2016, Mohammed Irfan Quadri, a Hyderabad-based social activist-turned-politician filed a complaint against BJP MLA from Goshamahal Raja Singh. Quadri’s complaint to the police was about the vitriolic videos of Raja Singh in general; however, he mentioned three videos as examples in his complaint. In one speech, Raja Singh warned Muslims against slaughtering cows, and threatened that if they continued to, they would be slaughtered in the same way. Five years later, on December 17, 2021, Raja Singh was acquitted by a Special Court that specifically examines cases against lawmakers in the state. The court had two reasons to acquit Raja Singh — firstly, the police had skipped a procedure that required recording the material evidence properly; and the more serious reason — the police did not ask for sanction from the government to prosecute the MLA before or after filing the chargesheet. To prosecute an elected representative in certain cases, a sanction is needed from the government concerned.

This is just one of the 101 criminal cases registered against Thakur Raja Singh Lodh, popularly known as T Raja Singh, who is a habitual offender when it comes to communal hate speech against Muslims. Raja Singh has been convicted in just one single case till date. In fact, he has been acquitted in a majority of the hate speech cases booked against him. And the way he escapes conviction is usually on ‘technical grounds’. So does the MLA simply have a shrewd legal team, or is there a lack of will from the state government led by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) when it comes to ensuring Raja Singh gets convicted?

Over the years, the TRS government has managed to build an image for itself that it cracks down hard on communal forces. There are multiple instances wherein the TRS government openly resisted the BJP and Hindutva. The most recent example is that of granting permission to comedian Munawar Faruqui’s show, despite the BJP vehemently opposing it, and BJP MLA Raja Singh threatening to set the auditorium on fire.

An earlier example is from March 2021. After communal clashes broke out in Telangana’s communally sensitive Bhainsa town in Nirmal district, the Telangana police immediately cracked down and arrested 38 people, mainly from Hindu Vahini, a right-wing Hindutva group.

The TRS government with the help of the Telangana police has also managed to drastically reduce communal clashes in the state. According to data from the Telangana police, it was in 2012 that Hyderabad last imposed a curfew due to a tense situation after communal clashes were reported in Madannapet and Saidabad following the desecration of a Hanuman Temple.

While the above examples indicate the political will of the TRS to crack down on communal clashes and violence in general, when it comes to getting vitriolic legislators punished, they don’t go the last mile, allege activists.

The crimes of Raja Singh

From referring to old Hyderabad as a mini-Pakistan to calling Rohingya Muslims ‘terrorists who should be shot’, to calling for the burning down of theatres that screened the Bollywood film Padmaavat in 2018, Raja Singh makes the news under the ‘controversy’ tagline often. His most recent controversy was when he warned comedian Munawar Faruqui against coming to Hyderabad to perform his stand-up act. Singh also stoked angry agitations and protests over his remarks against Prophet Mohammed.

Following widespread protests, on August 25, 2022 Singh became the first public representative to be booked under the Preventive Detention (PD) Act by the Hyderabad Police. The 45-year-old Goshamahal legislator was then detained under Act no 1 of 1986 on the same day, and was sent to the Cherlapally Central Prison.

But for years before this arrest, Mohammed Irfan Quadri tried to put a stop to the Raja Singh hate train, but was met by police apathy in a state where a non-BJP party is in power. Quadri filed a case in 2016 against three speeches by Raja Singh, uploaded to YouTube on July 9, 2015, December 28, 2015 and February 15, 2016 respectively. Following the complaint, a case was registered under 295A IPC. For nearly five years, Quadri followed up several times with the police. He was often kept in the dark about updates in his case.

India has hate speech laws to prevent discord among religious communities. The law allows a citizen to seek punishment for anyone who creates social discord “on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language or caste.” India prohibits hate speech by several sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and by other laws which put reasonable restrictions on the freedom of expression. A person indulging in hate speech is usually booked under section 153A or 295A of the IPC. The BJP legislator has several cases booked against him under these two sections.

“But it is clear that the police only file cases, and then hardly follow up to bring them to a logical conclusion,” Quadri tells TNM. “The judgment said that they didn’t get the required permission to prosecute Raja Singh. During the trial, I was threatened several times to withdraw the case. I was also offered Rs 25 lakh to withdraw the case. My family was worried about our safety as the case was against an influential man. Clearly, the TRS State government doesn’t want to prosecute Raja Singh,” he says.

Under section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), “No Court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under Chapter VI or under section 153A of Indian Penal Code or  Section 295A or sub section (1) of section 505 of the Indian Penal Code…except with the previous sanction of the Central Government or of the State Government.” Section 153A refers to ‘Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence’; and 295A refers to ‘Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’.

In many of the cases against Raja Singh — which tend to fall under these sections — the police have either not sought permission from the state government, or they haven’t received the requisite sanctions.

Amjad Ullah Khan, spokesperson for the Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT), has filed 19 cases against Raja Singh mostly for hate speech. He says 15 cases were closed citing a lack of evidence. “Despite submitting the required video evidence and other details, the cases were closed. I wasn’t even intimated about the case being closed. It was after years that I found out that the cases were closed.”

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here