By Karuna John and Deborah Grey
If you thought the present ruling dispensation at the Centre couldn’t sink any lower after Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, who was allegedly involved in the Malegaon blast case, became a Member of Parliament, think again. In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, the regime has rewarded its loyal stooges, many of whom have a questionable track record when it comes to human rights, some are serial hate offenders.
The starkest example of how the regime has spat in the face of those who believe in harmony and secularism is the elevation of Anurag Thakur, who is best known for chanting, “Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro s****n ko!” (Shoot the traitors!) It is noteworthy, that the Election Commission had also banned Thakur from campaigning in the run up to the Delhi elections. But the regime has rewarded him with two plum ministries: Information & Broadcasting (I&B) that he takes over from Prakash Javadekar and Sports that he takes over from Kiren Rijiju, who in turn takes over the Ministry of Law from Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Then there is Bhagwant Khuba who has been given two posts: Minister of State in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy; and Minister of State in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. In 2020, the MP from Bidar had reportedly asked the Karnataka Government to “blacklist” a school for staging a play against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Shaheen School was charged for Sedition for portraying PM Modi in a poor light in relation to CAA and NRC. The school’s principal and staff were booked for “promoting enmity between different groups”.
Khuba backed the Sedition charges against the parents of students in the play and teachers of the school as well as the police interrogation of the minor students. However, The District Court of Bidar, Karnataka made a fundamental observation while granting anticipatory bail in the Sedition case. The court made a prima facie observation that ingredients of section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deals with the offence of sedition, are not made out in this case. The court also observed that the drama has not caused any disharmony in the society.
Newly inducted Shobha Karandlaje too has such a chequered past, that one of the first things she did after taking charge, was delete her old controversial tweets. Though she had joined Twitter in 2010 and has over 2,82,700 followers, the only tweets visible on her handle are from July 7, 2021 onwards, all previous ones having been deleted. So why is Karandlaje controversial?
In 2017, Karnataka Police had filed a case against Shobha Karandlaje after she tweeted that “jihadis” were involved she said was attempted “rape and murder” of a 14-year-old girl in Uttara Kannada’s Honnavar town. The girl had later revealed that fearing a stalker, she had inflicted the wounds on herself to end her life. Karandlaje was reportedly booked under Section 153 (promoting enmity between groups) of the Indian Penal Code.
Moreover, in May 2021, according to a News18 report, Congress leader and former MLC Ivan D’Souza had filed a complaint against Udupi- Chikkamagaluru MP Shobha Karandlaje. It was alleged that she made a false statement that leaders of the Christian community are advising believers not to take the vaccine against Covid-19. Her reported statement was condemned by the Mangaluru diocese, Catholic Sabha Udupi and Malankara Orthodox church. According to the news report Karandlaje had reportedly said at a press conference at Chikkamagaluru that people were advised not to receive the Covid vaccines, by churches in the Malnad region.
Bhupendra Yadav has been appointed Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; and Minister of Labour and Employment. In August 2020 he had launched serial hate offender Kapil Mishra’s book Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story. He had even tweeted in support of the book saying it exposed “jihad waged against the State by Urban Naxals.”
Loyalists rewarded, defectors from Opposition parties welcomed
The inclusion of former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal into the Cabinet was along expected lines. Sonowal had overseen the mammoth process of conducting the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam. He was also the main driver of two citizenship related litigations in the Supreme Court. After Himanta Biswa Sarma was made Chief Minister following the recently held state assembly elections, speculation was rife that his predecessor Sonowal would get a plum post in the Union Government. In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, Sonowal was named Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways; and Minister of AYUSH.
Another loyalist who had unwaveringly backed the government’s stand on citizenship, is G Kishan Reddy. He was previously MoS Home, but has now been rewarded with three Cabinet Ministerial berths: Minister of Culture; Minister of Tourism; and Minister of Development of North Eastern Region. In 2020, he had defended the anti-Muslim stand of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) saying, “Half of Bangladesh will be empty if India offers citizenship to them. Half of Bangladeshis will come over to India if citizenship is promised,” adding, “The Government of India is ready to review the CAA if it has one word against anyone of the 130 crore citizens, but not for Pakistani or Bangladeshi Muslims.”
The retention of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti of “Ramzaade and H****zaade” fame is further proof that the regime tacitly supports those who spew hate. In 2014, the saffron-clad Sadhvi had at an election rally in Delhi’s Shyam Nagar reportedly said, “Aapko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzaadon ki banegi ya H****zaadon ki. Yeh aapka faisla hai.” (Translation: You have to decide whether Delhi will get a government of those born of Ram or bas***ds.) The backlash was so severe that the PM had to reportedly intervene and issued a diktat to the party leaders for not speaking out of turn. But now, it appears all that may have just been for the optics.
In 2015, she advised Hindu women against marrying outside the community and in 2016 she vociferously opposed reservations for Muslims. She was previously Minister of State (MoS) Food Processing. This time, she has been given charge as MoS in two Ministries: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution; and the Ministry of Rural Development.
Army Gen (retd.) VK Singh takes over as MoS Road Transport and Highways from Mansukh Mandaviya who in turn takes over from Dr. Harshvardhan as Minister of Health and Family Welfare. Singh has also been made MoS in the Ministry of Civil Aviation. He is perhaps best known for coining the term ‘presstitute’, a pejorative used for journalists. He has used it repeatedly for different journalists and publications:
Singh had also drawn flak in October 2015 for allegedly comparing the death of two Dalit children in Uttar Pradesh to a dog being hit with a stone. The India Express quoted him as saying, “Kabhi sthaniya ghatnaon ka sarkar se talluk mat rakhiye.” (Translation: Don’t link every local mishap to the Central government) and “To har cheez par, ki wahan par pathar maar diya kutte ko to, sarkar jimmewaar hai. Aisa nahi hai.” (Translation: For everything, even if someone throws a stone at a dog, the government is not responsible.)
However, later Singh claimed that the analogy was unintentional and that his words were being taken out of context. He told News 18, “Some people have created a misnomer because of his imaginative linking. But if because of someone linking the two things together and insulted any sentiments, I apologise for that. I respect BabaSaheb (BR Ambedkar), I have followed his ideas and respect the constitution of India. There is no question of belittling anyone. This was two different conversations that were linked together. I am not like some other leaders who eat in five-star hotel and then go to a Dalit family.”
Jyotiraditya Scindia, scion of the erstwhile royal family of Gwalior, was perhaps the biggest gainer in the recent Cabinet reshuffle. Scindia takes over from Hardeep Singh Puri as Civil Aviation Minister. Another defector to be rewarded big is Narayan Rane who gets to be Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
This story first appeared on sabrangindia.in