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COVER STORY    

EXPOSÉ

THE BJP SAYS IT NEVER KNEW ABOUT THE HATE CD. LIES, LIES AND MORE LIES

Days after releasing it, the BJP disassociated itself from the CD aimed at inciting communal hatred in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. Sanjay Dubey and Etmad A. Khan capture party leaders on camera admitting it was indeed their handiwork

 
MANOJ MISHRA,
President,
UP IT Cell and sacked party spokesperson
It was all done in haste. It worked to our advantage that we could not put an official sticker on the CD. We are now saying that it is not a party CD because it doesn’t have a sticker… Kesri nath Tripathi had earlier seen the CD and had also suggested some changes… The party has made me the scapegoat because I called the press conference. But there is something called moral responsibility. When a rail accident takes place, the railway minister resigns, not the engine driver
Alpana Talwar is also an artiste who has acted in one of my films. She called me saying she wanted to make a film for the party. Once, when Kesri Nath Tripathi was visiting her in Saharanpur, she called me and introduced me and said I would work on the film, and he said okay. It is the same film which has now become objectionable. Tripathi also gave an interview which is part of the CD. She also gave me some BJP books and the script

VIRENDRA SINGH,
Producer of the CD
SUMER CHAND GOYAL,
BJP Metropolitan President, Saharanpur
I called the state President (Kesri nath Tripathi) and offered to take responsibility for making the CD. I told my party people to say that yes, we have made the CD and there is nothing wrong with the CD… Now that the election commission has objected, more people will watch it. We are still distributing it for the elections…

“That day is not far away when we will all be afraid to even call ourselves Hindu, and you will never be able to find a Sohanlal, Mohanlal, Atmaram or Radhakrishan anywhere. Wherever we look, we will only see Abbas, Naqvi, Rizvi, and Maulvi... They want to make India into Pakistan.”

“Do you know the Mulayam government has hired 13,000 Urdu teachers? So are ulema going to teach us from now on… What will happen to Hindu culture?

“I saw the butcher’s sons on my way here. Neither did they have a tilak nor kaleva. Aren’t you ashamed? You have sold your cow to butchers.”

Excerpts from the controversial Hate CD

This is just a small part of the hate campaign being spread by the second largest party of India at the time of the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, through a CD called Bharat Ki Pukar. If this sounds shocking to some, then this is just a trailer. The CD is full of such explicit remarks against the minority community. At one point, the visuals show the image of a Muslim man (wearing a cap on his head) planting a bomb under a white Ambassador, while elsewhere in the CD is the gruesome killing of a cow by butchers of the same community.

IN CAHOOTS: Alpana Talwar (in green) with UP BJP president Kesri Nath Tripathi in Saharanpur at a memorial for a deceased party worker on November 26, 2006
Yes, these are the contents of the same hate CD that even the BJP’s central leadership has quickly disowned, even though it was released along with other official election material by none other than the senior UP BJP leader Lalji Tandon on April 3, 2007. The reason: the media and several political parties took strong exception to this hate campaign and brought it to the notice of the public and the Election Commission (EC). The sword of de-recognition loomed large and the entire party went into damage-control mode. The panic in the BJP was so profound that different leaders sang different tunes to save the party from coming under the EC axe.

In response to a showcause notice issued by the EC, the BJP gave several reasons why Para 16 A of the Election Symbols Order 1968 — which might result in the de-recognition of the party — cannot be applied in this situation. The BJP also removed its state unit spokesperson Manoj Mishra — who was also the president of its information and technology cell and still retains that post — after describing the CD’s release and distribution as a mistake and holding Mishra entirely responsible for the mess. Tehelka, in a painstaking investigation, came up with the facts, which give the lie to this face-saving formula furnished by the BJP to the EC.

MORE THAN PAPER: The Saharanpur city supplement of a Hindi daily dated November 27, 2006. CD producer Virendra Singh told Tehelka that it was then that Tripathi had met him and had discussed the CD
The first point the BJP made in its reply to the EC — incidentally, signed by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, its prominent Muslim face — states that the BJP neither produced, prepared, displayed nor distributed the impugned CD. The reply is also emphatic about the CD’s not being a part of the official campaign material. An utter lie, if we consider what Mishra and others who were behind making this 50-plus minute film told Tehelka on hidden camera.

Mishra, who had called the press conference and put the controversial CD into the media kit, says, “We could not prepare the cover and stickers for the CD and that is helping us now. Now we are telling the Commission that this is not our official CD but in reality it is an official CD.” But why did the CD not have a sticker? “Alpanaji (referring to Alpana Talwar, the BJP’s cultural wing president in UP) brought this CD just a day before its release. She brought with her some 50-odd CDs to give to the media. We thought that after the release we would get them dubbed in Lucknow itself. Now we are saying that if the CD had been authentic then we would have launched it on a bigger scale and it would also have had a sticker,” explains Mishra. The film’s director, Virendra Singh, corroborates this. He told Tehelka that he had delivered the CD to Talwar just a day or two before its release.

THE BRAIN BEHIND THE CD (TOP): UP BJP cultural cell president Alpana Talwar, who also plays the lead role in the CD
A PARTY AFFAIR: Saharanpur BJP women’s cell vice president Saroj Sharma (in glasses) and another party worker play Muslim women. (middle right) Inderjeet Sehgal, a functionary of the Saharanpur BJP
PANTOMIME PROTEST: Senior leaders of the Saharanpur unit also figure in the CD
The CD, in fact, was Talwar’s brainchild and it was she who commissioned it to Virendra Singh, a small-time filmmaker from western UP’s Saharanpur district — Talwar herself belongs to the place. Singh also revealed that she introduced him to state BJP president Kesri Nath Tripathi. He also confirmed that it was Tripathi who gave him the go-ahead for the film and also gave an interview for the very same CD. Tehelka spoke to various persons in Saharanpur and collected a few photographs of Tripathi’s November 26 visit to Saharanpur, which gives testimony to what Singh told us.

The BJP’s quick retreat is nothing but a ruse, for the controversial CD is full of its own office-bearers, senior and junior. Few people know that Alpana Talwar herself has played the central character of the film, and almost 70 percent of the other characters are played by BJP workers in Saharanpur. ” Mishra also corroborates this on the spycam, saying, “We involved the workers of the BJP in the making of the film and avoided employing professionals. Actually, we wanted to boost the morale of our party cadre.” The evidence is in the CD, right from the president of the BJP’s Saharanpur unit, Sumer Chand Goyal, to the ordinary worker, every kind of BJP functionary can be easily identified in the film.

The question then is: How can the CD not be termed official if it was released by a very senior leader (Tandon), prepared by a moderately senior leader (Talwar) and previewed by the president of the state unit (Tripathi) and when most of the film’s characters were played by BJP workers? Too many coincidences to call the CD unofficial. Obviously a lie, for Pravesh Gurjar, the dialogue writer, reveals, “In the very first scene itself, the newspaper man is Talwar’s driver and the persons who are reading the paper are her father and BJP worker Vikram Saini, and the place where it was shot is Talwar’s house in Chandra Nagar colony in Saharanpur.”

 
The BJP’s retreat is nothing but a ruse, for its office-bearers are the actors. Few know that Alpana Talwar has played the central role
The BJP is also emphatic in its defence that the CD was not seen or approved by the party leadership. But this is what Mishra has to say, “Kesriji had seen the film and suggested some changes which we made.” He further states, “This CD reached us (after changes) just a day before the release, and Kesriji told me he wanted to watch the film, so I gave the CD to him.” He also elaborates that it was decided on April 3 itself in the 11am daily meeting in the BJP office to release the CD. Further, he says, “Initially we were planning to show it to the media on lcd projector at 4pm, but we had to advance the press conference to noon as Smriti Irani had missed her plane to Lucknow.” When asked if senior party leaders usually review party CDs, Rishi Mohan, Mishra’s deputy, who has been credited in the CD, says that this happens without fail. But when asked about this particular case, he became evasive. When asked why he was made the scapegoat, Mishra says, “Perhaps it is because it is I who called the press conference. Being the spokesperson, it was my responsibility to call the press conference so Tandonji might have deemed it fit to remove me… Sometimes it so happens that the moral responsibility is fixed on some innocent person.”

 
The BJP has been caught on the wrong foot and is tripping over its own lies. Its Media cell chief admits that the party was caught unawares
Despite so much evidence, the BJP is still trying to sell the line that the CD was the handiwork of some unofficial individuals and that it was inserted in the media kit by mistake. The so-called individuals are actually senior state functionaries. Unlike the senior leaders, Goyal, the BJP Saharanpur unit chief, is neither embarrassed nor does he make an effort to watch his words. He told Tehelka, “After the controversy, I called up the state president and said, if you are facing problems, then tell everybody that it is I who made this CD and I did no wrong in making it. We have shown what is happening in reality.” Enough indication of the involvement of the BJP leadership in creating and releasing the seed of extreme hatred. Regarding accidentally putting the CD inside the kit, Mishra accepted in unequivocal terms before the hidden camera that it was a collective party decision because, after the elections, this CD would have been of no use.

The BJP’s fourth layer of defence in its reply to the Election Commission is that it took suo motu action of clarifying and withdrawing the CD even before a complaint was filed. It also said, “the party inquired into the matter and has since removed Manoj Mishra from the responsibility of a spokesman.” Yes, the party did act before any formal complaint, but it acted only after the media got wind of the inflammatory contents of the CD and started airing it.

Regarding the inquiry by the BJP and the removal of its spokesman, Mishra himself accepted that he had been made a scapegoat. He drew an interesting analogy saying that when there is a rail accident, for instance, it is the railway minister who takes moral responsibility and not the engine driver or the lineman.

 
How can the CD not be termed official when it was released by lalji Tandon, prepared by a moderately senior leader and viewed by Tripathi?
Mishra further revealed that the controversial CD was also sent for previewing to the EC but they returned it saying they do not preview publicity material parties use but they do so for materials to be used on mass media like print and television. Mishra says, “Now even we have stopped saying this. When the Commission is not saying this, then why should we say this?” Strong indication that the CD was meant to be used as the official campaign material.

The BJP has been caught on the wrong foot and is tripping over its own lies. Mishra admits that the party was caught unawares by the sudden attack from the media and other political parties. A part of its response appeared obfuscatory and it tried several tricks of the trade, accusing other parties of violating the model code of conduct. The obfuscation included its demand that Election Commissioner Navin Chawla recuse himself from hearing the case since an application against his appointment is pending in the Supreme Court.

Behind the scenes, the BJP also seems to have threatened those involved with the production of the CD into silence. The CD’s producer’s son told Tehelka that senior leader Vinay Katiyar had called Virendra Singh and Pravesh Gurjar. Was it because they were telling the truth? It is indeed interesting that Katiyar should call the two men related to the CD in the middle of a high-stake election in Uttar Pradesh? Also, how is the BJP going to explain the fact that its state president saw and made changes in the CD and that the president of its cultural wing is part of the same CD? The BJP, perhaps, wants to play it both ways: disown it before the Election Commission but try and accrue electoral benefits at the same time. Goyal, after all, has admitted, quite damningly, that the CD is still being distributed.

Apr 28 , 2007

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