New Delhi: “Aap ch****pa kar rahe ho, Hindu-Muslim karke jab maine aisa kuch kaha hi nahin (You are doing ch*****pa by giving it a Hindu-Muslim colour when I have said nothing like this)”. This is how Kapil Mishra – former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader who recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – responded when he was questioned by this reporter on one of his recent controversial tweets, wherein he had referred to Muslim women, children and men as patakha (crackers) and allegedly tried to stoke communal hatred.
Sharing a photograph of veil-clad women standing on a road side with an elderly man with a skull cap and few children on Twitter on October 28, Mishra had captioned the image in Hindi, “Pollution kum karna hai to yeh wale patakhe kum karo, Dilwali ke patakhe nahin (If you want to bring down pollution, reduce these firecrackers and not the ones burst on Diwali).”
The tweet was later taken down by Twitter for violating its guidelines. His account has also been suspended for a week by the micro-blogging site.
His tweet came in response to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s appeal to people to shun firecrackers to cut down pollution and take part in a mega laser show organised by the Delhi government at Connaught Place to celebrate Diwali festivities.
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Despite facing flak on social media and getting slapped with a police complaint and a first information report (FIR), Mishra continued to justify his act and defended his statement.
“I had only posted pictures of children, but they are seeing them as Muslims. There was no mention of Hindu or Muslim in my tweet. If the picture would have been of a Hindu family, would they have reacted in the same manner. The propaganda has been created by those who don’t want any discussion or debate on population control,” he told NewsClick.
When asked the reason behind his choosing a photograph of Muslims, if he had not intended to target any particular community, he said, “I spotted them standing at a distance from my vehicle, which was parked on a road-side. I clicked the picture and tweeted it without giving it a communal twist.”
On being probed further that even if it was not aimed at hurting anyone’s religious sentiment, as he claims, whether the language he used was decent, he shamelessly replied, “I already said it and it is my stand. One should not have so many children. There was nothing wrong in my tweet. I was advocating population control. Having large number of children is like possessing crackers. What’s wrong in the caption.”
He went on to say that he would continue doing the same in the future as well. “I will keep tweeting such photos in future as well. I don’t have any remorse, neither I am scared of police cases,” he claimed.
Playing a victim card, he said he is being abused and threatened on the phone and social media for his tweet, which was aimed to serve a noble purpose. “There is so much fear after one tweet. What will these people do when the population control law comes in place,” he said.
Following the objectionable tweet, Mahmood Ahmed, a resident of Jamia Nagar, filed a complaint at the Jamia Nagar Police Station, urging Station House Officer to register an FIR under relevant sections of the Information Technology Act and the Indian Penal Code against the former minister for Water Resource Management in the Delhi government. He alleged that Mishra's tweet allegedly sought to “create enmity, hatred and communal violence”.
“This is to bring to your notice that Mr Kapil Mishra, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader from Delhi, has on 28 October 2019 made inflammatory comments targeting the Muslim community through his Twitter handle: @KapilMishra_IND,” reads the complaint.
An FIR has been also been registered against the disqualified legislator from Karawal Nagar on a separate complaint filed by activist Saket Gokhale who described the tweet as “hate-speech” aimed at “inciting violence against minorities”.
“Let’s see to what extent the Modi government goes in protecting the BJP leader. Failure of the police to prosecute him will force me to seek judicial recourse,” he said.
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Gokhle, who has lodged an FIR against Mishra, said everything should be seen in context. “It’s not that Mishra suddenly woke up and made some objectionable remarks. He has been spreading hatred against minorities for a long time. His defence is absurd. He used the word ‘patakha’ (crackers) for Muslims only. And he has done it intentionally. His tweet is a call for a genocide of a particular community. It is a call for finishing them.”
He said that he filed the complaint against Mishra not for his tweet, but because he is polluting the minds of the large number of followers he has. “He is instigating them and this is how lynchings happen. He is instigating people to go out and commit crimes,” he said.
Answering a question on the freedom of expression, he said, “Your freedom of expression ends when you pose a threat to a large population. He has posed a threat with his irresponsible tweet to Muslim families and their children.”
Talking about the opposition parties’ silence, including AAP on this issue, he said that this situation is really sad and disturbing. “If I as an individual can gather the courage to speak out, why can’t the opposition parties. Appeasement politics won’t work anymore. You will have to take a stand,” he added.
Mishra was ousted from his ministry after he accused Chief Minister Kejriwal of corruption along with Satyendra Jain, the Minister of Health, Industries, Power, Public Works Department, Home and Urban Development in the Delhi government.
Seeking the Anti-corruption Bureau to lodge a case against Kejriwal and Jain, he had alleged the two leaders exchanged Rs 2 crore as bribe money. But Mishra later failed to prove his allegation. As a result, the Lokayukta dropped Kejriwal’s name from the case.
Since then, he has been alleging more instances of corruption in the AAP government under Arvind Kejriwal. Despite being an AAP MLA, he was supporting, sharing stage with BJP leaders and was also allegedly campaigning against his own party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
He was disqualified as MLA by the speaker of the Delhi Assembly on grounds of defection and anti-party activities. He then joined the BJP.