Facebook Row: BJP Leaders Hegde & Raja Singh’s Past Controversies
What do you need to know about Hegde and Raja Singh – and what are some of their controversial statements?
(This piece was first published on 17 August, and is being republished in light of T Raja Singh being banned from Facebook.)
Facebook took no action against posts by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians, including Anantkumar Hegde and T Raja Singh, which were filled with anti-minority rhetoric, until recently when The Wall Street Journal reporters took them up with the social media giant.
In a new report published 15 August, the American publication cited several current and former employees of Facebook, saying that the company’s hate-speech rules were not applied to at least four “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence.”
Hegde’s and Raja Singh’s posts were flagged under the “Dangerous Individuals and Organisations” policy. Under this, content that praises or supports activity such as “organised hate”, “mass murder”, “hate crimes”, or “terrorist attacks” is banned.
This was reportedly done because “punishing violations by politicians from Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”.
What do you need to know about Hegde and Raja Singh – and what are some of their controversial statements in the past?
A five-time BJP Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada in Karnataka, Hegde was elected to the lower house for the first time at 27. He has served as a member of parliamentary standing committees on finance, home affairs, human resource development, commerce, agriculture and external affairs.
Hegde, who was an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member in his youth and later an ABVP activist, rose through the ranks in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition. He faced his first case for rioting, unlawful assembly and promoting enmity in 1993, when he was allegedly part of a mob in Bhatkal.
In 1994, he caught the attention of the RSS by dodging prohibitory orders in Hubli, north Karnataka, and raising the Indian flag at the disputed Idgah Maidan on Independence Day.
Hegde is known for his controversial statements, often seeped in hate speech.
In March 2016, a case was filed against him in Sirsi for hate speech after he remarked at a press conference, “As long as there is Islam, there will be no peace in the world.”
This was not a one-off instance. Hegde has often used harsh words for those who dissent against the government – and is known to make religiously charged statements.
On 24 December 2017, he was quoted as saying,
“I will be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular.”
After two women entered the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala on 2 January 2019, he made this distasteful remark:
“The Kerala government has entirely failed. I would like to say that it’s totally daylight rape on Hindu people.”
This is another statement from 27 January 2019 when he stoked a controversy by saying Muslims did not build Taj Mahal:
“It’s a Shiv Mandir built by King Paramatheertha, Tejo Mahalaya. Tejo Mahalaya became the Taj Mahal. If we keep sleeping, most of our houses will be called Masjid. In future, God Ram will be called Jahanpanah and Sita will become Bibi.”
In his tweets, he has addressed Indira Gandhi as Maimuna Begum and Mamta Banerjee as Mumtaz repeatedly.
He has not spared Rahul Gandhi and even the past Congress leaders, going so far as to call the entire independence struggle a “drama”. This is what he said on 30 January 2019.
“He (Rahul Gandhi) does not know this country. He has no clue about religion. Look how they lie. A father who is a Muslim, a mother who is a Christian and the son is supposed to be a Brahmin. How is that even possible? You will not find such a hybrid specimen in any laboratory across the world. You’ll find such specimen in Congress laboratory in this country, where the father and the son are of two different types.”
And this from 2 February 2020.
“None of these so-called leaders were beaten up by the cops even once. Their independence movement was one big drama. It was staged by these leaders with the approval of the British. People supporting Congress keep saying that India got independence because of the fast unto death and satyagraha. This is not true. My blood boils when I read history. Such people become Mahatma in our country.”
T Raja Singh
Tiger Raja Naval Singh is a member of the Telangana Legislative Assembly representing the Goshamahal Assembly constituency in Hyderabad. He is a former member of Telugu Desham Party, who later joined the BJP, and occupies the position of party whip for Telangana. He has over 60 cases against him, most relating to ‘hate speech’.
“Rohingya Muslims must be sent back to their country. India does not need to keep such pests. Those Rohingya and Bangladeshi that do not return, should be shot.”Raja Singh on 31 July 2018
“Protest as you want. Even if you want to burn or break the theatres, ensure that no one watches the movie. When the movie releases, no patriotic Indian should go to see the movie. Once such directors face a loss, then they will think before twisting our history.”Raja Singh in January 2018, right before the release of Padmaavat
“You have to sing ‘Vande Mataram’. If you don’t sing it, you have no right to be in India. You will see soon that we don’t have to put a sword to your neck. You will lower your head, get on your knees and accept to sing it because you want to stay in India.”Raja Singh in April 2017
“Hyderabad’s Old City is becoming Mini Pakistan. I request the chief minister to conduct a search operation in Old City, where they would be able to find bombs and other explosives from a number of houses.”Raja Singh in May 2017
“This is why I appeal to my Hindu brothers, and Bengal tigers, to wake up. My brothers, you remember what happened in 2002 in Gujarat, when Hindus were killed. The way that the Hindus responded in Gujarat, today, there is a need for Hindus in Bengal to respond the same way.”Raja Singh in July 2017 during communal clashes in West Bengal
“Those who do not go to RSS shakhas should stop calling themselves Hindus. I don’t think he can do anything for the country or his religion.”Raja Singh in February 2018
“Whoever comes between us and Hindu Rashtra, we will erase them, and won’t spare them. Brothers, prepare yourselves and learn to wield swords. Why do we have to learn? We have to learn to protect our religion and Hindu Rashtra. For this, every Hindu must have weapons at his house. If you don’t have weapons, then you can’t save yourself or your family.”Raja Singh in December 2017
Amid the continuing political row over Facebook and its alleged bias towards BJP, the social media giant has now said that it has banned BJP MLA T Raja Singh from the platform.
WSJ had, however, previously noted: “While Twitter has suspended Mr. Hegde’s account as a result of such [anti-Muslim] posts, prompting him to call for an investigation of the company, Facebook took no action until the Journal sought comment from the company about his “Corona Jihad” posts.”
“Similarly, Facebook deleted some of Raja Singh’s posts after being asked about them. It also said Singh was no longer permitted to have an official, verified account, designated with a blue check mark badge.”
Singh, meanwhile, has denied all allegations, and said that he is the target of a “hate campaign” spearheaded by the Owaisi brothers.
With regard to the WSJ story, a Facebook spokesperson noted that the company enforces its policy “without regard to anyone’s political position”.
“We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation. While we know there is more to do, we’re making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy,” the spokesperson said.
Ironically, last year, Facebook was summoned to the IT Parliamentary Standing Committee led by Anurag Thakur who had accused the platforms, primarily Twitter, of anti-conservative bias.
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