Perhaps for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir, BJP took extraordinary action against one of its prominent leaders in the Union Territory for hate speech that he gave against the Kashmiri Muslims for cheering the Pakistani cricket team in T20World Cup match against India, and went on to say that these religious bigots and pro-Pakistan elements should be “ skinned alive.”
The leader in question Vikram Randhawa, a former legislator, was holding the position of the secretary of the BJP unit in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. He was stripped off all his positions with immediate effect, a day after he made detestable and highly provocative remarks against the Kashmiri Muslims. He had also used unsavoury language against the girls who had cheered for the Pakistani team. The party leaders thought that this would damage the party image, hence immediate action against Vikram was a must.
“This (language and behaviour) was intolerable, said J&K BJP unit president Ravinder Raina, who removed Vikram Randhawa from all the positions held by him in the party. This was the swiftest action that the BJP had taken against any of its leaders for the hate speech and its connotations against the Muslim community.
This action against the BJP leader, who had made a niche for himself in the public and was an asset for the party in the plains and hilly areas, has served a lesson to all other leaders that extremism and hate would not be accepted in any form.
“We are a political party, we live in society and are bound to follow a decent behaviour and language while talking about others, whatever be the provocation or reasons that might hurt individuals,” Raina said.
What must have prompted this action, which was followed up by the registration of a case against him by police for making hate speech, seems to be in the backdrop in which the BJP is seeking to woo all the communities, particularly Muslims who form a majority in Jammu and Kashmir. There are nearly 85 lakh Muslims out of a total of 1.300 population of the Union Territory.
Second, what Vikram Randhawa did and said, was in complete violation of the doctrine of all-inclusiveness that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had laid during his four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir last month. That was his first visit to J&K after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. He had come to repair all the fault lines that existed between the people in Kashmir and the rest of the country.
During this visit, he had spoken of friendship with the youth of J&K and also promised to strengthen the bonds between the people of the UT and the rest of the country. The most significant was his rejection of suggestions made by Kashmiri leaders, particularly former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, to talk to Pakistan. He had declared, “ I will talk to my own people in Jammu and Kashmir, and asked, “why should I talk to Pakistan?”
Vikram Randhawa’s utterances were deemed as crossing the red line and undermining the words of the Union Home Minister who wanted to script a new chapter of friendship and bonhomie with the people of the Muslim-majority Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
By removing Vikram Randhawa out of all the party posts, the BJP has sent a powerful message that it won’t tolerate any adverse and abusive language against Muslims. Thus, it has snatched a major plank that the Kashmiri Muslim parties had started using to target the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir. This, the observers believe, would be an example for the party units elsewhere in the country.
Arun Joshi is a Senior Journalist, Political Analyst based in Jammu and Kashmir. He has authored four books, including, “Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War”. He has worked with Hindustan Times, The Times of India, The Indian Express and The Tribune, and visited several countries to deliver lectures on Kashmir issue and international affairs.
Views expressed are personal