Jayant Sinha found himself in the midst of a raging controversy after his garlanding of eight men convicted in a murder by lynching case who were recently released on bail went viral and attracted sharp criticism from opposition leaders.
Opposition parties on Saturday condemned Sinha, who is Hazaribag MP, for “honouring and garlanding” the eight men convicted in the killing of coal trader Alimuddin Ansari in Ramgarh in June last year in a case of alleged cow vigilantism.
A fast-track court has found 11 persons guilty in the case and sentenced them to life in prison in March. Eight of them secured bail from the Jharkhand high court last week. They visited Sinha’s residence on Friday, where the minister welcomed them with garlands and sweets.
Pushed on the defensive when the photos of the garlanding circulated on social media, Sinha said “I have full faith in our judicial system and rule of law. Unfortunately, irresponsible statements are being made about my actions when all that I am doing is honouring the due process of law. Those that are innocent will be spared and the guilty will be appropriately punished.”
His father, rebel BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, also found himself under fire and tweeted, “Earlier I was the nalayak baap (foolish father) of a layak beta (meritorious son). Now the roles are reversed. That is Twitter. I do not approve of my son’s action. But I know even this will lead to further abuse. You can never win.”
Earlier I was the Nalayak Baap of a Layak Beta. Now the roles are reversed. That is twitter. I do not approve of my… https://t.co/akOymstKzK
— Yashwant Sinha (@YashwantSinha) 1530972143000
Sources said Jayant Sinha told the men that it was his duty to ensure they get justice. The eight also thanked him for helping them get a lawyer and taking taking their case before the high court.
Congress accused Sinha and BJP of fanning communal tension. “It is only in ‘New India’ where those supposed to get the noose are being garlanded,” the party said. “A minister in the BJP-led government, which honours those accused of rioting, is now garlanding convicts of lynching. Is the Modi government encouraging social unstability?” it added.
JMM working president and former CM Hemant Soren on Friday, tagged the minister’s alma mater Harvard University. “This is truly despicable. @Harvard Your alumnus @jayantsinha felicitating the accused in cow related lynching death in India. Is this what @Harvard stands for?”
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury also attacked BJP for “tearing India’s social fabric” and promoting politics of hate. “We don’t need to look far to see who or which ideology is tearing our social fabric apart: when Union ministers patronise those convicted of lynching,” he said.
Seeking to clarify the events, Jayant Sinha said: “When these people were granted bail, they came to my residence and I wished them well. Let the law take its own course. The guilty will be punished and the innocent will be set free.” He reiterated that he is a public representative and has taken an oath to protect the law.
The minister sought to answer the criticism of his actions, saying he condemned all acts of violence and rejected any type of vigilantism but he had misgivings about the fast-track court judgment sentencing each accused to life imprisonment. In a tweet, he said: “The Ranchi high court, which is the first court of appeal, has suspended the sentence of the accused and released them on bail while admitting their case. The case will once again be re-heard.”