As violent protests by Jats seeking reservation in government jobs continued to rock Haryana — the death toll climbed to 19 Monday after three persons were killed in Sonipat in clashes with security forces — a 90-second audio clip of a purported conversation between an advisor of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and a Khap leader, allegedly to incite violence, has gone viral on social media, prompting the BJP government to say it will order an inquiry.
In the clip, Professor Virender, former political advisor to Hooda, is heard praising Khap leader Kaptan Mann for the violence in Rohtak and tells him to ask the INSO (Indian National Students’ Organisation) and INLD to turn up the heat in home turf Sirsa.
On Monday, Professor Virender owned up the phone call but said “it was tampered with”. “I wish that whoever first intercepted the phone call and then leaked it leaks the full audio so that the context is clear. The audio clip is tampered and edited,” he said. “Nowhere have I talked about instigating Jats or anyone. Moreover, the conversation is an old one, much before the current unrest started,” he said.
In first remarks from the government, Health Minister Anil Vij told reporters: “We suspected there was some director behind the scene who was trying to inflict damage on the state to reap political benefits. Our government will order an inquiry into the clip which has gone viral. Anyone who is found guilty of inflaming passions won’t be spared.”
Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma said there was something “fishy” in the clip. “Government will investigate the matter, whatever steps need to be taken as per law, we will take,” he said.
INLD leader Abhay Chautala said: “From the audio clip, it has become evident that peaceful protesters were instigated and then Hooda went to Delhi and sat on a hunger strike. I demand that the government get a thorough investigation done into this audio clip and punish the guilty. But this audio clip also makes it clear that the government has been tapping phones of the Opposition illegally”.
The state Congress too sought an explanation from Professor Virender. In a show-cause notice, Ashok Tanwar, president of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee, said: “It has been alleged that you are responsible for instigating protesters to start violent agitation in other districts of the state which were comparatively peaceful, and that too with the support of our rival political party namely INLD and their student wing INSO.”
“As you are a member of the Congress party, such outright irresponsible behaviour is not expected from you. Therefore, you are directed to reply within three days of receiving this letter. If no reply is received within three days from today, then disciplinary action shall be initiated against you,” Tanwar stated in the notice.
Former Congress minister Capt Ajay Yadav demanded a CBI probe into the audio clip. “We all recognise Professor Virender’s voice. But since he has said the clip has been edited and tampered with, I believe that a CBI probe should be ordered by the state government,” he said.