A day after he expressed regret over garlanding convicts in a lynching case, Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha challenged Congress president Rahul Gandhi to a live debate for making personal comments against him. Sinha challenged the Congress president to a debate in Hindi or English on the Ramgarh lynching, in which one person was killed. Eleven persons were convicted for their role in the murder in June 2017, and are presently out on bail.
In a written statement, that was shared on Twitter and Facebook, Sinha expressed regret at the impression going out that he condoned the act of vigilantism. However, he also took on Gandhi saying the latter should not hide behind social media handles and practice shoot-and-scoot politics.
Gandhi had supported an online petition seeking a revocation of the Harvard degree awarded to Sinha, after photos of the minister felicitating the convicts went viral.
“Shri Rahul Gandhi ji has taken the attack against me to a personal level. He has condemned by education, values and humanity. I challenge him to a live debate in Hindi or English on the Ramgarh lynching case. If he thinks that my personal is conduct is disgusting then lets debate it in a civilised manner. Let him not hide behind his social media handles and practice shoot-and-scoot politics. Our great Republic deserves no less,” Sinha said in the statement.
— Jayant Sinha (@jayantsinha) July 12, 2018
Expressing regret about the incident, Sinha said, “Many social media participants, various political parties and some media outlets have said I sympathise with vigilantes because I welcomed the Ramgarh convicts at my residence. I did not intend, in any way, to condone vigilantism, and I sincerely regret if that’s the impression I gave.”
Maintaining that the matter was still sub-judice, and the due process of law should be respected, Sinha urged people to study the the records of the fast-track court trial, the judgement and the bail order of the Jharkhand High Court, which were available in the public domain. He said people should form their own independent views on this case.
Repeating what he had said on Wednesday, Sinha said, “The events in Ramgarh on June 29, 2017, were distressing and terrible. As I have repeatedly said, vigilantism is totally unacceptable. Guilt can only be established through due process because the rule of law is supreme in our constitutional democracy. Those who commit vigilantism and break the law should be fully punished.”
Sinha had garlanded and offered sweets to six of the convicts released on bail by the Jharkhand High Court during the pendency of their appeal on July 4. The convicts were granted bail on June 29, 2018, a year after the incident occurred in Ramgarh town.
Cattle trader Alimuddin Ansari was lynched by a mob comprising members of local Bajrang Dal unit and also a district BJP leader. All the 11 accused were sentenced to life imprisonment on March 21.