A massive controversy erupted on social media when reports suggested that Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on his visit to the Somnath temple in Gujarat registered as a non- Hindu during his visit. This news was originally published by Zee Gujarati after it was tweeted by their journalist Tejash Modi. The tweet by Tejash Modi claimed, “Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited the Somnath temple. Signed the temple trust register for non-Hindus. Ahmed Patel also registered.”
Amit Malviya, the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Information and Technology cell, latched on to this tweet and in no time many other Twitter handles who support the BJP made this viral.
TV news channels played along.
Zee News ran the story with the title ‘Rahul ko Hindu hone ka garv nahi?’ with the hashtag #RahulHinduVivad whereas Republic TV ran the hashtag #RahulHinduorCatholic and asked questions such as: “When you were 27-years-old, the NYT listed you as a Catholic. Did you correct them?” and “Did you, despite accepting the NYT description as a Roman Catholic, call yourself a ‘Brahmin’ in 2012? Different descriptions for different geographies?”
Times Now conducted a prime time debate at 8 pm and 9 pm with the hashtag #RagaSomnathSelfGoal. The Times of India made this story the front page lead on Thursday.
The easiest way to ascertain whether a piece of text was written by a person or not is by doing some handwriting analysis. It is a technique that is used widely by forensic organisations around the world. Considering that Rahul Gandhi has represented Congress at various events, a simple search on Google throws up many of his handwritten notes. Let us take a couple of these samples and compare it with the entry from Somnath Register being passed around.
The image above clearly shows that the samples of Rahul Gandhi’s handwriting available on public websites doesn’t match the handwriting in the register which is being claimed to be his entry while visiting Somnath Temple.
Moreover, if the handwriting of the two consecutive lines corresponding to the entries of “Rahul GandhiJi” and “Ahemad Patel” are compared, they appear to the written by the same person.
Also, Ahmed Patel’s name has been misspelled as “Ahamed Patel” while Rahul Gandhi has been written as “Rahul Gandhiji”. It is highly unlikely that Ahmed Patel would misspell his own name – or the Congress vice president would put down his name as “Rahul Gandhiji”.
Some simple hand-writing analysis makes it obvious that it wasn’t Rahul Gandhi who himself put in his name. While Malviya has an agenda, considering that he’s representing a party and has been caught peddling misinformation multiple times (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), what stopped the various news organisations from doing this simple analysis?
Congress party’s stand
The Congress party was swift to react. In a press conference, Congress spokespersons produced the original document that has the signature of Rahul Gandhi in the visitor’s book of the Somnath temple. They also claimed that Rahul Gandhi was never given the register in which, it is claimed, he signed himself as a ‘non-Hindu’.
Congress party tweeted the following from their official Twitter handle.
Alt News spoke with Divya Spandana, who heads Social Media and Digital Communication of the Congress Party. She suggested that Manoj Tyagi, who is a media co-ordinator in the Congress party, was asked to sign the register so that media personnel who were accompanying the Congress troupe could enter the premises of the temple. She also stated that the entries corresponding to “Rahul GandhiJi and Ahamed Patel” were not present when Tyagi signed the register and that they were added later. Alt News tried to reach Tyagi multiple times to confirm this assertion but he was unreachable.
Further Handwriting Analysis
Does the handwriting in the visitor book that Congress party is claiming to be Rahul Gandhi’s actual entry match his publicly available handwritten samples? We juxtaposed images of the latest and previous samples and we found that they do match.
The assertion by Divya Spandana that the names “Rahul Gandhiji” and “Ahamed Patel” were not written by Tyagi himself is corroborated by the differing style of writing numerals in the date section of the entry and the mobile phone number which was put in by Tyagi under his signature.
Firstpost spoke with Somnath temple trust’s secretary PK Laheri, who stated that Rahul Gandhi only signed the visitor book and nowhere else, an assertion which is line with the Congress Party’s defence.
In the months leading up to the Gujarat elections, it has been witnessed that a brazen effort is underway to shape the popular narrative away from the real issues facing the state while trivial issues take centre stage. There also seems to be an organised attempt to polarise the electorate on communal lines through constant reference to religion. Sections of mainstream media and electronic media in particular have been complicit through their unrelenting coverage on such topics. The controversy over Rahul Gandhi’s entry in the Somnath temple register comes across as yet another attempt to distract public opinion and is a sad commentary on the nature of political discourse in India.
This article first appeared on Alt News.