The Karnataka Police has registered a first information report against Bharatiya Janata Party President JP Nadda, the party’s information technology cell chief Amit Malviya and its Karnataka unit chief BY Vijayendra in connection with a social media post “demonising Muslims”, reported The Times of India on Monday.

The BJP leaders were booked after the Karnataka Congress filed a police complaint about the animated video that was uploaded to the BJP’s Karnataka social media handles on May 4, sparking outrage.

The animated video captioned “Beware.. Beware.. Beware..!” in Kannada, featured caricatures of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah placing an egg with “Muslims” written on it in a nest, alongside three other eggs marked as “SC [Scheduled Castes], ST [Scheduled Tribes] and OBC [Other Backward Classes]”.

The video showed Gandhi feeding “funds” to a bird, shown wearing a skullcap, as it hatches out of the “Muslim” egg. The video shows the “Muslim” bird pushing away the fledglings that hatch from the other three eggs, followed by the sound of laughter.

The video was uploaded to the saffron party’s social media handles just days before polling for the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, scheduled to take place on May 7.

The Karnataka Congress in its complaint said that the account to which the video was uploaded is operated by Malviya, and that this was done on the instructions of Nadda and Vijayendra.

“The act of the accused persons is to wantonly provocate rioting and promote enmity between different religions and is prejudicial to maintenance of harmony apart from intimidating members of the SC/ST [Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes] community not to vote for a particular candidate and causing enmity against members of SC/ST community,” the complaint said, according to PTI.

The three BJP leaders have been booked under sections of the Representation of People Act and section 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code, PTI reported quoting an unidentified senior police officer.

The Congress had also filed a complaint with the Election Commission, saying that the video violates the Model Code of Conduct – a set of guidelines issued by the poll panel for political parties and candidates to follow during poll campaigns. It sets guardrails for speech, among other things.

The Congress alleged that the BJP’s video had violated the poll code by portraying the Congress as favouring a particular religion and that is plans to deprive members of Schedule Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.

The video posted on social media platform X as part of the BJP’s Lok Sabha campaign had triggered widespread criticism.

On Monday, a delegation comprising representatives from six civil rights groups met with the Chief Election Officer of Karnataka demanding action against the BJP for violating the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, the Model Code of Contact and “spreading fake news and hate speech” through their X handle and newspaper advertisements.

The six civil rights groups were: Bahutva Karnataka, All India Lawyers Association for Justice, Campaign Against Hate Speech, All India Democratic Women’s Association, Naaveddu Nilladiddare and People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

“The video posted on the BJP Karnataka X handle clearly implies that the Muslim community is ‘eating’ all the funds at the cost of other communities, and that the Muslim community is pushing out the other communities,” the group said. “The very manner in which the Muslim community is portrayed as being ‘bad’ is a shocking and blatant attack against the community.”

The coalition of civil rights groups also pointed out that BJP’s newspaper advertisement “spreads fake news” that Muslims are being given reservations on the basis of religion, when in reality they are given reservations for being a part of socially and educationally backward class.

The group urged the poll body to file a first information report against the BJP’s Karnataka social media in-charge, Nadda, Malviya, BJP national social media in-charge and Vijayendra. It also demanded that Modi should be banned from campaigning for 48 hours.

BJP’s claims

In the run up to the third phase of the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other campaigners of the BJP have been claiming that the Congress plans to survey and seize private wealth, including the mangalsutras of married Hindu women, and redistribute it among “infiltrators” and “those who have more children”, a dog-whistle reference to the Muslim community.

The Congress’ manifesto neither refers to confiscation of private property, nor to mangalsutras. Modi’s claim was a distortion of a speech in 2006 by Congress leader Manmohan Singh, the prime minister at the time.

Singh had spoken about the need to uplift all disadvantaged communities, not just the religious minorities. Moreover, the Modi government has repeatedly told Parliament that it has no data on illegal immigrants.

In another speech on April 23, Modi had incorrectly claimed that in Karnataka, the Congress had instituted reservations on the basis of religion – for Muslims – through illegal means.

“Through a single notification, it included all Muslim communities in the OBC [Other Backward Classes] quota,” he alleged. “The Congress snatched away a big part of OBC reservations and gave it on the basis of religion.”

In 1962, the Congress government in Karnataka had included certain castes of Muslim communities in the Other Backward Classes list, not on the basis of religion, but on the basis of social and economic backwardness. It was the government of the Janata Dal (Secular) – now a BJP ally – that had extended the quotas to all Muslim communities in 1994.

Karnataka is just one of 14 states and Union territories where Muslim communities are included in the Other Backward Classes list. This includes Gujarat, where Modi was chief minister.

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