The Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign songs for the Delhi Assembly elections are a clear violation of the Model Code of Conduct and several other rules, a group of filmmakers, advocates and an author have told the Election Commission of India in a complaint filed on February 4. Delhi is set to vote on February 8, and the results will be out on February 11.
Observing that these videos promote hatred between communities and different classes, the five signatories have asked the Election Commission to direct the BJP to “remove the offending videos from all its social media portals...and issue directions to them to refrain from releasing any further such or other videos in the public domain”.
“Even a cursory viewing of the videos demonstrates that they openly target members of a minority community who have been protesting against certain government policies at Shaheen Bagh and other sites in Delhi and outside, and also those who, not being members of said minority community, have supported these protests,” the signatories – filmmakers Amit Mahanti and Ruchika Negi, lawyers Gayatri Saini and Shomona Khanna, and author Parvati Sharma – wrote.
“The words ‘Shaheen Bagh’ are used repeatedly showing visuals of women in Hijab and men wearing Muslim head-dress, and accompanied by language which clearly incites hatred and violence against the said community and their allies,” they added.
Observing that the videos repeatedly use visuals of some student leaders, the signatories said that they “incite viewers to rid the nation of such persons”.
The letter added: “In the second video, the repeated refrain ‘Har drohi tu pehchaan re’ (Identify every traitor) is accompanied by images of the ongoing protests and of public figures who have supported these protests.”
These videos have had a “direct impact on the campaigning and election environment in Delhi”, they said, referring to the three incidents of shooting at protest sites in Jamia Millia Islamia University and Shaheen Bagh. On January 30, shots were fired at Jamia, injuring a student. On February 1, bullets flew at nearby Shaheen Bagh, where women from the area have driven a sit-in protest for more than 50 days. Late on February 2, shots were fired near the gates of Jamia.
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The campaign songs
The two videos that the signatories refer to were released last week. The first song, released by the party on January 31, says: “It is time to evict those sitting on protest in Delhi.”
The song in Hindi, which is two minutes and eight seconds long, goes on to say: “Remember those who empower Urban Naxals” – a term that the BJP and its supporters have coined to attack social activists and civil rights defenders. The song’s video shows a grainy image of Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal at this point.
“Teach a lesson to those who fear the rise of India,” the song says. “Give an answer, Delhi, to those who love Shaheen Bagh.” Shaheen Bagh is the locality in South Delhi where hundreds of women, along with children, have been peacefully protesting against the amendments to the Citizenship Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens since December 15. The law has been widely criticised as discriminatory and Indian Muslims fear it could be used along with the citizens’ register to harass and disenfranchise them.
The accompanying video combines images of protestors holding up banners expressing their opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens in Delhi at peaceful demonstrations with scenes of arson and stone-pelting. It is not clear whether the images are from the national Capital. The song uses the phrase “tukde tukde gang” – a term used by the BJP government to tarnish its critics and allege they are working to balkanise India. The video also shows images of former student leaders of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid.
The second video reiterates the BJP’s oft-repeated claim that protests against Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens are tearing India apart.
The four-minutes-and-28-seconds-long song starts off saying imposters are sitting in protest in Delhi and mocking the city. The visuals that accompany it are that of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, hijab-clad protestors, and Aishe Ghosh, the current president of the JNU students’ union, who was injured when the university was attacked by a masked mob on January 5.
As the video continues, it cuts between protestors who are visibly Muslim, wearing skull caps and hijabs, and silent figures who are marked out as Hindu by sacred threads, ash smeared on foreheads and bindis. They are the voters being appealed to. The songs tells them to identify every traitor, and shows the images of Sharjeel Imam, the JNU student booked for sedition for a speech at Shaheen Bagh, the Congress’ Gandhis, Bhim Army’s Chandrasekhar Azad and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap.