By: Kimberly Rodrigues
The opposition leader in India, Rahul Gandhi, has been handed a two-year prison sentence in a criminal defamation case. The conviction comes as a result of comments made during an election rally in 2019, in which Gandhi referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname.
Although he has been granted bail for 30 days and has the option to appeal the decision, he will face incarceration if his appeal is unsuccessful.
The Member of Parliament from the Congress party was in attendance at the sentencing hearing, which occurs a year prior to the scheduled general elections.
During a pre-election rally in Karnataka state in 2019, Rahul Gandhi posed a question regarding the shared surname of “Modi” among thieves. Media reports from the time indicate that he was specifically referring to Lalit Modi, the former chief of the Indian Premier League, and the fugitive diamond tycoon, Nirav Modi.
Purnesh Modi, a lawmaker from India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, filed a case alleging that Gandhi’s comments had defamed the entire Modi community.
Although Gandhi has not made any public comments yet, he has shared a quote in Hindi from Mahatma Gandhi on Twitter which reads, “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, and non-violence the means to get it.”
The matter has prompted a strong response from several Congress leaders, including party president Mallikarjun Kharge and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who expressed their anger.
“A scared machinery of power is trying to suppress the voice of Rahul Gandhi through ‘saam, daam, dand, bhed’ (every trick in the book),” Priyanka Gandhi said in Hindi on Twitter.
“My brother has never been afraid, nor will he ever be. He has lived is life speaking the truth, will continue to speak the truth. Will continue to raise the voice of the people of the country,” she said.
Kharge, in a tweet, stated that an appeal will be filed regarding the matter and criticised the BJP, stating that if they point one finger at others, there are four fingers pointed at them.
Meanwhile, the Congress party shared a tweet in Hindi stating that Rahul Gandhi is courageously raising his voice against a dictator and calling out wrongdoings.
The party also mentioned that the dictator is trying to intimidate via various means such as ED, police, cases, and punishment. However, the Congress party asserted that they will fight and win.
Jairam Ramesh, the Congress General Secretary, responded to the situation and stated that in the new India, speaking up against injustice can result in punishment, such as the ED-CBI, police, and FIR.
He further noted that Rahul Gandhi is being punished for speaking the truth and raising his voice against the dictator. Nevertheless, Ramesh expressed that the country’s law provides an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to appeal, which he intends to exercise.
(With inputs from PTI)