Friday September 17, 2021

BJP-linked TV channel issues death fatwa on Indian broadcaster

LONDON: A renowned British Indian broadcaster Ravi Sharma is living in fear after a television channel here linked with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) subjected him to a Taliban-style death sentence during a live broadcast aired to thousands of households across the vast network.

During a discussion titled, “Let's Talk Hinduism” on MATV, the show host and Indian community leader Brij Mohan Gupta hurled a death sentence on Ravi Sharma by calling him a “traitor worthy of death”.

Brij Mohan Gupta said, "He (Ravi Sharma) defamed the community. He completely destroyed the entity of the Hindu religion. What punishment should such a person deserve?" Brij Mohan Gupta asked his guest, Dr Tanaji Acharya, before answering the question himself.

"He (Ravi Sharma) is a traitor. He is a traitor and he deserves a death sentence. He is a traitor. He has betrayed the society; he has committed treason against Sanatan Dharam."

MATV (Midlands Asian Television) is owned by Kuldeep Singh Shekhawat, the president of Overseas Friends of BJP UK (OFBJP), who is known for running a communal campaign during the last year’s general election in which he attempted to incite Hindu voters against Labour Party for Jeremy Corbyn’s support for human rights of Indian occupied Kashmiris. Evidence shows that Indian voters rejected the divisive but the dangerous campaign sparked fears of communal and ethnic riots within the UK at that time.

The Sky - 711 channel, based in Wembley and popular among Hindus living in the UK features programmes in Hindi, English, Gujarati and Punjabi.

Ravi Sharma was subjected to the hate speech just days after suffering an assault at the Vishwa Hindu Temple in Southall. In a video released from a hospital bed in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the veteran radio broadcaster accused the temple officials of orchestrating the attack on his life.

Brij Mohan Gupta also called Ravi Sharma a “terrorist” during the live show. He declared that Ravi Sharma would have to pay the price for bringing out issues of the temple to the media.

He said, "The God will never allow such people to flourish. He will have to pay for it and you will see.”

Referring to the video message released by Ravi Sharma, the MA TV host said: "If you watch the footage of Vishwa Hindu Temple that has been captured in their camera, you will see that he looks like a terrorist. He forgot that he was shabbily dressed when he came to this country. I was the cultural secretary then of the temple. I gave him the first meal in my restaurant."

The hate speech and incitement to violence on MA TV's show has come as a surprise to viewers since such blatant hate mongering is completely against the media regulator Ofcom's (Office of Communication) rules.

In the shocking broadcast, Brij Mohan Gupta said that a temple was like a mother to Hindus and Ravi Sharma had committed a crime against the mother of Hindus. He announced that the fight between Ravi Sharma and the temple committee members had saddened him.

He said, “The solution to the differences doesn’t mean to be provoked and act like a terrorist and become like a terrorist and start intimidating and harassing people and do wrong things. The day before yesterday or around 3-4 days back, a gentleman (Ravi Sharma) recorded a video from a hospital bed and disseminated that video to 173 countries which spread like a bush fire in Australian jungles.”

The MATV show host accused the Hindu media man of defaming the “Hindu community and Sanatan Dharam in the whole wide world”.

He added, “He dented. He defamed the community. He completely destroyed the entity of the Hindu religion.”

Brij Mohan Gupta went on to call Ravi Sharma a person of lower and inferior caste, “That is why his mentality remains inferior. He is a person of inferior mentality. Right.”

The show host told his viewers that he felt like beating Ravi Sharma when he worked in the temple, “When he was in the temple, he used to crack such jokes that we felt like beating him then and there. Those jokes are not for the temples. He has no manners.”

Speaking to this correspondent, Dr Tanaji Acharya said he didn’t issue a death sentence on Mr Sharma. He disassociated himself from the channel and the comments made. He clarified, “I was part of the programme as a Hindu expert. I was not aware that the show will be used against Mr Sharma whom I respect. I give my opinion only on religious matters. I had no role in the show and I had no opinion. If I had known that harmful comments will be made in the show, I would have declined to take part.”

When asked to comment about his channel’s involvement in hate-speech against a fellow Hindu, Mr Shekhawat said the UK’s media regulator Ofcom was investigating the case. Brij Mohan Gupta said his lawyers have told him not to comment on the matter. It’s understood that law firm Glen Solicitors is representing Ravi Sharma but a spokesman for the law firm refused to answer questions over email.