Video shows Rahul Gandhi calling for forgiveness for office vandals, not sectarian murder suspects

·3 min read

A video of Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has circulated repeatedly in Facebook posts that claim it shows him saying he is "not angry" with two Muslim men accused of killing a Hindu tailor, in a murder that has sparked nationwide protests. However, Gandhi was talking about students who vandalised his office, not the murder suspects. He has condemned the killing and AFP found no trace of him publicly expressing sympathy with the murder suspects.

"I don't have any anger or hostility towards them. They have done a silly thing, so we should leave it at that," says Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the Indian National Congress party, in a video shared on Facebook on July 2.

"They are kids. I don't think they understand the consequences of these types of things, so I think we should be forgiving as far as they are concerned."

The video circulated online after the murder of a Hindu tailor over his support for an official who made controversial remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

Thousands of people protested following the death of Kanhaiya Lal in the city of Udaipur, with many calling for the two Muslim men accused of killing him to be executed.

The Facebook post sharing the video reads: "Rahul Gandhi calls Udaipur puncturewalle terrorists as children who did a silly thing".

"Puncturewalle" is an anti-Muslim slur often used by right-wing Hindus in India.

The post claims Gandhi's Congress party is a "CANCER".

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on July 5, 2022.

The video was shared alongside a similar claim in Facebook posts here and here.

However, Gandhi was talking about the students who vandalised his office, not the Udaipur murder suspects.

Edited video

A longer version of the video posted on YouTube on July 2 by local news channel News18 Kerala.

It is headlined: "Rahul Gandhi Office Attacked: "I have no anger towards the children who did this"; says Rahul Gandhi".

The attack on Gandhi's office on June 24 in Wayanad in the state of Kerala was widely reported, including by The Indian Express and The Hindustan Times.

Before he makes the remarks about forgiving the attackers, Gandhi says at the one-minute 14-second mark: "This is my office, but before being my office, it is the office of the people of Wayanad.

"However, the children who did this, I mean they are also children, so it's not fine. It's not a good thing to do, but they have acted in an irresponsible way.

"I don't have any anger or hostility towards them. They have done a silly thing, so we should leave it at that.

"They are kids. I don't think they understand the consequences of these types of things, so I think we should be forgiving as far as they are concerned."

Gandhi does not mention the suspects in the Udaipur murder case in the video.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video shared in the misleading post (left) and the video posted by News18 Kerala (right):

Screenshot comparison of the misleading post (L) and News 18 clip (R)

Local media correction

The edited video of Gandhi shared in the misleading posts bears the logo of Zee News, an Indian Hindi-language news channel.

Rohit Ranjan, an anchor at the broadcaster, issued a correction and apology on his verified Twitter account on July 2.

The Hindi-language tweet translates to English as: "Yesterday, in our show DNA, Rahul Gandhi's statement was taken in the wrong context by linking it to the Udaipur incident, it was a human error for which our team is apologetic, and we apologise for it."

On June 28, Gandhi tweeted a statement condemning the incident but made no mention of the two suspects.

AFP found no official reports about Gandhi making comments on the Udaipur murder suspects.

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