Kiren Rijiju’s “beef” with media is partly right

A comment from Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Naqvi has seemingly spiraled into a snowball, taking other ministers with it. Naqvi, at BJP’s “Manthan” conclave had said “those who are dying without eating beef can go to Pakistan”, seemingly indicating that since beef wasn’t an essential food item, surviving without it should be possible, to respect the sentiments of Hindus. While beef may not be essential, it is indeed stupid to try and insinuate that somebody who needs beef should go to Pakistan. While Naqvi was roasted for his needless comment, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju too got sucked into this debate.

In a visit to Aizawl, media reported Kiren Rijiju as “hitting back at Naqvi” saying:

“I eat beef, I’m from Arunachal Pradesh, can somebody stop me?”

Soon, as the remark was blown up by all media, a Facebook page called “Kiren Rijiju Official”, issued a statement saying the media had “misquoted” him:

Media has misquoted me. In Mizoram the Press & Civil society asked me if they have to go to Pakistan due to beef consumption? My reply was, “India is a secular Country where food habits can’t be stopped. I’m from Arunachal and I’ve my food habits but the faiths & sentiments of Hindus must be respected in Hindu majority States same as other communities have rights in their own areas”.
In my family nobody eats beef and it’s our choice. Media should not misquote to create unnecessary controversy. Some people comment without knowing the truth. Never question people of Arunachal on patriotism because we grew up with Jai Hind slogan & remain face to face with China safeguarding our motherland & fighting terrorists.

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At this stage, even we felt Rijiju has been been victimized by the media, who have in the recent past gone to deplorable depths to twist truths and manufacture lies. But soon, Indian Express, which had initially reported Rijiju’s statement, put out the audio of the interview, to back up their claim. So what did Rijiju exactly say on this issue? We reproduce it below:

This is a democratic country. Sometimes some statements are made which are not palatable. If a Mizo-Christian says that this is the land of Jesus, why should somebody have a problem in Punjab or Haryana. We have to honor sentiment of each place and location. For example, I eat beef, I am from Arunachal Pradesh, can somebody stop me? So Let us not be touchy about somebody’s practices, and inflict on ourselves. If Maharashtra is a Hindu majority state, if Gujarat, Madhya Pradeshare Hindu majority, if they want to make laws conducive for Hindu faith, let them make. But in our state where we are majority, where we feel whatever step we take, law should be conducive to our belief. They shouldn’t have problem how we live, we shouldn’t have problem how they live. This country is a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-communal country. We must respect each other’s practices. There cannot be any force on anybody about your practices, your faith. So if anybody makes a statement which is forcing or imposing your belief, your faith, your practices on another community, another believer, it is not good.

The key here is, Rijiju said “For Example, I eat beef….”. Also, it is important to actually hear this bit and understand the tone of Rijiju. He seems to be sounding like presenting a hypothetical example, not “hitting back” or “challenging” Naqvi. And this where most media got it wrong.

No one, not even Indian Express anywhere mentioned the words “For Example”, which Rijiju quite clearly said. This, along with the tone of the what was said, gave it a different colour. And then as usual, the remark was blown out of proportion to make it a war between Rijiju and Naqvi.

On the other hand, Rijiju is also guilty of using a poor example, which was so easy to be misunderstood, especially when one doesn’t listen to the audio, and without knowledge of the fact that Rijiju in fact doesn’t eat beef, which he later clarified.

This goes to become yet another lesson learnt the hard way, for BJP ministers, to measure very carefully what they say to the media since any statement cant be misquoted by omitting just 2 words, or taking a literal meaning, when the intention was to give a hypothetical example.

Also, if we listen to the audio clip till then end, we hear Indian Express’s reporter saying “I think you just gave us a headline sir”, right after Rijiju finished his statement.  And that’s what news is today, headlines. And hence, Ministers have to be ultra-careful.

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