New Delhi: Union Minister of State (MoS) for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha on Thursday challenged Congress President Rahul Gandhi to debate with him in a 'civilized manner' amid row over felicitating Jharkhand lynching convicts.
A group of people had lynched Alimuddin Ansari, 40, in Bazaar Tand locality of Ramgarh town on June 29, 2017, on the suspicion that he was carrying beef in his car. Forensic tests later confirmed that the meat he was carrying was beef.
In March this year, a fast track court convicted 11 people for lynching. However, last week, Jharkhand High Court suspended the life sentence of eight persons, including a BJP functionary. After getting bail, the convicts walked out of the Jai Prakash Narain Central Jail and headed straight to Sinha's residence where they were welcomed with garlands.
"Shri Rahul Gandhi ji has taken the attack against me to a personal level. He has condemned my education, values, and humanity. I challenge him to a live debate in Hindi or English on the Ramgarh lynching case," said Sinha in a Twitter post.
"If he thinks that my personal conduct is 'disgusting' then let's debate it in a civilized manner. Let him not hide behind his social media handles and practice shoot-and-scoot politics. Our great Republic deserves no less," reads a statement posted on Twitter.
The minister also said that the events in Ramgarh on June 29, 2017 were distressing and terrible. "As I have said repeatedly, vigilantism is totally unacceptable. Guilt can only be established through due process because the rule of law is supreme in our constitutional democracy. Those who commit vigilantism and break the law should be fully punished."
On Tuesday, Gandhi had slammed Sinha for felicitating convicts and urged citizens to support a petition asking the Harvard University to withdraw minister's alumni status.
Slamming Sinha, Rahul Gandhi asked people to support a petition created on change.org which is filed by Prateek Kanwal, a 2018 graduate from Harvard University.
"If the sight of a highly educated MP & Central Minister, Jayant Sinha, garlanding & honouring criminals convicted of lynching an innocent man, fills you with disgust, click on the link & support this petition," Rahul said in a tweet.
Sinha, stating that many social media participants, various political parties, and some media outlets have said that I sympathize with vigilantes because I welcomed the Ramgarh convicts at my residence, he said, "I did not intend, in any way, to condone vigilantism, and I sincerely regret if that's the impression I gave."
Earlier, defending his actions, Sinha said that the Ranchi High Court has suspended the sentence of the accused and released them on bail and he was honouring the law. In April too, Sinha had raised doubts over the police investigation and demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Ramgarh lynching case.
Showing his angst against his son's behaviour, Yashwant Sinha had tweeted: "Earlier I was the Nalayak Baap of a Layak Beta. Now the roles are reversed. That is twitter. I do not approve of my son's action. But I know even this will lead to further abuse. You can never win."