A 30-second clip of Karnataka minister Priyank Kharge holding a meeting with police officers is being shared on social media with the claim that he is instructing the police to jail people who try to save cows. The meeting was conducted in Kannada. Many mentioned that this was an anti-Hindu stance by Priyank Kharge as they believed that was promoting cow slaughter and that the minister’s ‘order’ amounted to an undeclared emergency in the southern state.

The BJP Karnataka’s official Twitter account shared the clip and mentioned in their caption that Article 48 of the Indian Constitution prohibits the slaughter of animals, especially in public spaces and that Priyank Kharge was abusing his power, promoting cow slaughter and pressuring the police to arrest those who opposed slaughtering. (Archive)

BJP Andhra Pradesh state general secretary Vishnu Vardhan Reddy (@SVishnuReddy) also shared the clip with a similar claim. (Archive)

Several other social media users, including @MittaVamsiBJP, @Aish17aer, shared the video with similar claims.

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Fact Check

We noticed that the viral video has the watermark of the Kannada News Channel News First. We found the full video on their YouTube channel. The viral clip cuts off at the 0.29 mark of the original video after which the minister can be heard adding more context to his initial statement.

Further, a keyword search led us to a news report by Vartha Bharati, a Kannada daily, published on June 21. The report says that Kharge specifically mentioned three things. 1. He instructed police officers to take stringent action against those who spread misinformation on social media. 2. He emphasized on the need to prevent communal tension and 3. He said individuals claiming to be ‘Gau Rakshaks’ (cow protectors) and attempting to incite violence should be arrested and prosecuted.

On the YouTube channel of Vartha Bharati, we came across a longer version of the viral video clip from a different angle. The title of the video in Kannada can be translated as: “Those who sow communal poison should be curbed: Priyank Kharge”.

At the 0.18 mark of the video, he talks about Bakrid and gives instructions to the police. We translated that part of the video from Kannada to English.

“Now Bakrid is coming up.. According to the law, All PSIs and DSPs please listen.. People who do cow vigilantism, saying we are from this dal, that dal… they don’t know how much the farmers are struggling. If anybody wears a shawl and says we are from this dal or organization, and if they take the law into their own hands, kick them and put them behind bars. The law is very clear. All transportation of livestock whether it is within city limits or in rural areas, if they have permission & documents, stop the harassment. Will you sit in the police station after giving your work to them (Cow vigilantes)? This new harassment was started during the previous government. Last time in Gulbarga, these guys visited homes, they picked up farmers’ animals. Act according to the law. If anybody takes the law into their own hands, there should be strict action taken against them. If anybody is illegally smuggling the animals, be it livestock or any other animals, put them behind bars. There is no denying it. But even after having all permissions if someone is harassed, you ask them who are they (Cow Vigilante goons) to ask?”

So, it is clear that in his address, Priyank Kharge asks police to take strict and legal action against those cow vigilantes who take the law into their own hands claiming to be from some organisation. He mentions that if someone has the permission and the required documents for transport of livestock then the police should prevent harassment of them. He also mentions that if anybody is illegally smuggling animals, action should be taken against them as well.

We found that Priyank Kharge also tweeted on this matter mentioning how his speech was misinterpreted. Quote-tweeting BJP Karnataka’s tweet he wrote, “Dear @BJP4Karnataka, time to fire your agency who is handling the party’s twitter handle . Clearly they don’t understand Kannada, forget understanding the Constitution. Is BJP suggesting cow vigilantism is legal & the vigilantes of any kind should be encouraged to break the law? Try it my friends, Govt of Karnataka will show you the power of Constitution.”

Therefore, the claim by the BJP Karnataka and other BJP leaders that Priyank Kharge promoted cow slaughter is false. The Congress politician told the police to make sure that no one took the law into their own hands in the name of gau raksha (protection for the cows/ cow vigilantism) and caused communal tension.

Right Wing propaganda website OpIndia published an article on the issue where the headline and sub-head both appear to be misleading. The headline said “Son of Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge directs cops to kick ‘gaurakshaks’ in Karnataka…”, while the sub-head said, “Priyank Kharge had said, “Those who wear shawls, take the law into their own hands and say they are from these dals (Bajrang Dal), kick them and put them behind bars.” The second paragraph adds the necessary context by saying that Kharge asked police to take action in cases where “transportation of cattle is being obstructed despite having valid documents”. The point made by the minister that if anybody was illegally smuggling animals they should be put behind bars was not mentioned in the ‘report’. (Archive)

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