A massive controversy erupted on social media when reports suggested that Congress vice President Rahul Gandhi on his visit to the Somnath temple in Gujarat registered as a non- Hindu during his visit. This news was originally published by Zee Gujarati after it was tweeted by their journalist Tejash Modi that started it all. The tweet by Tejash Modi claimed, “Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited the Somnath temple. Signed the temple trust register for non-Hindus. Ahmed Patel also registered.”
BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya latched on to this tweet and in no time many other Twitter handles who support BJP made this viral.
Ambassador Meera Shankar, UPA’s representative in US, had referred to Sonia Gandhi as a Christian leader. The reference was soon deleted. Now Rahul Gandhi declares he is a non-Hindu but their election affidavits claim that they are Hindus. Gandhis lying about their faith? pic.twitter.com/iFE4AhVnRM
— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) November 29, 2017
TV news channels played along. Zee News ran the story with the title ‘Rahul ko Hindu hone ka garv nahi?’ with the hashtag #RahulHinduVivad whereas Republic TV ran the hastag #RahulHinduorCatholic and asked questions such “When you were 27-years-old, the NYT listed you as a Catholic. Did you correct them?” and “Did you, despite accepting the NYT description as a Roman Catholic, call yourself a ‘Brahmin’ in 2012? Different descriptions for different geographies?” Times Now conducted a prime time debate at 8 pm and 9 pm with the hashtag #RagaSomnathSelfGoal. Times of India made this story the front page lead.
The easiest way to ascertain whether a written piece of text can be linked with a person or not is by doing some handwriting analysis. It is a technique that is used widely by forensic organisations around the world. Considering that Rahul Gandhi has represented Congress at various events, a simple search on Google throws up many of his handwritten notes. Lets take a couple of these samples and compare it with the entry from Somnath Register being passed around.
The image above clearly shows that the samples of Rahul Gandhi’s handwriting available on public websites doesn’t match the handwriting in the register which is being claimed to be his entry while visiting Somnath Temple.
Moreover, if the handwriting of the two consecutive lines corresponding to the entries of “Rahul GandhiJi” and “Ahemad Patel” are compared, they appear to the written by the same person.
Also, Ahmed Patel’s name has been misspelled as “Ahemad Patel” while Rahul Gandhi has been written has “Rahul Gandhiji”. It is highly unlikely that either Mr Ahmed Patel would misspell his own name or the Congress VP would put down his name as “Rahul Gandhiji”.
Some simple hand-writing analysis makes it obvious that it wasn’t Mr Rahul Gandhi who himself put in his name. While BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya has an agenda considering that he’s representing a party and has been caught peddling misinformation multiple times (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), what stopped the various news organisations from doing this simple analysis?
Congress party’s stand
The Congress party was swift to react. In a press conference, Congress spokespersons produced the original document that has the signature of Rahul Gandhi in the visitor’s book of the Somnath temple. They also claimed that Rahul Gandhi was never given the register in which it is claimed that he signed himself as a ‘non-Hindu’.
Rahul ji made an entry into the visitor's book, The signature which is being talked of is different,neither it is the signature of Rahul Gandhi nor was this register ever given to him: RS Surjewala,Congress pic.twitter.com/8w6hkKxRHQ
— ANI (@ANI) November 29, 2017
Congress party tweeted the following from their official Twitter handle.
Clarification: There is only one visitor's book at Somnath Temple that was signed by Congress VP Rahul Gandhi. Any other image being circulated is fabricated.
Desperate times call for desperate measures? pic.twitter.com/KOokFOH83z
— Congress (@INCIndia) November 29, 2017
Alt News spoke with Divya Spandana who is the Social Media and Digital Communication Incharge of the Congress Party. She suggested that Manoj Tyagi who is a media co-ordinator in the Congress party was asked to sign the register so that media personnel who were accompanying the Congress troupe could enter the premises of the temple. She also stated that the entries corresponding to “Rahul GandhiJi and Ahemad Patel” were not present when Mr Tyagi signed the register and that they were added later. Alt News tried to reach Mr Tyagi multiple times to confirm this assertion but he was unreachable.
Further Handwriting Analysis
Does the handwriting in the visitor book that Congress party is claiming to be Rahul Gandhi’s actual entry match his publicly available handwritten samples? We juxtaposed images of the latest and previous samples and we found that they do match.
The assertion by Divya Spandana that the names “Rahul Gandhiji” and “Ahemad Patel” were not written by Mr Tyagi himself is indicated by the differing style of writing numerals in the date section of the entry and the mobile phone number which was put in by Mr Tyagi under his signature.
Firstpost spoke with Somnath temple trust’s secretary PK Laheri who stated that Rahul Gandhi only signed the Visitor book and nowhere else, an assertion which is line with the Congress Party’s defence.
In the months leading up to the Gujarat elections, it has been witnessed that a brazen effort is underway to shape the popular narrative away from the real issues facing the state while triviality takes centre stage. There also seems to be an organised attempt to polarise the electorate on communal lines through constant reference to religion. Sections of mainstream media and electronic media in particular have been complicit through their unrelenting coverage on such topics. The controversy over Rahul Gandhi’s entry in the Somnath temple register comes across as yet another attempt to distract public opinion and is a sad commentary on the nature of political discourse in India.