In 2009, addressing an election rally in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh, BJP MP Varun Gandhi was caught on camera spewing venom at Muslims. The image of the young leader inciting the crowd shocked the whole nation.
Criminal proceedings were initiated against Mr Gandhi and a total of three cases were registered against him: two for his hate speeches at Barkhera and Dalchand, both in Pilibhit, and a third case for inciting riots and assault on police and destruction of public property on the day of his surrender at a Pilibhit court.
Cut to 4 May 2013. A Pilibhit Sessions Court exonerated Mr Gandhi of all charges. All 88 witnesses had turned hostile, probably the first time such a thing had happened in the history of criminal cases.
What had happened that all witnesses denied ever hearing or seeing Mr Gandhi incite the crowds? Why were 88 people saying something wholly different now from what they had said then? Were they all lying? Or was justice being subverted once again in this country?
In a more than two-month long exclusive investigation, a team of Tehelka journalists has exposed the shocking reality of the Varun Gandhi story. How senior police officers, witnesses, the public prosecutor’s office, judge - almost everyone, was compromised in this case.
When they were captured on camera, close aides of Mr Gandhi reveal how the law was subverted at every stage, and how witnesses were bullied, blackmailed and bought so that all charges against Mr Gandhi could be dismissed.
Equally shocking is the revelation that Mr Gandhi — now a General Secretary of the BJP — had allegedly engineered the defeat of his own party candidate from Pilibhit in the Assembly poll to ensure a win for Samajwadi Party candidate Riyaz Ahmed. The understanding being that Mr Ahmed would help fix the Muslim witnesses in favour of Mr Gandhi. Such a startling instance of cross-party quid pro quo is perhaps common, but has seldom been caught on camera.
Moreover, Tehelka has testimonies from three journalists, who are also key witnesses, of how “almost everyone was sold out” in this case. This case is again a grim reminder of how easy it is to subvert justice in India, and how the rich and powerful can bend the law according to their will. Instance after instance of the shocking reality has been caught on camera by Tehelka journalists in this sting operation.