"Those are not my words, this is not my voice. The CD has been doctored. I've been a victim of political conspiracy. This is a malicious attempt to brand me communal." That was Varun Gandhi's defence against the charge of delivering anti-Muslim speeches. Since then, he and his party, the BJP, have been doing a strange shuffle between denial and justification. After the Election Commission held him guilty, the party line is that the tape ought to have been sent for forensic analysis before any such decision was taken.
That's hogwash, and more TV presenters ought to be saying so. An impression has been created in the public's mind that video can be manipulated to turn any image into anything else. This is simply not the case. It is true that composite images can be put together with relative ease, but the superimpositions are usually easy to spot. In Varun Gandhi's case, though, it wasn't a matter of a flag or some other element being added to the frame. We saw the candidate in close-up, and the words we heard synchronised perfectly with his lip movements. That's something which is almost impossible to simulate. At the very least it would require dozens of people working for weeks with a budget of tens of lakhs to animate each frame (there are twenty five per second in the format used in India). Even after this, a careful viewing by producers of television news programmes would reveal the fakery.
I'm glad the Election Commission has assumed the video recording faithfully renders what was said in Pilibhit, and put the burden of disproof on the accused. The BJP complains this is unfair, but, had the footage been fake, would it be difficult to prove its inauthenticity? There were thousands of people at those meetings in Pilibhit. Why has no one come forward with a statement like, "I was at the rally, and Varun Gandhi said nothing against Muslims. In fact, he spoke only about the importance of peace and harmony being maintained between communities, which, in any case, is the principle that animates our party." The BJP counts among its ranks a number of gifted techies. Not a single one has attempted to reveal what has been tampered with in those images and how.
It is easy to see why the candidate and his party did nothing to back up their assertions. Such cases usually come up for hearing in court rather than before an election tribunal. After months of procedural delays, the evidence is sent for analysis to one of our forensic laboratories. These labs, as I've shown before, favour voodoo science over proper enquiry. They produce a result that convinces nobody and takes the case nowhere. A fine example of this was the Anara Gupta trial. A woman, said to be Gupta, had been filmed having sex with her boyfriend. Once the footage was leaked, the police charged Gupta with creating and distributing pornography. The victim, in other words, became the accused. Luckily, the inefficiency of the forensic investigators eventually crossed out the insensitivity of the cops. A lab in Hyderabad concluded the woman on tape was not Gupta, while another facility in Chandigarh came to the opposite conclusion.
It wouldn't surprise me if our forensic investigators, having examined the Varun Gandhi tapes, decided the the man in the frame was not Gandhi at all, but an impostor.