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Hate Pandemic Must End

 

 

 

 

Nov. 7, 2023
SGPC, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, and the BJP are at loggerheads over a BJP leader’s hate speech directed at Muslims and Sikhs during a rally in Tijara, Rajasthan. Former BJP candidate Sandeep Dayma delivered the hate remark in the presence of Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and Mahant Balaknath, the party’s current candidate from Tijara. Despite the leader’s apology, the SGPC and other Sikh organizations are not prepared to back down.

Dayma said, “If the Congress candidate wins from this constituency, the number of masjids and gurdwaras will rise and that will be problematic for people living here.”

He threatened that these would be uprooted once his party came to power. Adityanath can be seen clapping after Dayma’s speech. After protests by Sikh bodies, Dayma issued an apology saying that he meant to say “Masjids and Madrassas” and by mistake ended up saying “Masjids and Gurdwaras”.

The Sikh Apex body, The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has taken strong exception to Dayma’s apology as well. The SGPC said that Dayma “should be ashamed” as “speaking against religious places of Muslims is equally condemnable as Gurdwaras”.

This harmful attitude of BJP leaders endangers social cohesion and inclusivity among public institutions in addition to undermining the tenets of secularism. The main objective of this article is to shed light on the issue of how hate and Islamophobia have infiltrated in our society, institutions and the Parliament of India. Hate speech and Islamophobic violence against minorities have significantly risen, and this is a matter of great concern. It appears that the perils of hate have crossed all limits, and this unprecedented situation deserves deep introspection. We must reflect on where we are heading as a society.

However, over the past 10 years, the right-wing politics of the BJP has resulted in increased persecution of Muslims throughout the country. The party and its leaders have been accused of promoting violence and using inflammatory language against Muslims to attract support from their political base. Additionally, when harmful content is spread by BJP politicians or their allies in media and public rallies, the authorities and police have been reluctant to take any action against them. Many of the leaders are still making hate speeches on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine with Islamophobic agenda to polarise the atmosphere ahead of election in the country.

Previously, a score of BJP MPs sloganeered “Jai Shri Ram” during the swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected Parliament after 2019 and ridiculed Asaduddin Owaisi, an MP from Hyderabad constituency. The same treatment was given to Badruddin Ajmal, MP from Assam and Mohammed Azam Khan, former MP from Rampur whenever they raised the issue of minority rights, hate crime and mob lynching in the Parliament. The most frightening thing in the latest episode is that the language of violence has now permeated the Indian Parliament, which has hitherto been regarded as a safe zone for all members of the house.

During a recent special session of Parliament, BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri from South Delhi constituency directed abusive and hateful slurs towards BSP MP Kunwar Danish Ali from Uttar Pradesh. The derogatory remarks made by Bidhuri were not only inappropriate but also below the belt. Ali referred to the verbal attack as a form of verbal lynching. Despite the obvious inappropriateness of Bidhuri’s remarks, the Speaker did not intervene, raising questions about whether his lack of action was justifiable. To make matters worse, other BJP leaders sitting alongside Bidhuri appeared to take pleasure in the situation. The conduct of the Speaker has tarnished the parliamentary debate culture, the dignity of the house, and the democratic culture. It is disheartening to see that the Lok Sabha Speaker and the government have failed to effectively address issues such as Islamophobia, hate speeches, and the menace of mob lynching.

It’s unfortunate that some politicians from the ruling party have a history of making offensive comments against minority groups, especially Muslims. This type of language has caused communal tension, violence, and riots in Delhi in the past. Ramesh Bidhuri was confident in making such remarks because he knew it would lead to a promotion within the party cadre and organisation, without any consequences. It’s worth noting that Anurag Thakur also made a hate speech during a political rally in Delhi, using the phrase “Goli Maaro…..” However, instead of taking disciplinary action against him, he was promoted from Minister of State to Cabinet Minister.

It is the language of violence, not hate speech. Hate speech and the language of violence are two distinct but related forms of harmful communication in India. While both can incite harm or violence, they differ in their expression and intent.

Hate speeches by BJP leaders are not something new. It has been part and parcel of BJP’s primary political activities and their leaders routinely exhibit hate and anti-Islam verbal attacks against minorities through all national TV channels. A few years ago, Amit Shah had described Bangladeshi migrants (based on identity) as ‘termites’. Nupur Sharma, the spokesperson of the party made an offensive statement against Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that too repeatedly and consciously. Senior leaders of the party made a statement that Hindu audiences should dig graves of Muslim women and rape the corpses and if one Hindu is killed, hundred Muslims should be killed. Modi had made a statement that people can be identified by their clothes. A local politician of Hyderabad described a Muslim predominant area of the city as ‘Mini Pakistan’. Anant Hegde stated that as long as there is Islam, there will be no peace in the world.

Looking at the BJP’s track record of hate speeches and promoting the language of violence, those who made such offensive speeches were accorded promotion by elevating them in the party. Hence, to the BJP the language of violence and hate speech is not a condemnable issue but these are accomplishments for the party and these leaders are incentivized. Hence it is not surprising that Yogi Adityanath despite his hate speeches went on to become Chief Minister of the largest state.

Even more concerning is the institutionalization of hate speech, where individuals who spew hateful rhetoric are given positions of power. This polarization has affected families, neighbourhoods, and even urban and rural areas. It has even led to violent incidents, such as the killing of four Muslims by a Railway Protection Force (RFP) constable. Hate speech has even made its way into classrooms, where teachers have been known to encourage students to discriminate against their Muslim peers. Unfortunately, the normalization of hate speech has made its way into Parliament, where it is being seen as a way to assert ‘nationalism’ and represent the interests of the Hindu majority. However, such behavior is unacceptable in a democratic society as it represents a new low for parliamentary democracy.

People are well aware of how BJP MPs have supported rapists by marching alongside them and have even garlanded murderers, whose victims were Muslims. How the authorities released prematurely the Bilkis Bano rapists and BJP leaders also distributed sweets when they reached home.

The Constitution of India acknowledges that civil and political freedoms cannot be absolute or uncontrolled and makes provisions in clauses (2) to (6) of Article 19 authorising the State to restrict the exercise of the freedom guaranteed under that article within the limits specified in those clauses. Thus, Clause (2) of Article 19, as subsequently amended by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 and the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963, enabled the legislature to impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression in the interest of society. If the State is continuously ignoring the frequent hate speech from the fringe and extremist organisations, it clearly denotes that rioters alone should not be blamed for the communal violence rather instigators of rioting alike are to blame for the orgy of communal violence.

Here, the primary job of the State is to maintain law and order and ensure inter-religious peace but the State has maintained a suspicious silence over the problem of the rising graph of hate speech targeted against minorities. Therefore, we say Hate Pandemic must end.

[Dr Narender Nagarwal teaches Law at Delhi University and Mohd Naushad Khan is the Sub-Editor of Radiance]

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