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Act Now Against Hate Speech!

Act Now Against Hate Speech!

Hate speech is a powerful weapon of fascist forces. It is effectively used to denigrate, divide and discriminate against the other. When fascists are on the back foot, when they are insecure, when they realize that their manipulations and other devious agenda do not produce the desired fruits – they have no qualms of conscience of spewing venom through their hate speeches. When they do so, they polarize certain sections of the people, their ‘unthinking bhakts’ (who have long abdicated the human potential of intelligence, rationality and objectivity), are easy prey to their lies.

 Lies and half-truths (reminding one of Josef Goebbels – Hitler’s information minister) are told with such aplomb that the gullible and the naive, swallow them without using an iota of their so-called ‘intelligence’. Hate speech besides polarizing and dividing also incites violence. When the followers are able to sieve the facts from the fake; the truth from the untruth their herd instinct just goads them to attack the ‘other’: to riot and arson; to rape and murder!

Hate speech in India seems to have become the ‘new normal’; throwing all civility, caution, sensitivity and morality to the wind – those who indulge in hate speech are normally the so-called ‘VIPS’ of the country. Just a few days ago NDTV, the popular English channel in a reality check analysis showed that there is a whopping 700 percent jump in the hate speeches made by VIPs in the last one month since the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed, as compared to the average number of hate speeches during the first term of the Modi-led NDA Government. This speaks volumes of the pathetic levels the Government and the leaders, can stoop in order to unleash their nefarious designs on the people.

Ever since   the CAA was passed on   11 December 2019, there have been   at least twenty-five instances of VIP hate speeches ; that is almost one hateful comment a day : a massive jump indeed! Leading the hate-filled bandwagon is none other than Prime Minister Modi who on 15 December, during a rally in Dumka, Jharkhand referring to the anti-CAA protesters, said, " you can easily make out who is spreading violence  by the clothes they wear " . Not to be outdone his clone the Home Minister Amit Shah, said at a rally on 27 December in Shimla, " Congress government was there for 10 years under Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. Every day  Alia, Malia, Jamalia  would come from Pakistan and behead our soldiers and the PM remained mute through everything." Extremely serious, untrue and hate statements made by the most powerful leaders of the country.

Taking a cue from their political bosses and mentors, other BJP leaders and ‘bhakts’ have gone hammer and tongs, ranting and raving against anyone who does not toe their line ; hitting out strongly on those who uphold the constitutional framework , democratic and pluralistic fabric of the country. A few days ago, in Kolkata, the BJP's Bengal president Dilip Ghosh, in reference to anti-CAA protesters, said: "Didi's (Mamata Banerjee) police didn't take action against the people who destroyed public properties as they are her voters. Our government in UP, Assam and Karnataka has  shot these people like dogs " . Two police complaints have already been registered against him. In Aligarh, BJP leader Raghuraj Singh said, "If you raise slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath,  I will bury you alive ." Earlier,  Haryana BJP MLA Leela Ram Gurjar said  at an event for CAA that those opposing the Act and NRC could be “wiped out in an hour”.

At the rally in Kozhikode on 13 January, BJP workers said, “ if you stand against national security, all your mosques will vanish from Indian soil. Do you know who is saying this? This is Hedgewar’s army. This is the RSS’ army”. In a video shared online, the party workers can also be heard saying, “Don’t you remember Gujarat? Remember that before you take us on.” On 16 January, the Kerala police, filed a case against over one hundred BJP workers in the state after communal slogans referencing the  2002 Gujarat riots  were raised at its rally in Kozhikode the previous day! Vitriolic and abusive slogans were raised at a pro- CAA  march organised by the BJP called country’ This is not the first time the Gujarat carnage of 2002, has been mentioned during the defense of the Modi government’s controversial  Citizenship Amendment Act . BJP’s Karnataka minister CT Ravi had last month had  referred to Godhra  while responded to Congress MLA UT Khader’s criticism of CAA, saying: “The majority community is being patient. This does not mean that you can provoke people.” Blatant threats and serious innuendoes that if you dissent , if you do not come on board then   you will meet with the same fate as did more than two thousands Muslims during the Gujarat carnage which was presided over by Modi himself.

There are other hate speeches which are being freely aired across the country. On 2 January, 2020, Union Minister Giriraj Singh said at Bagusarai, UP, “ Students who go to missionary schools qualify for IIT and become engineers, but when they go abroad most of them start eating beef because they do not know about our sanskar and sanskriti.” (Traditional values and culture). Earlier on Dussehra day, the RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat denigrated both the Bible and Jesus saying that ‘lynching’ was foreign to India and had its justification in the Bible and from Jesus himself.

Nothing seems to happen to those who indulge in hate speech and incite violence on the religious minorities and other vulnerable communities. There is sufficient provision in the Constitution of India and its ‘ hate speech laws’ which are aimed to prevent discord among its many ethnic and religious communities. The laws allow a citizen to seek the punishment of anyone who shows the citizen disrespect "on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever". The laws specifically forbid anyone from outraging someone's "religious feelings".

The country has in   Section 153A of the Indian penal code says inter alia, “whoever (a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or (b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquility, . . . shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.” And further, Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) enacted in 1927 says,   whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of [citizens of India], [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or both”

Hate speeches also takes place in other countries. This is a worrying phenomenon for the world. Unfortunately and to a terrible insult to the people of India the extreme right-wing President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, has been invited by the Government to be the be the chief guest at our Republic Day celebrations. Bolsonaro is known for his hate speeches, which certainly makes an average person squirm. But we are also aware that ‘birds of the same feather, flock together’

On   18 June 2019, the UN Secretary General in António Guterres , in yet another global effort to stamp out hate speeches said, “hate speech is a direct assault on our core values of tolerance, inclusion and respect for human rights and human dignity. It sets groups against each other, contributes to violence and conflict, and undermines all our efforts for peace, stability and sustainable development”.

The moot question, we , the people of India need to ask   those who control the law and order system of the country , will you continue to be mute spectators and allow those hell-bent on destroying our beautiful country, to get away with immunity and impunity? Or will you have the courage to act NOW?

* ( Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ, is a human rights & peace activist/writer.  Contact:cedricprakash@gmail.com)

(Published on 20th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 04)