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Interview With Prof Apoorvanand

Interview With Prof Apoorvanand

Hate speeches will harm democracy: Prof Apoorvanand

A rise hate speech in the past few years and particularly after nation-wide protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act has evoked serious reactions from political parties and people in large numbers. Political parties, both ruling and the opposition, blame each other for delivering hate speeches, although the Centre had told Supreme Court in October 2019 that there had been an “exponential rise in hate speech" besides fake news in the past few years. The Centre has also sought three additional months to come up with revised rules to prevent such mischief.

Four months have passed but nothing seems to have changed. BJP's West Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh's hate speech is the latest example. He said that West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee's 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," he said.   Two police complaints have been registered against him.

Ironically, BJP has taken strong exception to a statement made by Congress MLA Digambar Kamat at a recent anti-CAA (Citizenship (Amendment) Act) protest rally held at Lohia maidan in Margao to the effect that the government has amended the Constitution by linking citizenship to religion. It has also objected to the “hate speech”.

Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to Prof Apoorvanand to know the relevance of hate speech and its consequences on the national politics.

Apoorvanand is a professor at the Hindi Department at the University of Delhi. An avowed secularist, he also writes in English and is known for his frequent interventions in day-to-day politics, and for being a tireless champion of minority rights. He is one of the most vocal critics of the Sangh Parivar in the Hindi belt. 

He alleged that hate speech has always been part and parcel of BJP-RSS politics. However, he said that if it continues, it will pose a serious threat to the secular fabric and democratic principles of India.

IC: What is your reaction to a spike in hate speeches by political parties in India?

Prof Apoorvanand: Hate speech or use of hate language has always been associated with the BJP's politics. It has become crude, vulgar and brazen because the party is in power. They have a sense of impunity. In the 1980s, some BJP leaders had delivered hate speeches against Muslims and Christians in particular. The trend continued in 1990s and 2000s. It still continues.

IC:   How about other political parties? Hate speeches have been delivered by several Congress leaders and regional party leaders like SP, BSP and RJD?

I don't think that other than BJP, these parties made hateful speeches. They may have used language which could have led to caste war but never delivered hate speech. At least I have not heard. Congress has not indulged in any hate speech. Political parties other than Bhartiya Janata Party have not delivered hate speeches. There may be isolated cases. But they are not in-built in the politics of these parties as has been in the case of BJP.

IC: BJP West Bengal Chief Dilip Ghosh’s stated in reference to anti-CAA protesters...

His is one example. There are many leaders from the BJP including one from Karnataka and UP who have been making hate speeches. The PM has made controversial remarks against minority community and yet got away with it. Even media exonerated him. PM and Home Minister have indulged in hate speech but police did not do anything. The message was amply clear for party leaders and workers to follow the line. The message was sent to the law and order maintaining authorities not to take any action against the ruling party leaders on hate speeches.

IC: What are the reasons behind it?

It is wrong to say that desperation is compelling them to indulge in hate speeches. In fact, hate speech is one of the building blocks of politics of BJP. Another apparent reason can be the multiplying anti-CAA protests.

IC: There are several provisions in the law to take action against those who deliver hate speech…

Interestingly, law has always targeted others and not the BJP. BJP leaders are never booked.

IC: Are you suggesting that the BJP leaders are smart enough to dodge the law?

In our country, making hate remarks against the lower caste is an acceptable phenomenon. Often, BJP leaders coin their slogans in such a way that they can easily escape punitive action and yet target certain communities. They indulge in veiled threats also. They deliver hate speeches. Every day, one will see a new low in politics. It worries me because it harms people and their sensibility. It will eventually destroy the secular fabric of India. It will harm democracy of India. If hate speeches continue at this pace, India will head towards Dark Age.

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