Nearly a thousand years ago, a king murdered his close friend, just because words he shouted in anger were misinterpreted: It was Henry II, King of England, who shouted with rage, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” Four knights who felt it was a command, and not realizing it as an impulsive cry of frustration, between friends rode to the cathedral of Thomas Becket, killed him and brought back his head to the now grief-stricken king.
That is the deadly power of words!
"We all have to remember,“ says Adama Dieng, UNs Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, “that hate crimes are preceded by hate speech We have to bear in mind that words kill. Words kill as bullets."
He continues, “We all have to remember that the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda started with hate speech! The Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers: It started long before with hate speech.
What we have been seeing in Myanmar against the Rohingya population started also with hate speech!
..And today what we are witnessing around this world with the rise of extremists, be it in Europe, be it in Asia, everywhere, when we see the growing number of neo-Nazi groups, neo-fascist groups, when we see the way migrants and refugees are being vilified, we need therefore to make every effort to address this hate speech!
“We have to bear in mind,” he continues, “that words kill. Words kill as bullets. That is why we need to make every effort to invest in education, to invest in youth, so that the next generation will understand the importance of living peacefully together.”
Hate speech needn’t be apparent, it needn’t be blatant words like, “Go and kill!” Henry II frustrated with his friend the Cardinal, must have wearily uttered those words, but to the four knights those were commands.
Today, our political leaders, because of strict laws utter clever, cunning, ‘hate speech’ without using words like ‘kill’ or ‘murder’ or ‘assault’ so they posture themselves and shout shrill rhetoric against a neighbouring country time and again. This is subtle hate speech, because those cries are taken by fringe elements and used against a community who share the same faith as those in the country to whom the clever leader’s speech is directed.
Or when clever laws are passed, bringing in religion as the criteria, we again hear ‘hate speech’!
Today, these leaders won’t stop, because hate speeches bring votes..
..but we can STOP!
STOP listening to them, especially as they keep reigniting old scenes of the Indo-Pak partition. Just ask, “Does this hate speech get me my roti, kapada or makhan?”
On your part, STOP making derogatory remarks about those who worship different, look different, or speak different and in your talks to your children, WhatsApp groups or friends circle, stop jokes that ridicule!
STOP hate speech, because ultimately millions, including we or our loved ones will die..!
(Published on 10th February 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 07)