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India: Hate Speech; Hate Crimes and Communal Polarization

Friday 22 April 2016, by siawi3

Source: http://sacw.net/article12604.html

sacw.net - 15 April 2016

by Ram Puniyani,

While addressing a Sadbhavna rally organized by RSS in Haryana (April, 2016) Baba Ramdev, the entrepreneur cum yoga guru, while referring to Muslims said “Some person wears a cap and stands up, and “… says I will not say ’Bharat Mata ki jai’ even if you decapitate me. This country has a law, otherwise let alone one, we can behead lakhs…if anybody disrespects Bharat Mata, we have the capability of beheading not one but thousands and lakhs.” Just before this Maharashtra Chief Minister Fadanvis asserted that those who refuse to chant Bharat Mata Ki jai have no right to live in India. [1]

In 2013, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi had said that had the police not been there Muslims would have shown the Hindus their might. He was arrested under the clause of Hate Speech and was put in jail for some time. [2] These are two most glaring examples of the “Hate speech”, which in a way is likely to incite violence, and is also is the foundation of communal violence.

Hate Speech: Communal Violence

Communal violence is the violence in the name of religion and is targeted at the religious minorities or ‘other’ religious communities in general. It is a major phenomenon in South Asia. This worsened during last three decades in particular. We have witnessed the Christians, Hindus and Ahmadiyas being the target in Pakistan, Muslims and Christians in India and Buddhists and Hindus being major victims in Bangla Desh. Also Muslims in Myanmar, Christians and Muslims in Srilanka have similar plight. This violence has been preceded and accompanied by a type of ‘social common sense’ directed against the targeted minorities. The ‘social common sense’, stereotypes, myths about religious minorities are abounding in these countries. [3] This social common sense about the ‘other’ community is the foundation on which violence is orchestrated and innocent lives are lost. This social common sense has a deeper trajectory, many distortions, some misrepresentation of the present, both go into construction of this social common sense.

Social common sense has been built over a period of time. In this ‘Hate Speech’ against the other community has played a crucial role. The leaders espousing the cause of religious nationalism have resorted to the hate speech about other minorities. In India it has been a pattern since long. These communal political tendencies initially failed in the electoral arena, particularly in the Assembly elections of 1937. That was the beginning of this horrific phenomenon at large scale. The Hate speech not only builds up the “social common sense” over a period of time, it also acts as an immediate trigger to instigate the violence. While this Hate speech has been the core part of talks of communalists, they have been indulging in it vociferously to the detriment of social peace, it acts as a major divisive factor in the society.
Rumors

Hate speech instigating violence gets translated in to rumors, rumors about molesting women by ‘them’, cow has been killed by ‘them’, beef in the fridge, the need for forced sterilization of Muslims and Christians, exhorting conversions into Hinduism through marriage, blaming the rise of communal tensions to the increase of a particular minority religion in the state, the call on Hindus to fight back, the call on Muslims voting rights to be revoked, that mosques are not religious places of worship that may be demolished at any time, that India has been facing a battle between asuras (demons) and devs (gods) and that the Indian society is under attack from Muslims and Christians and many such related to the identity issues have been used.

After Babri demolition hate speech was indulged in by Bal Thackeray of Shiv Sena which acted as a prelude to the Mumbai violence of 1992-93. Through his editorials in Shiv Sena mouth piece Saamna, he openly abused the Muslim minority, exhorted Hindus to be aggressive, and in a series of outbursts called Muslims as being pro-Pakistan. Concerned citizens put up a case against him but to no avail as there are enough escape clauses in the law at present. Bal Thackeray went unscathed despite massive and overt Hate mongering. [4]

From RSS Combine

In the build up to Babri demolition, Sadhvi Ritambhara of Sangh Parivar, VHP was aggressively indulging in Hate speech. Her speeches revolved around, alleged atrocities of Muslim kings, Kashmir issue and the social conditions of Muslim minority. The trend continued and it was taken to despicable limits by Paravin Togadia of VHP. Once Pravin Togadia was arrested in Rajasthan for this crime, but he continued without any remorse [5]. Another of BJP leaders Varun Gandhi once threatened in a public meeting that he will cut the hands of Muslims, he also said that Muslims have frightening names and looks. [6]

Many others from the Sangh stable have been more subtle but equally dangerous, in creating the negative sentiments about religious minorities. Narnedra Modi wound up the refugee camps in Gujarat too soon, after the post Gujarat carnage. He said that these refugee camps have become the ‘child production centers’, referring to more number of children in Muslim families. He also went on to use the phrase, ‘Hum do-hamare do-who panch unke Pachis’ (We [Hindus] are two and have two children, Muslim has four wives and produces twenty children). [7]

Sadhivs. Sakshis and Yogis

Many of the Godmen, associated with VHP or working in tandem with these organizations spew lot of venom against Muslims and Christians. Not to be left behind the likes of Akbaruddudin Owaisi, of MQM in Hyderabad and other such elements also talk in a very hostile manner about the Hindus. Incidentally Owaisi is amongst the very few who have been arrested for Hate speech. But in most other cases, generally those spreading hate get away without any action against them.

In Muzzfarnagar (2013) two BJP MLAs indulged in lots of public speeches directing their hate against Muslims. One of them, Sangeet Som is alleged to have uploaded a video clip, in which a Muslim looking crowd is brutally beating two youth. [8] As such the video clip was from Pakistan where a mob lynched two thieves. BJP MLA in this case commented that these are the Hindu youth who were beaten by the Muslim crowd in Muzzafarnagar. This supplemented by the rumor of the Hindu girl being molested by Muslim youth did the trick and it acted as a trigger for unleashing massive violence.

Examples of other hate speech includes how the chief of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat has repeatedly asserted that everyone in India is Hindu, including Christians and Muslims because India is a land of the Hindu people. He had also further made a speech noting that Mother Teresa’s good acts were not done in the fullest of good intention and that she had another motive, which was to convert Hindus. [9]

Since Modi Came to Power: 2014

The coming to power of Narendra Modi (May 2014) in a way has given an open license to all the affiliates of RSS combine to indulge in open hate speech against the religious minorities. The current agenda behind the hate speech is to consolidate the communal polarization of the society along lines of religion. [10] The likes of Pravin Togadia, Subramaniam Swami, Giriraj Singh, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Sadhvi Prachi, Sakshi Mahraraj, Yogi Adityanth, Sanjay Raut and company seem to be above law. Just as a matter of record Togadia was put behind bars for a day; but no further action.

Currently apart from these associates of RSS, which are reported in the media, there are many more indulging in the divisive speech and worsening the communal situation. Lately they have started feeling emboldened as they know it is ‘their’ Government and they can get away with it. Day in and day out they are becoming more aggressive and vicious in their language. Baba Ramdev being the latest example of that the hate speech against religious minorities has been stepped up.

One recalls even before Modi Sarkar assumed the seat of power the divisive activities of ‘BJP associates’ in the form of propaganda of love jihad and Ghar Vapasi were on, and they are continuing with more venom now. Soon after this Government came to power in Pune, Mohsin Sheikh, a person working in IT industry was hacked to death by activists of Hindu Jagran Sena, in the aftermath of morphed pictures of Bal Thackeray and Shivaji being posted on the social media. [11] The attack on Churches was very glaring and the process which was dominant in Delhi and Haryana was also witnessed in places like Panvel near Mumbai, Agra in UP amongst other places.

Sakshi Maharaj not only said that Godse was a patriot; he also went on to say that Hindu women should produce four children, as Muslims are overtaking the population. Sadhvi Prachi went to prescribe eight children for Hindu women. She also gave a call that the Muslim film actors, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan should be boycotted. Yogi Adityanath, BJP’s MP keeps making very derogatory remarks, He said that in ‘love jihad’ if one Hindu girl is converted then 100 Muslim girls should be converted to Hinduism. [12] The propaganda around love jihad keeps simmering and various small and big leaders keep using it to divide the society. Same Yogi went on to say that Mosques should be converted into den of pigs and that Muslims should not be allowed to come to Hindu holy places.

Central Ministers

Two central ministers of Modi Sarkar, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti [13] and Giriaj Singh [14] made very insulting and humiliating remarks about non Hindus and the color of skin of UPA chief Sonia Gandhi. Niranjan Jyoti stated that all those who are non Hindus are illegitimate, Haramzade. Giriraj Singh had earlier said that those not voting for Modi should go to Pakistan. Interestingly he said this before the elections and despite this Hate Speech he was elevated to the level of minister in the Modi sarkar. He made racial comments about Sonia Gandhi recently. Sakshi Mahraj also held Godse as a patriot, while his another party colleague from Kerala, one Gopal Krishnan wrote in RSS mouth piece Kesari that Godse chose a wrong target in killing Gandhi, he should have killed Nehru instead.

Subramaniam Swamy, one of the very senior leaders of BJP, said that God lives in temples alone, not in mosques. [15] The hidden implication of this statement is fraught with danger. These are few of the samples from what all has been stated in recent times. Its impact in increasing the sense of fear amongst religious minorities is more than obvious. BJP ally Shiv Sena’s MP Sanjay Raut went to the extent of demanding that the voting rights of Muslims should be revoked [16].

Who Uses Hate Speech?

As such one realizes that ‘Hate speech’ is the outcome of the politics of divisiveness, it is the concentrated expression of the ‘social common sense’ prevailing in the society, it is the forthright and blunt way of putting things, which communal parties propagate anyway. It is not out of the blue that these formulations suddenly crop up, their infrastructure, the base of these has already been made by a section of political outfits.

Hate Speech: Weapon of Divisiveness

It is not only disturbing but totally against the values of our democratic society that such ‘hate other’ ideology and speeches have become the weapon in the hands of a type of politics, which thrives on exclusion; which identifies a particular religious community as synonymous with the nation state. Again this ‘hate speech’ is the language of a section of those who thrive on identity politics far away from the real issues of the society.

As such Hate speech in India entered the political arena with the rise of communal streams in politics, like Muslim League on one side and Hindu Mahasabha and RSS on the other. These streams believed in the nation based on one religious community. These streams came from the sections of earlier rulers, landlords, Nawabas and Rajas etc. The ideology of religion based nationalism is narrow and it excludes ‘other’ from its notion of nationhood. These beliefs then get converted into Hate other, and later turn in to ‘Hate speech’.

In this atmosphere once a while the BJP spokespersons will say that the view expressed by the particular leader are ‘personal’ and stop at that. For BJP another escape clause is that its associated organizations like VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Bajrang Dal are formally different organizations though they are also part of RSS controlled Sangh Parivar. [17] They all are working in tandem with BJP for actualization of agenda of Hindu Rashtra. So while BJP is not directly responsible for their actions, the direction of the actions is the same. Many a people call these organizations as fringe elements, while as a matter of fact there is a division of labor between these organizations [18]. These have become more aggressive during this time. And surely after the Modi Sarkar coming to power their vitriol has become more intense.

What Does Law Say?

“Under international human rights standards, which are to guide legislation at the national level, expression labeled as “hate speech” can be restricted under articles 18 and 19 of the ICCPR on different grounds, including respect for the rights of others, public order, or even sometimes national security” – Rabat Plan of Action, 2012 [19]

Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code criminalises among other things the promotion of ‘enmity between different groups on the ground of religion…’ Section 153B further affirms that ‘imputations and assertions prejudicial to national-integration’ is equally a crime. [20] Despite this, groups that subscribe to Hindu nationalist ideologies have been able to zero in on Muslims and Christians by circulating inflammatory remarks and making fallacious allegations about these communities during mass meetings, through social media and in their publications.

Major Leaders indulging in HS, some of the cases registered against them:

• Pravin Togadia - Vishwa Hindu Parishad: Faces 19 cases registered in more than 12 different cities, according to reports
• Akbaruddin Owaisi - Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen: Faces 11 cases
• Varun Gandhi - BJP: During the campaigning for 2009 Lok Sabha elections, he had allegedly made anti-Muslim remarks
• Uddhav Thackeray - Shiv Sena Chief: Had allegedly made inflammatory speeches against migrants from Bihar and its people
• Raj Thackeray - Maharashtra Navnirman Sena: Has several FIRs against him in cases of violence and hate speeches

Controlling: Punishing Hate Speech

The failure to control the Hate speech is due to multiple factors. One, the law is not very specific about the Hate speech. Second, the law enforcement machinery itself is fairly communalized. The evidence gathering for Hate speech, many a times is not so easy, video recording etc. The Communal Violence prevention bill, which was contemplated during UPA Government did take into account these factors and wanted this issue to be dealt with squarely.

At deeper level one realizes that a dangerous role is played by the school books, which are being used by sectarian politics to spread the negative perceptions about minorities. Many a communal organizations through their actions are spreading the understanding on which Hate speech can easily gel and be acceptable to sections of society.

What is needed is the propagation of India’s diversity and pluralism. The Hindu-Muslim-Christian relations, which were very amicable during the medieval times and more so during freedom movement, need to be highlighted. The creative interaction of different religious communities in India, which is being undermined and is being erased from collective memory, needs to be brought to the social focus. The sectarian politics resorts to Hatred for others, the need to counter this politics at political and social level.

Footnotes

[1] http://scroll.in/latest/806127/if-not-for-law-would-have-cut-off-heads-of-those-refusing-to-say-bharat-mata-ki-jai-baba-ramdev

[2] http://www.firstpost.com/politics/arrest-order-issued-against-aimim-leader-akbaruddin-owaisi-2458766.html

[3] http://www.dawn.com/news/1198143

[4] http://www.indiatimes.com/india/bal-thackeray-most-controversial-quotes-47216.html

[5] http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rajasthan-cm-ashok-gehlot-orders-pravin-togadia-arrest-for-displaying-tridents/1/206457.html

[6] http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/cityofbrass/2009/03/varun-gandhi-vows-to-cut-heads.html

[7] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/the-formidable-challenge-facing-narendra-modi/article23884977/

[8] http://www.firstpost.com/politics/muzaffarnagar-riots-who-is-viral-video-uploader-sangeet-singh-som-1106081.html

[9] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Conversion-was-Mother-Teresas-real-aim-RSS-chief-Mohan-Bhagwat-says/articleshow/46348555.cms

[10] http://www.countercurrents.org/puniyani150515.htm

[11] http://www.firstpost.com/india/pune-techie-murder-who-is-bhai-chief-of-hindu-rashtra-sena-1558815.html

[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIBm2voGIvA

[13] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXpYt02loVw

[14] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/Those-opposed-to-Narendra-Modi-should-go-to-Pakistan-BJP-leader-Giriraj-Singh-says/articleshow/33971544.cms

[15] http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/subramanian-swamy-defends-mosque-not-a-religious-place-remark_1562069.html

[16] http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/controversy-over-shiv-sena-leader-sanjay-rauts-remarks-on-voting-rights-of-muslims-754300

[17] http://www.dawn.com/news/1164196

[18] http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/indias-sawdust-caesar/article7961470.ece

[19] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/TheRabatPlanofAction.aspx

[20] https://www.nls.ac.in/resources/csseip/Files/SeditionLaws_cover_Final.pdf