Hate vs Harmony: Law and order under Saffrons
0 comments | by Subhash Gatade
Muslims were equated to ―demons‖ and ―descendants of Ravana‖, and warned of a ―final battle‖, as the Sangh Parivar held a condolence meeting here for VHP worker Arun Mahaur, who was killed last week allegedly by some Muslim youths. Among those present on the dais were Union Minister of State, HRD, and BJP Agra MP Ram Shankar Katheria as well as the BJP‘s Fatehpur Sikri MP Babu Lal, apart from other party local leaders, who joined in the threats to Muslims. Speaker after speaker urged Hindus to ―corner Muslims and destroy the demons (rakshas)‖, while declaring that ―all preparations‖ had been made to effect ―badla (revenge)‖ before the 13th-day death rituals for Mahaur. What does someone do in the winter of one‘s own life when you discover that the values you cherished, the principles for which you fought for have suddenly lost their meaning and the world before you is turning upside down? Perhaps you express your anguish to your near and dear ones or write a letter about the deteriorating situation around you in your favourite newspaper or as a last resort appeal to the custodians of the constitution that how you are ‗forced to hang your head in shame‘. Admiral Ramdas, who has served Indian Military for more than four decades and has remained socially active since then, followed his voice of conscience. Deeply pained by the developments around the eighty plus year retired admiral wrote a letter to the President and Prime Minister of India few months back and had reminded them of their ‗bounden duty that the elected Government of this nation must honour the rights of every citizen of this land as amply spelled out in the Preamble of the Constitution and further elaborated in the Directive Principles of state policy.‘) One does not know whether the President and the Prime Minister found time to reply to his concerns or not. And now comes the ‗Citizens Appeal‘ signed by former judges and IPS officers, scientists and businessmen – a list which includes Justice PB Sawant, Justice Hosbet Suresh, Justice Sachar and Julio Ribeiro and others–reiterating similar concerns albeit addressed to the to the Chief Justice and all other Judges of the Supreme Court of India urging them to take suo moto constitutional action on the issue of alarming and threatening statements being made by persons currently in powerful constitutional positions within the Union government. The said appeal which provides shocking details of the speech made by Ram Shankar Katheriya in Agra, where he had gone to address a condolence meeting over the murder of a VHP activist, also includes details of many such examples of hate speeches made earlier by other foot soldiers or leaders of Hindutva Brigade. Underlining the fact that fundamental rights of the people under Article 14, 19, 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution need to be protected it also urges that ―[t]he minister, the MP, the MLA and all other culprits need to be punished for violating their constitutional duty under Article 51A (e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious diversities.‖ As things stand while cases have been filed against other leaders of the Hindutva Brigade after much pressure who participated in the meeting and gave vent to their ideas, no such case has been filed against the minister. Thanks to the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who dismissed Opposition demands to sack Katheria for his hate speech in Agra last week, as he did not find anything ―objectionable‖ in the Agra MP‘s remarks. One learns that he is being projected as a counter to Mayawati. While it is for the highest judiciary to decide how it wants to react to ‗Citizens Appeal‘ -specifically regarding suo motto action against hate speech is concerned, if one goes by Justice Ahmadi‘s observations – who was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1994-97) – made in a thought provoking presentation few years back it has been found to be wanting on that score. It is not that provisions in law have been left unambiguous so that no action can be taken against such rabble-rousers. Under Indian Law promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion is a recognized criminal offence. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) prescribes criminal prosecution for ―wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot‖ (section 153); ―promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion‖ (section 153A); ―imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration‖ (section 153B); ―uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person‖ (section 298); ―statements conducing to public mischief‖ (section 505 (1), b and c); and ―statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes (section505(2). Section 108 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in addition, allows an Executive Magistrate to initiate action against a person violating section 153A or 153B of the IPC.‖ It is not difficult to understand why Mr Rajnath Singh did not object to Mr Katheria‘s speech. In fact, one is yet to hear from him about the alleged hate speech made by of one of his colleagues – who is a member of parliament – wherein he had called for ‗end of Islam‘ which is followed by more than 170 million Indian citizens. Anant Kumar Hedge had told reporters in his constituency of Uttara Kannada :
―As long as we have Islam in the world, there will be no end to terrorism. If we are unable to end Islam, we won‘t be able to end terrorism. If you media people have the freedom to report this, please report this,‖ Talking to Huffington Post in Delhi he had further targeted Islam ―Is it a peaceful religion? Peace and then Islam are opposite words. Wherever Islam is, peace is not there. Wherever the peace is there, there is no Islam. These two words are totally opposite words‖ (-do-) Commenting on his remarks Huff Post mentions it rightly that‖Hedge‘s offensive remark hasn‘t received half as much as attention as Ram Shankar Katheria, BJP‘s lawmaker from Agra, who compared Muslims to ―demons‖ and warned of a ―final battle.‖ (-do-) Perhaps silence around Hedge‘s speech or finding ‗nothing objectionable‘ in Mr Katheria‘s speech has either to do with one‘s political compulsions or one‘s own ability to see things as they are and speak about it. One needs to explore it a bit – which is beyond the scope of this brief note – what is the interrelationship between one‘s worldview and one‘s understanding or comprehension of things... And it was only last week that Mr Rajnath Singh similarly refused to look at the breakdown of law and order in neighbouring state Haryana during the Jat agitation for reservation which witnessed killing of thirty people, destruction of property worth billions of rupees, and alleged incidents of gang rapes on Delhi- Ambala highway by those involved in this agitation. As opposed to him, Sukhbir Badal, deputy chief minister of Punjab, whose party Akali Dal happens to be one of his party‘s closest allies had no qualms in comparing this spate of violence in Haryana during agitation for Jat reservation to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Talking to reporters Rajnath Singh said that the BJP government there in Haryana handled the situation well during the Jat quota agitation. When he was specifically asked whether the Khattar government failed to control the violence he underlined, ‗Whatever the state government had to do, they did. They did well‘ One was suddenly reminded of the then home minister‘s reaction to the carnage in Gujarat in the year 2002 when the then state government led by Narendra Modi was found to be wanting on many scores, a fact which had even compelled the then PM Vajpayee to remind him of Rajdharma. Union Home Minister L K Advani had praised the Gujarat government for ‗exemplary‘ handling of the situation on the floor of the house. It is to be expected that this inability or refusal to look at things as they are by someone in authority or her/his political compulsions to do that is leading to unforeseen consequences. Anyone who has watched the actions of the Delhi Police since last one month – where it has received tremendous flak not only from civil society organisations but also from judiciary also for its handling of the JNU issue [Kanhaiya Kumar the current President of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union also a leader of the All India Student Federation (AISF), the student wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI) was arrested and charged in 2016 with sedition for allegedly raising anti-India slogans in a student rally]. The way in which it handled the attack by a section of self proclaimed Deshbhakt lawyers on teachers, journalists and students in the precincts of the Patiala court, the manner in which it abdicated its responsibility when there was a repeat attack two days later, the way in which it treated the accused involved in the case, have further impacted its image. And it is evident that even after exit of its most controversial boss in recent times who happened to be (to quote Shekhar Gupta) ‗our most articulate and imaginative sleuth since Vividh Bharati‘s Inspector Eagle‘ the police is not yet ready to make a mid-course correction. It is yet to file criminal cases against those channels which aired doctored videos about the JNU incident and helped create a frenzied atmosphere all over the country Its reaction to inflammatory posters put up in Central Delhi which offered a reward of Rs 11 lakh to anyone who shoots Kanhaiya Kumar dead gives further indication of its growing intransigence. The posters in Hindi read, ―Whoever shoots JNUSU president and traitor Kanhaiya Kumar will be rewarded Rs 11 lakh from the Purvanchal Sena.‖ The poster was signed by one Adarsh Sharma,
‗Son of Purvanchal, President, Purvanchal Sena‘, and also included his mobile number. Media tells us that police ‗promptly‘ registered case against Sharma for defacing public property, remember not related to conspiracy and attempt to murder. And perhaps as an afterthought, when it received ridicule on social media, said that it is investigating the case further and other charges can be added later.
Subhash Gatade is the author of Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi (2010) Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India, (2011) and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India (2011). He is also the Convener of New Socialist Initiative (NSI) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org