It is time civil society and political organisations give priority to curtail the Hate speech, provocative slogans and processions with potential of provoking violence.
PROF RAM PUNIYANI
The incidents on Ram Navami and then on Hanuman Jayanti this year were very disturbing to say the least. On Ram Navami, the major incidents which shook us were in Gujarat, Khambata and Himmat Nagar, in MP in Khargone, in Karnatka in Gulbarga, Raichur and Kolar, in UP in Sitapur and in Goa in Islampura. These are few among the nationwide spread of the incidents.
The Khargone incidence stands out for the shocking step taken by the state government in demolishing nearly 51 structures (Shops and residences) of minority community. The charge leveled was that the stones were thrown from these places; so as per the Home minster these structures had to be turned into stones. Meanwhile, new pretext of breaking the backbone of Muslim community has been propped up as Muslim traders will not be permitted near Hindu temples and in Hindu melas (Fairs).
Just a couple of days later, Hanuman Jayanti was celebrated. The processions were playing loud music; were dancing and shouting anti Muslim slogans and armed with weapons. The processions had a common destination, the nearby mosques particularly in Muslim majority areas. Provocative slogans, stone throwing was followed by violence. Jahangirpuri in Delhi’s incidence particularly stands out. Here after the stone throwing 14 Muslims were arrested in the first round.
All around the loud hysteria is raging the streets. This is what prompted the eminent historian Ram Guha to state that we are living in the worst era of Independent India. This is what prompted leaders of 13 opposition parties, including Congress, NCP, TMC, DMK and many others to issue a statement saying, “We are extremely anguished at the manner in which issues related to food, dress. Food, festivals and language are being deliberately used by ruling establishment, to polarize our society. We are extremely concerned with the growing incidents of hate in the country by the people who appear to have official patronage and against whom no meaningful and strong action is taken,”
The hate is being spewed by the religious processions, the Hate speech of most derogatory nature from the saffron clads in the Dharam Sansad’s (Yati Narsinghanand, Bajrang Muni and company) and from those eager to impose Hindu Nation on the secular democratic India. In response to the letter by 13 parties, Sambit Patra, BJP national spokesperson blamed the widening circle of violence to politics of appeasement of Congress party. Incidentally it was the same appeasement argument used by Godse while killing Gandhi.
And J.P.Nadda the BJP chief said that Congress is conspiring to divide society. We know the source of divisiveness is hate. This is coming from WhatsApp University and spread effectively through the mechanisms outlined in the book, ‘I was a Troll’ (Swati Chaturvedi) and many other such methods which have been put in place.
Even pre-Independence when Muslim communalism was also the parallel and opposite of Hindu communalism, the processions in front of mosques were one of the techniques used to instigate violence. Now the celebrations of Hindu festivals and processions have been enhanced to incorporate DJs, loud music and anti-Muslim slogans. These processions have the destination of mosques, where they dance to the loud music and hurl abuses inciting the elements in the minority community. What follows is the process of stone throwing, from which ever quarter they come.
The process of justice has been short changed. The executive, the Government, instantly decides who is the culprits are and delivers immediate judgment where the houses of minority community are bulldozed. In Delhi (2020) one had seen the likes of Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Varma delivering Hate speeches. After the violence those who were talking peace, like Umar Khalid were arrested and the likes of Anurag Thakur got promotions. In the latest violence in Jahgirabad again those who landed up there and incited the atmosphere are in safe households while those who were intimidated through aggressive gestures and slogans have been arrested.
The statement of the 13 leaders of opposition parties is reassuring that there are still sane elements that can distinguish grain from the chaff and stand up to truth. But is this adequate? Can these parties not go further and plan a campaign against the virus of hate? These parties do aim for electoral power, that’s OK, but keeping the principles of Fraternity alive is their constitutional duty. The worthies trying to put the blame away from the real culprits are trying to march towards their political agenda through their own activities and through the activities of their associate organizations. There is a long history of religious procession being used to incite hate.
Lot of research has also gone into unraveling the truth behind communal incidents. Dr. Vibhuti Narayan Rai, the ex- DIG of UP Police in his doctoral research tells us that the minority community is so cornered before the violence that many a times it is compelled to throw the first stone. He also shows that there are deep anti Muslim biases in the police force and so mostly it is minorities who are put under preventive detention or are arrested more in number after the incident. Similarly Yale University research tells us that after the incidents of violence the BJP gains the most electorally.
Is there any hope for the future? Can the elders and saner elements in the minority community restrain their young one’s not to get provoked? Can the opposition parties step in to form peace committees in most of the areas to see that religious processions are not permitted to visit mosques as a mandatory ritual? Even in current dark times one can see the bright rays. Ancient Hindu temple in Banaskantha invited Muslims for iftar. In places in UP Muslims showered flowers on Hanuman Jayanti processions. One can only hope these trends in communities are encouraged and promoted and divisive loudmouths are punished as per the law for spreading hate or for instigating violence.
What has been seen in the recent times is that the hate spreaders are well backed up and protected by the state, giving encouragement to such elements to carry on with their negative actions in the society. It is time civil society and political organisations give priority to curtail the Hate speech, provocative slogans and processions with potential of provoking violence.
Ram Puniyani is an eminent author, activist and former professor of IIT Mumbai. The views expressed here are personal and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.