Hate-Mongering at Jantar Mantar: Not an Isolated Incident

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Hate speeches and sloganeering at Jantar Mantar on August 8.

The chain of events, or ‘chronology’ to borrow Amit Shah’s famous expression, points towards a dangerous trend

Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India

ASHWINI UPADHYAY, the Supreme Court lawyer and Bharatiya Janata Party leader arrested in connection with hate speeches and sloganeering at Jantar Mantar on August 8, has got bail within two days of his arrest. Given the prevailing political atmosphere this is not surprising. His arrest was. Delhi Police had nabbed him and five others reluctantly after they were forced to act because of public pressure. Initially, the police had filed an FIR against “unknown persons”, that too after they were criticised for not taking action against those who raised provocative slogans calling for violence against Muslims.

What happened at Jantar Mantar on August 8 should not be seen in isolation. It’s no coincidence that three events of provocations took place in the national capital with a gap of one day last week. In all the events there was an open display of hatred for Muslims. Calls were given to Hindus to target the minority community. On each occasion attention of the police was drawn by members of the public but the police remained unmoved.

It started on Friday, August 6. Yati Narsinghanand, the Hindutva-aligned priest, issued a video informing the nation that when Hindu men go to work in the morning, Muslim men visit their homes and seduce their women. The infamous priest of a temple called Dasna in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of Delhi, is known for making hate speeches and calling for violence against Muslims for quite some time. Several of his videos have come out in which he can be seen abusing Muslims and Islam. But in the latest video, he not only hurled abuses at Muslims, but also made lewd remarks about Hindu women.

His remarks in the video which came in the form of several clips on social media were so outrageous that several Hindu women called on the police to arrest him. Among those who went public against him were Congress leader and former Delhi MLA Alka Lamba and journalist Anusha Ravi Sood. But Delhi Police took no cognisance. He remains free till date.

Following Narsinghanand’s hateful video, a big event was organised the same day at West Delhi’s Dwarka to protest against a proposed Haj House in the area. More than 1,000 people assembled in response to a ‘mahapanchayat’ call given by several Hindutva organisations, including a resident welfare association. BJP’s Delhi unit president Adesh Gupta was among those addressed the gathering where speakers said that the construction of the Haj house would “translate into terrorism and Muslim domination” in the country.

The Haj House project was launched in 2008 with an allotment of around 5,000 square metres in Dwarka’s Sector 22. In 2018, Rs 94 crore was allotted for the project. Though construction work is yet to start, it offers a ready reference to radical Hindu right-wing groups to raise communal passion. The Mahapanchayat not only saw speeches against the project, activists belonging to outfits like Bajrang Dal used it to spew venom against Muslims. The event which was streamed live on social media showed people marching down a road shouting slogans ‘Jai Shree Ram’ – a Hindu chant that has of late become a rallying cry of anti-Muslim mob violence in India.

The men also raised slogans like: “Yeh Bhoomi Hamari Hai, Iska Faisla Ham Karenege” or this land belongs to us (Hindus), we will take its decision. The Delhi Police registered an FIR against several participants of the event, but not for disturbing peace and harmony, rather for violating Covid-related guidelines of DDMA (Delhi Disaster Management Authority).

Two days later, on Sunday, August 8, Jantar Mantar happened. Inflammatory, anti-Muslim slogans were openly raised. “Jab Mulle kaate jayenge, Ram-Ram chillayenge (When the Muslims are slaughtered, they will scream ‘Ram, Ram’)”. “Band karo, band karo, Mulle ka vyapar band karo (Shut down, shut down, shut down Muslims’ businesses)”. “Hindustan mein rehna hai to Jai Shri Ram kehna hoga (If you want to live in India, you have to chant Jai Shri Ram)”. Video clips of this sloganeering were all over social media.

The apparent reason for the event was to demand withdrawal of “Colonial-era laws”. But that was just a cover. The crowd was communally surcharged. A quick display of this came when a group of the participants caught hold of a reporter of YouTube channel National Dastak. He was roughed up and told to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, which he refused to do under duress.

“When I asked them about why issues like unemployment or food security do not elicit such public protests from them, one youth started yelling that I am from a jihadi channel that hates Modi and Yogi,” Anmol Pritam later told The Telegraph.

According to The Indian Express, the event organisers held the programme despite refusal of permission by the police. “We refused permission after informing them about DDMA guidelines (which do not allow for gatherings in view of the Covid protocol), and later we got to know that Ashwini Upadhyay was looking for an indoor venue. Police arrangements were in place and we thought around 50 people would come, but suddenly many people in small groups started gathering. They were protesting peacefully, but started raising slogans when they were dispersing,” the newspaper quoted a senior police officer as saying. The officer refused to comment on how such a large number of people managed to gather at Jantar Mantar, a place which is in the close vicinity of the nation’s Parliament.

Are the police so weak that such a major event in a high-security zone can take place and they take it so casually. Just two days later, on August 10, when a much smaller number of student activists gathered at Jantar Mantar to register their protest against all this, the same police were quick to detain them.

The chain of events, or ‘chronology’ to borrow Amit Shah’s famous expression, points towards a dangerous trend. The memories of last year’s Delhi riots are still fresh. A situation was created to sabotage a peaceful protest against CAA and NRC. The government was on the backfoot then. The riots gave it a pretext to suppress the protest which was taking the shape of a movement.

Once again, the government is on the defensive on account of its failure to manage the affairs of governance. Steep rise in inflation, growing number of unemployment, ongoing farmers’ agitation and on top of it the Pegasus spying row are issues that haunt the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It has just one medicine for all the ills: play the communal card, the public will forget everything. A repeat of Delhi riots would also polarise voters in poll-bound UP.

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