On hate campaigns in politics: Time to make the Sangh Parivar pay for its poison
The national edition of the Hindu newspaper has done us a service, and saved us many precious minutes, by publishing the script, in English, of the infamous Hindi-language Compact Disk which was released by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the recent election campaign in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
If the Bharatiya Janata party wanted to demonise Muslims, painting them as cow-killing, Hindustan-hating, traitorous vermin, it succeeded far beyond the high standards set by the likes of Narendra Modi, Uma Bharati that that queen of Sanyasin Nuns, the Sati Rithambra! One reading will convince everyone not only NOT to vote for Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati, alleged Muslim-lovers all, but also to pick up the knife the cow butcher left in the play-acted scene, and plunge it in the back of the nearest Islamic child, woman or man. If by mistake, your victim turns out to be a Christian priest, Nun, Pastor or mere child, heck, there is another CD coming in Chhattisgarh to prove the followers of Christ are no less anti-Indian that these fast breeding Muslims -- and that is not a technical nuclear term, though as dangerous.
Hate campaigns in Indian politics are common, and hate is the ligua franca in even common political discourse since Lal Krishan Advani, BJP Iron Man, former Union Home Minster and deputy to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, used it as the main instrument of his `historic' Rath Yatra which effectively laid the foundations of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition and the bloodbaths in Mumbai and elsewhere that followed soon thereafter.
Not that Advani changed tactics after assuming high office. It was my privilege -even if the effort eventually ended in failure - to see if I could take Advani and his acolyte Rajnath, now his successor as Bharatiya Janata Party chief, to the bar of the national law, urging the country's police to lodge FIRs and criminal proceedings under Section 153 A of the Indian penal Code for their hate campaigns against religious minorities, particularly against my own Christian community during their so called Suraksha Rath Yatra. On 13 April 2006, I filed a written report with the Station House Office of the Parliament Police Station. I also wrote to the Chief Election Commission and individually to his brother Election Commissioners. I wrote "This is to bring to the attention [of the Delhi Police and the Election Commission of India] gross violations of electoral codes of conduct and political morality in the anti Christian venom spewed in the political speeches of Bharatiya Janata party president Rajnath Singh and his senior colleague Lal Krishna Advani, during their twin Rath Yatras across the country. That these statements come even as the BJP's mentors in the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, Bajrang Dal and other groups carry on a series of coercive conversions of tribal and Dalit Christians in various states, make the political motives crystal clear. These are accompanied by threats of enacting more laws against Conversions, again specifically targeted at Christians as in the case of Rajasthan, and using the most militant language against Clergy and Missionaries of my faith." "This patently fouls the political environment. This also divides communities and pushes the nation to the brink of divisiveness on the basis of religion which challenges the very secular foundations of the Indian state and its Constitution. Above all in human terms, this put the microscopic Christian community into a state of despair and fear, which is most unhealthy for its development and search for equality in the land where it has lived for almost 2,000 years. This talk of Indic religions and alien religions pushes India back into a feudal and medieval mindset from which our ancestors in the Freedom struggles and the fathers of the Indian constitution had striven to liberate it." I quoted extensively, as I do now again, from a report posted online on Monday, April 10, 2006 at 0000 hrs IST , from JASHPUR NAGAR, which said: BJP president Rajnath Singh dared Christian missionaries to "try converting any Hindu" and vowed to turn tables on them today. "The BJP president, who had been speaking at a string of public meetings on his way to Jashpur Nagar from Raigad in course of his Bharat Suraksha Yatra, turned unusually aggressive after entering the domain of Dalip Singh Judeo, who spearheads the Sangh Parivar's "Ghar Vapsi" (reconversion) programme among Adivasis. Be it Dharamjaigarh, Pathalgaon, Kasabel, Kunkuri or Jashpur, Singh had a single theme: Those who are converting Hindus, take heed. There is no mercy for you. Warming to his subject, Singh said Christian missionaries tried to convert people in the name of service. But "there cannot be a more cruel joke than the use of money or service to convert the poor." Referring to Rajasthan government's fresh law cracking down on conversions, he promised "as soon as I became the BJP president, I told all my party chief ministers to enact laws to check conversion and foil the designs of Christian missionaries". The Jharkhand government is ready with a draft bill, he said, and called upon Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who was on stage with him, to follow suit. Even Madhya Pradesh, which already has a law on the issue, needs a more stringent legislation, he told The Indian Express later.
"Conversions comprise the biggest danger to society, he told his audience, and "we cannot allow the demographic profile of the country to be changed. We will not let Hindus be converted into a minority, as somebody has said they would be by 2060. As long as the BJP is on the political scene, it would fight such attempts tooth and nail". Singh had a word of praise for Judeo too, who accompanied him on his 'rath'. "I appreciate Judeoji from the core of my heart for carrying on the Ghar Vapsi programme. It is something unparalleled - a scion of a royal family washing the feet of people upon their return to the Hindu fold."
Rajnath's choice of Jashpur to take on Christian missionaries has a strategic significance. The area has the biggest church in Chhattisgarh - at Kunkuri - and has a sizeable Christian population. Not surprisingly, the Parivar has boosted its activity here. The countryside is dotted by Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, meant to counter missionary schools. VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia conducted a "trishool diksha" programme at Kasabel last week."
I need hardly say the Delhi police refused to lodge a complaint. The SHO agreed the national TV channels may have carried the news and millions may have seen it in New Delhi, but I had to travel to the city or village where the man made the statement to lodge the complaint.
It is difficult for a common man to bring a charge against one such as Advani or Rajnath Singh. Needless to say, I did not hear from the election commission either. It is impossible to move the courts, even the Press Council for the daily doze of poison against Christianity and Islam coming from the Sangh Parivar -m on TV, print, especially in their own organs' Panchajanya and Organiser, and in the speeches prominent and no so prominent Sangh Parivar Sants and Swamis make, which the media covers faithfully. Organiser often profusely quotes Chinmaya International School
(Coimbatore) head Swamini Vimalananda and other similar dignitories in its anti Christia hate, which then is recycled by columnists like Sadhana Jain in Pioneer and the Internet, Varsha Bhonsle and BJP Think Tank chief Balbir Punj in his many columns. When late Pope John Paul II was vesting India, the Organiser and the BJP welt overboard. The magazine, now liberally funded through colour advertisements from all state governments in the control of the BJP, highlighted the RSS demand for an "atmosphere free of cultural pollution." "Let it be borne in mind that to allow a Hindu to get converted to Christianity is tantamount to making him religiously intolerant and uprooting him from his social, cultural and familial ties and transforming him into a potential secessionist," the RSS thundered. It called on Hindu bodies to come together to halt the "rampant conversion" and also to "bring back to our fold those what were converted to intolerant faiths by force, fraud or allurement." North East insurgency is interpreted by the BJP spokespersons and official organs in communal terms. "The State [Tripura in this item] is in the grip of Church-backed extremist outfits that are running a parallel government in the region and collect regular taxes from non- Christians at a certain rate every month." Sanyasins were forced to "discard their Hindu robes and to wear Christian dresses." It quotes reports saying "The Christian terrorists are pulling down the Hindu temples. The Christians are converting Hindus at gun point. This same issue has a full-paged article on the "church's role in the recent genocide in Rwanda." S Gurumurthy, writing in the same issue, takes off on the Pope for voicing concern about attacks on Christians in Indonesia and India. It argues that 12 of the 24 rape accused in the Jhabua (MP) case were Christians, that reports from places like Jhajjar were completely false, and that there were other reports which proved to be "sheer fabrication." This article says Sister Mary's complaint that she was raped at Baripada in Orissa was "a made up story," according to the justice Wadhwa Commission. As for Graham Staines, was apparently projected by the media as a social worker "but the Staines couple were continuously involved in Baptist conversions." Dara Singh's misplaced fundamentalism was actually a violent reaction to conversions, the Observer said.
If it were I making such a statement, or even a milder one, I would surely be in prison. Certainly in a BJP regime, and possibly even in a Congress-controlled State. T John, the Syrian Orthodox Minster of Karnataka in the Congress government lost his position within hours of making a statement which was perhaps insensitive, but certainly not coming within the definition of hate. Commenting on a natural calamity in Gujarat, he dared define it as a divine wrath for the persecution in that state. There were several cases under Section 295 against him in Gujarat, and the Congress chef minister of Karnataka threw him out.
The Election Commission of India can perhaps take pride that it once barred Shiv Sena founder Thackeray from casting his vote on grounds of hate speech. The Supreme Court in March 31, 2004, also affirmed that no person, not even the most popular leader, should be allowed to give speeches that destroy the country's secular fabric or stoke communal violence. Expressing anguish at "vested interests fanning fundamentalism of all kinds", the bench of Judges Doraiswamy Raju and Arijit Pasayat - now known for staying the OBC reservations -- observed "... the state should have no religion of its own and no one could proclaim to make the state have one such or endeavour to create a theocratic state." Allowing the Karnataka government appeal concerning a February 2003 visit to Mangalore by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia, the court said secularism was not to be confused with communal or religious concepts of an individual or a group of persons. "Religion cannot be mixed with secular activities of the state and fundamentalism of any kind cannot be permitted to masquerade as political philosophies to the detriment of the larger interest of society and basic requirement of a welfare state," the bench said. It said "communal harmony should not be made to suffer and be made dependent upon the will of an individual or a group of individuals, what ever is their religion, be it of minority or that of the majority". The Court noted vested interests had been fanning religious fundamentalism of all kinds and were attempting to subject the constitutional machinery of the state to great stress and strain with certain quaint ideas of religious priorities to promote their own selfish ends. In this, they were undeterred and unmindful of the disharmony they might ultimately bring about. The bench said such vested interests even undermined national integration achieved with much difficulty and the laudable determination of "strong spirited savants of yesteryears".
In my case, the SHO had apparently not understood his law. The Supreme Court is clear. A man's record of hate speech is sufficient to trap him. The court said if civil authorities were of the view that a person's speeches or actions were likely to trigger communal antagonism and hatred resulting in fissiparous tendencies that could affect communal harmony, prohibitory orders could be imposed to avert any untoward happenings. Past conduct and antecedents of a person or group or an organisation may certainly provide sufficient material or basis for preventive actions.
I am therefore surprised that the Church has not been vocal in welcoming the recent interventions by the Election Commission which directed filing of an FIR against BJP President Rajnath Singh, UP party leader Lalji Tandon and others involved in the production of the controversial party election CD,. The Commission also issued notice to the BJP, asking why action should not be taken against it under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 for releasing the CD containing "inflammatory campaign material, derogatory to the sentiments of certain community".
The BJP must be afraid of what impact the Election Commission ruling will have on its performance in Uttar Pradesh, now in the throes of election - the ultimate but surely unlikely punishment is a ban on the party and individual candidates. It has chosen hollow bravado as the way out, and also to blackmail the Election Commission, raising anew old allegations against Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, who it says is close to the Congress party. Rajnath Singh, the party president, seems to be hoping that he will be arrested at this stage, allowing him to win some political points within his own party. The BJP maintains it has no regrets over the controversial CD carrying inflammatory references to Muslims, but also insists that the CD is not part of the official campaign materiel. Even though it put its few top Muslim leaders before the TV cameras to say all this, the BJP defense sounds hollow. The group that made the CD not only says the material for writing the script, preparing the visuals was given by the party, and now they are being threatened that if they do not take the entire blame.
I personally receive hate mail - by post, email and occasionally hand delivered or couriered to my home, several times a day. Sometimes it threatens physical action. My wife gets angry, though never frightened, bless her, but I have learned to live with it.
But the Church must remember that hate campaigns are always - and this is a political guarantee out of history stretching long before Hitler, Goebbels, Savarkar and
Golwalkar -- followed by increased marginalisation, heightened mass suspicion, local violence, and eventually officially sponsored pogroms.
We must tell the national government, the Election Commission of India and the Supreme Court that they need to take urgent and exemplary action against politically motivated and religiously bigoted hate campaigns by powerful persons and parties who target the small, the weak, and the minorities. Our survival as a united and secular nation may depend on such simple pre-emptive appeal to the rule of law. This CD must be forged into a nail, the last in the Sangh coffin.