National

One Year of Modi Sarkar: Hate Speech Galore

The coming to power of Narendra Modi in a way gave an open license to all the affiliates of RSS combine to indulge in open hate speech against religious minorities. The current agenda behind the hate speech is to consolidate communal polarisation of society along lines of religion. The well known case of MIM’s Akrbaruddudin Owaisi’s hate speech has been despicable and very rightly Akbarudin Owaisi had to be in jail for some time. The case against him should be pursued and the legal course of action befollowed.  At the same time what about the hate speech indulged in by the likes of Pravin Togadia, Subramanian Swami, Giriraj Singh, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Sadhvi Prachi, Sakshi Mahraraj, Yogi Adityanth, Sanjay Raut and company?

Apart from these associates of Hindu right fountainhead, the RSS, who are reported in the media, there are many more indulging in divisive speech and aggravating the communal situation. During this year 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. 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’s associates’ in the form of propaganda of love jihad and ghar vapasi were on, and they continued without any respite during this year. Soon after this government came to power in Pune, Mohsin Sheikh, a person working in IT was hacked to death by activists of Hindu Jagran Sena in the aftermath of morphed pictures of Bal Thackeray and Shivaji being posted on social media. Attacks on churches were very glaring and the phenomenon, which was dominant in Delhi and Haryana, was also witnessed in places like Panvel near Mumbai and 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 were overtaking the population. Sadhvi Prachi went on 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. Pravin Togadia has been the leading person in making hate speeches; he has the highest number of cases regarding hate speech against him. Yogi Adityanath, BJP’s MP keeps making derogatory remarks. He said that in Love Jihad if one Hindu girl was converted then 100 Muslim girls should be converted to Hinduism. The propaganda around love jihad keeps simmering and various small and big leaders keep using it to divide the society. The 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.

Two central ministers of Modi Sarkar, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Giriaj Singh, made very insulting and humiliating remarks about non-Hindus and the colour of skin of UPA chief Sonia Gandhi. Niranjan Jyoti stated that all those who were non-Hindus were illegitimate. Giriraj Singh had earlier said that those not voting for Modi should go to Pakistan. Interestingly, he said this before the elections and despite such a record he was elevated to the level of minister in the government. He made racial comments about Sonia Gandhi recently. Sakshi Mahraj also held Godse as a patriot, while his party colleague from Kerala, one Gopal Krishnan wrote in the RSS mouthpiece that Godse chose a wrong target in killing Gandhi; he should have killed Nehru instead. Subramanian Swamy, one of the senior leaders of BJP, said that God lives in temples alone, not in mosques and Churches. The hidden implication of this statement is fraught with danger. This is a small sample from what has been stated during this year. 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.

Hate speech is the outcome of the politics of division. It is the concentrated expression of the prevalent social common sense. It is a forthright and blunt way of putting things, which communal parties adopt. It is not out of the blue that these formulations suddenly crop up. Their infrastructure, the basis for such mischief has already been created by these political groups.

Also, hate speech in case of India is an accompaniment of politics in the name of religion and language. Often it precedes violence or helps in polarisation of communities for electoral benefits. While BJP was on the upswing during the Ram temple campaign one recalls that Sadhvi Ritambhara was propped up for pravachans (religious discourse) by the RSS combine. She was bluntly talking anti-minority rubbish, duly endorsed by communal political organisations before the Babri demolition period.

One has been hearing similar things from many sadhus of VHP, small and sundry members of communal gangs, stray Muslim communalists and the ilk of Togadia. There has been a more sophisticated presentation of similar formulations by many others. Modi, in his initial rise to power talked in a divisive language, but kept changing its form in a subtle way to suit the needs of his political strategy. When he said that refugee camps following 2002 killings should be shut down as they had become factories for production of children, he was reinforcing the propaganda about Muslims having more children.

In the wake of Mumbai riots Bal Thackeray had indulged in hate speech, inciting his Shiv Sainiks to violence. He also got away with it due to clever way of putting his vitriol and lack of adequate law which could distinguish hate speech from freedom of expression. Incidentally, it is important to distinguish between criticising a community and criticizing a political organisation. While political organisations can and must be criticized, communities should not be humiliated or insulted. Also no political organisation can be synonymous with the religious community, whatever its claims.

It is not only disturbing but against the values of our democratic society that such hate ideology and speeches have become weapons in the hands of politicians, who thrive on exclusion and identify a particular religious community as synonymous with the nation state. Hate speech is the language of a section of people who focus on identity politics, instead of real issues of 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 nation based on one religious community. These streams came from the sections of earlier rulers, landlords, nawabs and rajas. The ideology of religion-based nationalism is narrow and it excludes the other from its notion of nationhood. These beliefs then get converted into hate for the other, and later turn into hate speech. This did form the basis of many a communal violence in pre independence era and also during the last two decades.  

In this atmosphere once in a while BJP spokespersons say that the views expressed by a particular leader are “personal” and stop at that. For BJP another escape clause is that its associated organisations like VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Bajrang Dal are formally different organisations though they are also part of RSS controlled Sangh Parivar. They all are working in tandem with BJP for actualisation of the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. So, while BJP is not directly responsible for their actions, the direction of their actions is the same as BJP’s.  Many call these organisations “fringe elements”, while as a matter of fact there is a division of labour between these organisations. These have become more active in Modi government and their vitriol more lethal.    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2015 on page no. 6

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