Hate Speech in India: How to Promote Amity?

Featured & Cover Hate Speech in India (VOA)

India has been ruled by the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for the last decade. BJP, in turn, is the progeny of RSS, which has the goal of Hindu Rashtra. It has many progeny, hundreds of associated organisations with lakhs of volunteers (Swayamsevaks) and thousands of senior workers called Pracharaks (Propagators). It has been pursuing its agenda of the Hindu Nation with twice the speed since the BJP came to power at the centre. The rise of the BJP on the electoral battlefield is due to intensifying communal issues, Ram Temple, Cow-Beef, and Love-Jihad, among others. Communal violence has been a significant factor in increasing its electoral strength.

There are well-placed mechanisms to create hate, hate speech against minorities, the chain of shakhas, Schools, Godi media, social media and IT cells, among others. Hate speech, which is a punishable offence, is used with gay abandon, more so when the BJP is in power in states and also in the centre. Those indulging in Hate speech do know that they enjoy a sort of impunity.

Hate Speech in India (The Wire) (1)
Picture: The Wire

All this is confirmed by the latest report released by ‘India Hate Lab’, a Washington DC-based group that documents hate speech against India’s religious minorities. The report titled ‘Hate Speech Events in India’ notes that while 255 events took place in the first half of 2023, “the number rose to 413 in the second half of the year, a 62% increase. The details are very revealing. As per the report, nearly 75% of the events of the total (498) took place in the BJP-ruled States, Union Territories (administered by the BJP-led Central government), and Delhi (here, police and public order come under the Union government’s purview). While 36% (239) of the events “included a direct call of violence against Muslims”, and 63% (420) of incidents include references to “conspiracy theories, primarily involving love jihad, land jihad, and population jihad”. About 25% (169) featured speeches calling for targeting Muslim places of worship.”

The resulting events are very well known by now. We remember the addition of using bulldozers and demolitions by BJP-ruled states. The demolition of the Mosque here and there is no longer a big deal. Boycotting Muslim hawkers and traders is occasionally propped up.

The impact on the Muslim community is an increasing sense of insecurity and ghettoisation. The walls of hatred are becoming stronger by the day. The hate speech signals begin from the top when the Prime Minister, lately being touted as the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, gives these hints that they can be identified with their clothes, Shamshan-Kabristan and Pink revolution. The next layer of hate spreaders further intensifies the language, and when it comes to Dharma Sansads, the Holy ones, like Yati Narsinghnand, the message of violence becomes more direct and despicable.

One of the peaks of this was witnessed in the Parliament itself when Ramesh Bidhudi used expletives of the worst kind against Danish Ali, ‘Mullah’, ‘terrorist’, ‘anti-national’, ‘pimp’ and ‘katwa’ (a Hindi slur against Muslims). Ramesh Bidhudi, in turn, was given additional promotion responsibility. This makes it clear the way of going in the upward direction of hierarchy in the BJP-RSS combine is hate speech. Ramesh Bidhudi was let off by the Lok Sabha Speaker by saying that if he repeated it again, action would be contemplated.

We have seen the horrific Bulli Bai and Sulli deals to humiliate prominent Muslim women and celebrities. The culprits went away without any severe punishments. Lately, the Haldwani mosque issue also disturbed the peace at the ground level. The absence of an impartial media is the worst thing in the present scenario. The anchors of the big channels find ways to blame the Muslims for every insinuation against them.

Apart from leading to acts of violence against the Muslim community, the present trajectory of events is leading to gradually intensifying Islamophobia. We can see a teacher, Tripta Tyagi, asking the class students to slap a Muslim boy one by one for not doing homework. Another teacher, Manjula Devi, told two Muslim students, who were bickering over a minor issue, that this is not ‘their country’. We also witnessed a bus conductor, Mohan Yadav, being sacked as he stopped the bus briefly, during which some passengers eased, and a few Muslims offered Namaz during that time.

Hate speech was identified by our leaders as a curse for our society. In the aftermath of the murder of Swami Sahajanand by a Muslim, Gandhi correctly identified the problem when he wrote in Young India, calling for “…purging the atmosphere of mutual hatred and calumny” by “boycotting papers which foment hatred and spread misrepresentation”. Here, Gandhi is talking about the negative role of newspapers at that time. Later, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, in the aftermath of the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, in a letter to Golwalkar, directly indicted RSS for spreading hatred, “All their speeches were full of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison and enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the valuable life of Gandhi. ”

The clock has moved full circle. The same RSS has created layers and layers of hate-creating mechanisms. Apart from its own vast army of swayam-sevaks, pracharaks and network of schools, a large section of media has totally surrendered to those in power and unabashedly uses their influence to intensify hate. The social common sense created through these mechanisms leads to Bulli Bai and Sulli deals. This creates Trupta Tyagis and Manjula Devis, who take it to the young children. Things are becoming difficult for Muslim children in mixed schools.

Hate is the antithesis of our Constitution’s value of fraternity. It is also against the tolerance of the values of the morality of Hinduism as practised by Gandhi. This is an aggressive attack on the dictum of the Vedas, ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’ (World is a family). This is not only intimidating the religious minorities, it is an attack on the values of our Constitution. To combat hate speech, Gandhi’s Hinduism, Vasudhaiva Kutumbaka and the fraternity of the Indian Constitution are needed more than before. (Courtesy: The Indian Currents)

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