Every year on October 2, India celebrates the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation and apostle of peace. One of the root causes of conflicts, violence and wars is nurturing hatred and taking revenge. Hate speeches and circulating hate messages through social media often lead to communal violence as happened in Nuh in Haryana in August this year. Celebration of Gandhi Jayanti is an occasion for a serious introspection for all Indians, especially the political leaders, how honest they are in following the way of Mahatma Gandhi. Do we have the right to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti, when India is being converted into an ocean of hatred?
The menace of hate speech has travelled from social media platforms, speeches during election campaigning and religious festivals to the temple of democracy, Parliament. In 2014, before taking oath as the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi prostrated at the entrance of Parliament and described it as the “temple of democracy”. What has happened to this temple during the last nine years? The special session of Parliament that was held in the new Parliament building witnessed one of the worst forms of hate speech against a Muslim MP. During the “Amrit Kaal” hate speech is not only being made in the streets but also it has now entered the hallowed portals of Parliament.
On September 21, Bharatiya Janata Party Lok Sabha MP Ramesh Bidhuri used violent anti-Muslim slurs against Danish Ali MP of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Bidhuri’s words were televised as part of the Lok Sabha proceedings. In an article published in The Wire on 22nd September, the abuse hurled against Danish Ali by Bidhuri was quoted as follows.
“Yeh ugrawadi (militant), yeh aatankwadi hai (terrorist), ugrawadi hai, yeh aatankwadi hai”, “Mullah aatankwadi, bharwa (pimp) and katwa (circumcised)”, “Baahar phenko iss mulle ko (Throw this ‘mullah’ out),” Bidhuri shouted.
Danish Ali has written to the Speaker of Lok Sabha, Om Birla, urging him that Bidhuri’s comments be referred to the Lok Sabha privileges committee. “The episode is most unfortunate and the fact that it has happened in a new Parliament building under your leadership as Speaker is truly heartbreaking for me as a minority member of this great nation and an elected Member of Parliament as well,” he wrote. Ali lamented that if a minority member was attacked with communal slurs within Parliament, what would be the fate of ordinary Muslims.
MPs belonging to the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Trinamool Congress have thrown their weight behind Ali by moving privilege motions against Bidhuri. They have written letters to the Speaker appealing to him to take action against Bidhuri. DMK’s MP Kanimozhi urged the Speaker to take immediate action against Bidhuri. “His words cannot be trivialized as mere unparliamentary language; they egregiously undermine the dignity of the Parliament and constitute a grievous affront to democracy and our entire nation,” wrote DMK’s Kanimozhi in a letter to Om Birla.
But the Speaker, who was in a hurry to terminate Lok Sabha membership of Rahul Gandhi as soon as a lower court pronounced its verdict, has not yet responded to the letter of Danish Ali and other opposition leaders on the issue. He just issued a warning to Bidhuri, saying that strict action will be taken, if there is any recurrence of such behaviour.
The BJP has also not taken any action against the erring MP except sending a show cause notice to him. If any opposition member, especially a Muslim member, had used such filthy language against any BJP MP, what would have been the reaction of the BJP and other Sangh Parivar organizations? The response of the BJP to this issue exposes clearly its prejudiced attitude towards the minorities, particularly the Muslims.
Bidhuri used foul language with so much audacity that he knew that this was the easy way to get a promotion in the BJP. For example, after uttering the slogan ‘Goli Maaro….’, Anurag Thakur was made a Cabinet Minister. For the BJP, hate speech is not an aberration, but a well-planned strategy to target the minorities, especially Muslims, and thereby to polarize the Hindu majority.
In this context, it is pertinent to examine the track record of BJP leaders with regard to hate speech. On January 12, 2022 the NDTV published an article under the headline, “BJP tops India’s VIP hate pandemic, NDTV finds”. NDTV's 'VIP' hate speech tracker has chronicled statements, since 2009, by high-ranking political functionaries like ministers, Chief Ministers, MPs, MLAs, Governors and party bosses that are clearly communal, casteist, or make calls to violence. The tracker also included comments that might not directly be communal, but were "dog whistles" -- loaded against a community or religion in an indirect or coded way.
The tracker found that during the UPA-2 regime (2009-14), there were 19 instances of 'VIP' hate speech, an average of 0.3 instances a month. Since 2014 to January 12, 2022, under the Modi government, there had been 348 such instances, an average of 3.7 instances a month, a surge of 1,130 per cent. While politicians from most parties had made it to the list, data showed that the BJP topped the list, with 297 instances of high-ranking hate. The Congress came a distant second with 10 instances of hate speech.
The article included statements of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Maurya and the BJP MP from Karnataka, Tejasvi Surya. The call for genocide of Muslims by Dharma Sansad in Haridwar between December 17 and 19, 2021 was widely published in the media.
The silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when his own ministers, party men and the Sangh Parivar members indulge in hate speech, gives encouragement to the hatemongers. PM Modi remained silent when hate crimes of extraordinary nature took place: when innocent Muslims were lynched by the cow vigilantes, when the Dharma Sansad gave a clarion call for the genocide of Muslims, when Manipur was burning with ethnic cleansing, when Nuh in Haryana was engulfed in communal violence, when a Hindu teacher of a school in Muzaffarnagar in UP ordered students of her class to slap a Muslim boy for not doing his homework, etc.
On September 25, the Supreme Court came heavily on the UP government for the delay in registering FIR against the accused teacher and inordinate delay in the investigation of the case. The court observed, “This is a very serious issue. A teacher telling students to hit a classmate because he belongs to a particular community. Is this quality education? State must take responsibility for the education of the child. If the allegations are true, this should shock the conscience of the state.”
It is evident that hate crimes are increasing in India mainly because of the overt and covert support by the BJP governments to its supporters who resort to hate speeches and hate related violence. Misuse of religion is the second reason for the rise in the graph of hate crimes. No religion teaches people to hate others. Unfortunately, religion is being abused by the religious leaders and political leaders to promote hatred in order to achieve their selfish goals.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi often makes an appeal to people to open shops of love in the market of hatred (Nafrat ke bazaar me mohabbad ka dukan kolo). It is a reality that some individuals and organizations have opened huge factories for manufacturing hatred and employed thousands of agents to market them. They are even instilling hate in the minds of innocent children. Polluting the minds and hearts of innocent children is an unforgivable crime and sin. The result is that India has become an ocean of hatred.
Against this backdrop, time has come for the citizens of India to say boldly and loudly, “enough is enough, stop hate crimes”. They should outright condemn all types of hate speeches and hate crimes, irrespective of the persons or groups which commit those crimes. Remaining silent in the face of increasing hate crimes is itself a serious crime. Hate has no place in a civilized society.
Secondly, liberate religions from fundamentalism and hatred by focusing on spirituality, the practice of the core values taught by all religions. Religious fundamentalism often leads to prejudice against other religions. Spending thousands of crores of rupees of taxpayers' money by the governments on erecting huge statues, causing even damage to the environment and building religious structures of the majority community also has an implicit objective of creating fear in the minds of the minority communities.
Thirdly, cleanse education of prejudice and the poison of hate against other communities. Heads of educational institutions and teachers should desist from and refuse to teach anything that creates prejudice and hatred against any particular community. Let all educational institutions and teachers pay special attention to instil in their students the core values of the Indian Constitution: secular democracy and unity in diversity, justice, liberty, equality, fraternity and respect for individual dignity.
Fourthly, express solidarity with the victims of hate crimes. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called on Danish Ali at his residence to extend solidarity and support. In a post shared on X (formerly Twitter), Gandhi is seen hugging Ali with the caption “Nafrat ke bazaar mein, mohabbat ki dukan (In this marketplace of hatred, there is a shop of love).”
Let all peace- loving people of India wish and pray along with St. Francis Assisi:
“Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”