By Mohd. Naushad Khan
After Independence, it was expected that people of the country would move forward as one single unit i.e. Indians to take the country forward to the next height. But, on the contrary, some segments are taking the nation backward by devising hate narratives, one after another, aimed at pushing minorities to the corner and marginalising them further, socially, economically and politically. The method may vary but the madness remains the same and that is now guided with intense hate and bigotry.
Controversies are designed deliberately to create fear psychosis in the minds of minorities, especially the Muslims, at regular intervals from one place to another. The state, its legal system, and its police force have been subordinated to communal politics. Hindu nationalists who now attend political rallies with toy bulldozers are well aware of and appreciative of this terrible reality. The BJP deliberately targets India’s civil society in an effort to prevent any documentation of or opposition to its autocratic policies.
In order to intimidate opponents and dissident voices, it has weaponised the police and law enforcement organisations and is using them to bring false accusations, make threatening arrests, and start up investigations. The Indian court system is also being utilised to bring charges against its detractors. State capture is the process by which the state is used to advance Hindutva politics. This phenomenon is undermining the independence of the court and the legitimacy of the state. When a single party, movement, or ideology gains control over the state and the judiciary, neither democracy nor decent governance can exist in any country.
According to Amir Ali, Assistant Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, “The prevalence of hate politics is a worldwide phenomenon and is not confined to just India. In the US the rise of Donald Trump witnessed a simultaneous increase in inflammatory rhetoric against Latinos, Blacks, Mexicans and Muslims. In the UK Brexit has happened with a surge in rhetoric against immigrants and a rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Worryingly hate politics helps win elections. People across the world must put hope above hate.”
Advocate Nasir Aziz, president of SAMLA (South Asian Minorities Lawyers Association), said, “These days hate is being used extensively for political reasons and purpose. The present regime is actually thriving on it and if you look at the graph of increase in their vote percentage and popularity, it is evident that it is proportionate to the increase in hate propaganda unleashed by the ruling political setup. Now, this hatred and polarisation between communities has reached a point where it may be strengthening the ruling party but it is surely weakening the nation.”
“The nation has reached a perilous curve due to the use of hate as a political tool. There are enough provisions in the existing laws to deal with the hate, and hate speech. But even the courts are not dealing with it effectively and are displaying (in some cases) a partiality and bias in handling the cases. It is eroding public trust in the institution itself. A recent brutal act is a very disturbing act but it certainly is the outcome of a vicious hate circle which may be a potential harbinger of a bigger catastrophe,” he further said.
“The government, the ruling party, the judiciary and everyone having a stake in peace must come forward to reign in the volcano of hatred which has potential to burn the nation if not stopped immediately. The least the nation expects is an appeal for peace by the PM. A serious effort is required by the Judiciary to overturn the trend and apply the available laws to stop the vicious circle of hate,” observed president of SAMLA.
John Dayal, a noted social and human rights activist, while emphasising on the broader outlook, said, “Some European countries have a law that makes it a crime to deny that Jews were murdered in their millions in a holocaust ordered by Adolf Hitler. The law is unsparing, and applies to Jews as much as to gentiles, particularly if it is known that the statement is made not from ignorance but in malice. The French law, peculiar to us, does the exact opposite – everyone is free to say [or draw, sing or enact] everything they like, even if it means showing gods, goddesses, prophets and saviours in a bad light, or even in an absolutely obscene or pornographic position.”
He added, “The target often has been Jesus Christ, but also Yahweh, and the Greek pantheon and the Prophet of Islam. Many editors and cartoonists of the Charlie Hebdo magazine were shot dead in one instance. In India, as in Pakistan, Colonial British Raj anti-blasphemy laws still operate, and Christian pastors are routinely arrested for “insulting” gods. But the punitive action is more often than not by non-state actors, mostly Hindutva mobs, most ferociously seen as cow protection vigilantes or lynch mobs who have executed dozens of Muslim young men on suspicion of carrying beef. In one case, the killer gang was arrested for a short while, and once released, was garlanded by a central minister.
“On the religious bigotry, Nupur Sharma, once the chief woman spokesperson of the BJP, was castigated this week by the Supreme Court for insulting the Prophet of Islam. The bench, rejected her petition to have all cases against her transferred to Delhi, told her she was chiefly responsible for the fraught situation in the country created by the execution of Udaipur tailor Kanhaiya Lal by two Muslims of the town. This indeed is a rare case,” he said.
“As someone who closely monitors the situation of the Christians in India and of all religious minorities in general, I can say with some data that blasphemies by Hindutva gangs and even others against Muslim and Christian beliefs are not even registered as violations of the law of the land as contained in the Indian Penal Code. Trolls routinely insult things and images held holy by some religions. And we are not referring to the way journalists, including the founder of a fact checking website, have been arrested on a four-year-old tweet without anyone complaining about it,” he added.
“But the full might of the law as exercised by the police in big towns, small towns, and villages, comes down hard if any member of a religious minority were to say something or draw something that local religious bosses of their henchmen find offensive. One classic case was of famed artist MF Husain who died in exile because his life was threatened in India by goons who found his art insulting to their goddesses. The law and its practice must be seen by the people to be fair and equitable. This would go a long way in ensuring peace. Government, judiciary, police, and the media must ensure that they speak in one tongue on this. No one must think its diktat is more powerful than the law of the land,” said Dayal.
On legal perceptive, Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, Assistant Professor of Law and national spokesperson, Samajwadi Party said, “Laws to prevent hate speech need to be strengthened but within constitutional limits prescribed by Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India. I am a proponent of free speech but freedom of speech cannot be used to spread communal hatred and enmity in the society. Speech inciting violence cannot be allowed in any civilised society. We live in a country which is so diverse in terms of cultures, religions, food habits and languages. We need to respect this diversity. I support diversity of views too but within the constitutionals restrictions.”
Under the prevailing hate-filled atmosphere, a statement by CJI N V Ramana at an event in San Francisco in America on July 1 is a ray of hope. “As we celebrate 75th year of Independence this year and as our Republic turned 72, with some sense of regret I must add here that we still haven’t learnt to appreciate wholly the roles and responsibilities assigned by the Constitution to each of the Institutions. The party in power believes that every governmental action is entitled to judicial endorsement. The parties in opposition expect the judiciary to advance their political positions and causes,” the CJI stated.
“It is the vigorously promoted ignorance among general public which is coming to the aid of such forces whose only aim is to run down the only independent organ, i.e., judiciary,” the CJI said.
“Let me make it clear that we (judiciary) are answerable to the Constitution and Constitution alone. To ensure checks and balances envisaged in constitution we need to promote constitutional culture in India,” CJI added.