Hate speech prevalent in UP and Uttarakhand

India continues to witness a seemingly never ending spate of hate speech. From Uttarakhand to Karnataka, hate speech is being organised and curated carefully to polarise sentiments.

Hate speech prevalent in UP and Uttarakhand
Hate speech prevalent in UP and Uttarakhand

The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Pushkar Singh Dhami himself was recently caught on camera after a video surfaced on social media on October 6, 2023. The video features him promoting communal hate speech and boasting about right-wing bogeys and false conspiracies during a public address in Haridwar at an event organised by the Bajrang Dal. The CM further regurgitated anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and also proudly announced that his government had removed hundreds of shrines accusing the religious shrines as being a pretext for seizing land. Addressing the crowd, the chief minister stated, “This is the land for which people come to greet the Bhumi, people come here to pilgrimage – and thus in order to maintain the moolswarup, we have initiated actions to tackle land and mazaar jihad. There were more than 5 mazaars (shrines). We have freed 3300 government land.”

Furthermore, the Chief Minister boasted about introducing stringent laws against religious conversion and “love jihad.” He argued that these measures were necessary to combat alleged cases of forceful conversion of “innocent people” and states that Uttarakhand has now adopted “the country’s strictest law” against such practices.

This was not the only incident of hate speech Uttarakhand witnessed. Earlier this week, in Khatima, Udham Singh Nagar too a leader from the VHP was witnessed peddling conspiracy theories against Muslims and openly advocating for violence against them. To jubilant shrieks and calls, the leader spoke, “Coming generations will ask us, when this dev-bhumi (godly land) was being settled in by rakshasa, love jihadi, land jihadi – the coming generation will ask us what we were doing. We have preserved the Dev bhumi safe and sound as we received from our ancestors is what we should be able to tell them. If the coming generation asks us about love jihadis, those who do forced religious conversion, we should be able to answer all these questions from the coming generation. We should be able to tell them that we were invested in kicking out those who eat cow meat, and those who convert our brothers and sisters.”

Similarly, in Dehradun too on October 5, a Hindutva leader made alarming calls for violence at a VHP-Bajrang Dal event.

The recent statements by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, combined with the extremist rhetoric from various leaders, highlight the need for action to be taken to curb the menace of organised events of hate speech that continued to perforate the nation.

On October 5, 2023 Arpit Gupta who is reportedly a leader from the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal delivered a hate-filled speech targeting Muslims and urging Hindus to follow the path of Nathuram Godse. During his speech, Gupta made several worrying statements. He began first by questioning and seeming to mock Mahatma Gandhi, “Do you remember Gandhi, everyone remembers Gandhi? Slap one cheek, turn the other too. Old man! To protect Bhagwa, and the sanctity of Hindutva, and to protect Hindus, you might have to hit someone, face legal consequences, and even have to leave your house. Be prepared! This is what a Yodha, warrior, means. Do or die.”

Gupta continued to make hateful statements that seemed to be aimed towards inciting violence, “We want a Hindustan for Hindus, and this is not Khwaja’s Hindustan. If they don’t scream Jai Sri Ram. Today in 9 states of the country the Hindu population has dwindled. Jammu and Kashmir is empty of Hindus. And when I say Hindus, it means Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi, and Hindu. Similarly, Sikkim, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Tripura are empty of Hindus. They are infiltrating and killing in West Bengal, talking of making an Islamic nation in Kerala.”

In Sandila, Hardoi, a similar incident of hate speech transpired where a far-right leader delivered an incendiary speech in Uttar Pradesh. The leader seemed to be witnessed encouraging violence and made threats regarding the takeover of Ajmer Dargah which is a revered Sufi shrine in Rajasthan.

During the speech, the leader declared to the cries of Jai Sri Ram, ‘If you become Raheem, then they will call Krishna Kanhaiya and sing. But here, children of Mohammed, you will be drowned in Yamuna.’ And ended with saying, “This country is not of Babur, Ghori, Ghazni, it is of Hindus.” The incident took place on October 7, 2023.

What have the courts and government done to tackle hate speech thus far? Let us have a look. The Supreme Court issued a recent directive in April 2023 highlighting the gravity of the situation where the apex court directed states to actively register FIR on hate speech incidents and proceed against offenders without waiting for complaints to be lodged. The Supreme Court in January 2023 has earlier also spoken about the pertinence of the government to take action against hate speech.

However, what is worrying is the harrowing revelation made by Hindutva Watch which is a Washington-based organisation dedicated to monitoring attacks on minority communities in India. According to their report for the first half of 2023, there were a staggering 255 documented incidents of hate speech gatherings targeting Muslims.

The report also revealed that approximately 70% of these incidents unfolded in states scheduled to hold elections in 2023 and 2024, setting the stage for potentially explosive dynamics. The states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat witnessed the highest number of these hate speech gatherings, with Maharashtra alone accounting for 29% of such incidents.

The hate speech events noted in the report were similarly full of conspiracy theories and calls for violence as well as socio-economic boycotts against Muslims and what makes things clearer, however unsurprising, is that the report also mentioned that about nearly 80% of these events took place in regions governed by the BJP. As the party is widely expected to contest and potentially secure victory in the upcoming general elections in 2024 as the preceding state assembly elections at the end of 2023. Similarly, a recent report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) cites that 4768 sitting and MP and MLAs have current cases of hate speech against them. The highest number of cases is the BJP. These are staggering figures and worrying ones as they make one wonder whether people with hate speeches against them are really the ones that should be leading the world’s largest democracy.

Courtesy : cjp.org