From Babri to Jamia, Hate Speech by Politicians Has Consequences
Hate speech by politicians incite real violence on ground. History is witness to some deadly examples.
Wouldn't political leaders, who publicly partake in sloganeering like "goli maaro s****n ko (shoot the traitors)," be partly responsible, had Shadab Najar been killed by the bullet fired at him by a Hindutva supporter outside Jamia?
Hate speech has deadly consequences. It incites people to take to violence against the CREATED enemy. In India's case today, the enemy has been created out of minorities, mainly Muslims and Dalits.
At an election rally in Delhi, Union Minister Anurag Thakur asked a gathering what should be done with a "traitor".
He shouts from the stage, "Desh ke gaddaro ko..."
And the crowd responds: "Goli maaro s****n ko."
Now, who is this "traitor"?
For years, there has been a consistent attempt to label Muslims as “the enemy of the country”, “traitors”, “infiltrators”, and “outsiders”.
This dog-whistle unfortunately does not stop with Union ministers like Thakur or local leaders like Parvesh Verma or Kapil Mishra. This comes right from the top.
A recent BJP Delhi election campaign video shows Muslims and those fighting against the CAA as "traitors."
When the prime minister of the country says that those creating violence can be ‘identified by their clothes’ or when his second-in-command and the Union Home Minister asks people to choose between the nation and those backing the Shaheen Bagh protest, it becomes clear who Thakur was encouraging the crowd to shoot.
Just three days after Thakur's speech, a Hindutva supporter opened fire outside Jamia, injuring one student. On 1 February, Kapil Gujjar fired shots at Shaheen Bagh saying, "Iss desh mein sirf Hinduon ki chalegi (Only Hindus will have their say in this country)." On 2 February, another firing was reported outside Gate 5 of Jamia.
Hate speech is punishable under India’s Penal Code – Section 153(A), Section 205(A) and Section 505.
Let's look back at history for some examples of hate speech inciting real violence.
On 5 December 1992, Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressed a gathering of Kar Sevaks in Lucknow and used a very important metaphor.
Vajpayee said, “There were sharp stones that came up, no one can sit there... the ground has to be levelled. It has to be made fit for sitting. At least there will be a platform made... Yagya will be organised… The karsevaks will decide together.”
The next day, thousands of Karsevaks razed the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya to the ground, leading to riots across India. Vajpayee denied having any role in the demolition.
Another serial offender was Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Using his party’s mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ and his public speeches to foment hatred and violence against Muslims.
The result: As many as 700 people died in riots across Maharashtra in December 1992 and January 1993, soon after the Babri Masjid demolition.
We have seen how hate speech made by political leaders from across the political spectrum fanned communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in 2013, that killed 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus.
When BJP MPs garland lynching convicts, justify murders, issue open threats, or when the chief minister of India's largest state says "unnecessary importance" is being given to cases of mob lynchings over cattle vigilantism, is it any surprise that India has recorded the highest number of mob lynchings of Muslims under BJP rule?
Violence is not the only fallout of hate speech, encouraging an aggressive sentiment towards a particular community also radicalises young minds.
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