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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightWhen will actions be...

When will actions be taken regardless religion?

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When will actions be taken regardless religion?
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Prominent poet Rahat Indori was called for questioning by the police over a poem he had sung at a poets' gathering during the Emergency.

The next morning he got a summons from the local police station where the officer asked him: “Did you say last night the government is a thief?" “Yes,” said Indori, “but I didn’t say which government — whether of India or Pakistan or the US.”. The policeman retorted: "Ah, you thought we were all idiot, and we know which government is the thief!" The memory of this incident during the declared Emergency has now been invoked by another police action.

A religious preacher who recited a poem in Junagadh, Gujarat, describing the hardships of the Muslim community in different parts of the world, including Palestine, and said that the end to it is coming, has been arrested on charges of hate speech. Mufti Salman Azhari, the preacher, was arrested by the anti-terrorist squad of the Gujarat Police in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. Right-wing media pundits, including Sudarshan TV chief Suresh Chavhanke, who is notorious for hate speeches and fake news, shared parts of the speech on January 31 on social media and demanded action. If one listens to the small fragment of the speech circulating through WhatsApp, the poem he recited is not as sweet as Rahat Indori's. One of its lines is 'Aaj kuthom ka waqt hai, kal hamara daur aayega' (Today is the age of dogs, our turn will come tomorrow). Although Mufti Salman explained that what he said was about Palestine and Yemen, the police did not take it at face value. On hearing the news of the arrest, the followers gathered at the station premises, but they dispersed as requested by Azhari through the microphone provided by the police. The police, who also arrested the organizers of the lecture program, are continuing extensive investigations.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly given instructions to take immediate action wherever hate speech takes place in the country. It would be a good thing if the authorities were alert to comply with the Supreme Court order in the same manner as they acted immediately when the Varanasi District Court ruled that facilities should be provided for worship at the lower level of the Gyanvapi Masjid in violation of the Protection of Places of Worship Act. But it can't be lost sight of that they ignore the directive that action must be taken regardless of the preachers' religion. BJP-RSS leaders, including representatives in the legislative assemblies, and those dressed as monks are hurling harsh communal-hate remarks in Parliament, meetings and public forums. Videos of toxic speeches delivered at private functions and camps are also surfacing everywhere. It is extremely dangerous that these speakers, who make remarks that are too disgusting to transcribe here, use their links with Hindutva communal organizations as a shield against legal action, including arrest. It is as a consequence of such hate speech that lynchings are taking place in different parts of the country. Even the fact that the railway security personnel, who are supposed to guard the lives and property of the passengers, massacred passengers on a running train by identifying them by their clothes and names should be seen as a part of it. A BJP leader who used highly offensive language against a member of Parliament from a minority community in the middle of the session in Parliament, which is revered as the shrine of Indian democracy, did not even have to suffer a symbolic arrest. It was only months later that he expressed even a nominal regret before the council.

Hate speech is one of the important tools in fascism's toolkit to gain political advantage by distracting attention from hundreds of pressing issues, including inflation, unemployment, violence against women and minority communities, polarizing people communally and disrupting peaceful lives. And they cannot be stopped unless the highest judiciary, which has often used strict language against them, comes forward to ensure that its orders are enforced impartially.

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TAGS:Supreme Courthate speechGujaratEditorialIndia newsRahat Indori
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