Over the years too many have condoned, accepted and even turned apologists for hate rants directed against the majority community.
Hate is a vile human trait; an outburst of negative energy that brings out the diabolical side of man. The alleged vicious utterances at a religious conclave attended by a clutch of Hindu sadhus and other holy men have resulted in a political and ideological tectonic jolt that has engendered anger in some circles, consternation and embarrassment in others and sparked widespread calls for action against those present. The president of the Jamiat-i-Hind has petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene in the matter.
If the alleged statements made by the sadhus are true, it falls within the ambit of a hate crime and the guilty must be penalised to the full extent of the law.
However. we would be naive to believe that this is the only source of hate that is prevalent in our society and that it is only confined to the Hindu community.
Around the same time that the videos of the Dharam Sansad went viral, another hate rant was doing the rounds. That it was quickly brushed under the carpet with some tempering comments by some sections of our media is another story. I am referring to the speech given by Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and a Member of the Lok Sabha. He has subsequently protested his innocence. Despite claims of the video being doctored, there is enough material in the video clip to deem it as bigotry.
Examine this excerpt from his speech during a campaign rally in UP: “Please remember, Yogi will not be the Chief Minister always. Modi will not be the Prime Minister forever. We Muslims will not forget your injustice. We will remember this injustice. Allah will destroy you through his strength. Things will change. Who will come to save you then? When Yogi will return to his mutt and Modi will retreat to the mountains, then who will come?”
Note the use of the words “We, Muslims”, “destroy you” and “mutt”. Many would say they are indicative of a toxic religious partisanship. Even if Mr Owaisi’s assertion that he was referring to the police is true, the syntax of his words leaves little room for doubt. The use of the phrase, “We, Muslims”, suggests a need to “otherise” the police as non-Muslim (read Hindu) and the use of the word “mutt” suggests the target was Hindus. Is the Honourable MP saying that there are no Muslims in the Andhra and Telangana police?
Now compare the reactions to reports of Owaisi’s speech and that of the Dharam Sansad. There were no high decibel protests, no newspaper editorials or scathing opeds excoriating his utterance. No retired members of the Armed forces waited in line to berate him. In contrast, a so-called Dharam Sansad attended by a clutch of local religious leaders with no authoritative Hindu religious leader like a Shankaracharya present—this was nevertheless projected as a symbol of overall Hindu hate; one that deserves universal condemnation. The difference is telling.
Targeting of hate in India is not a fair or an altruistic exercise in moralism. It is in many instances a selective, self-serving vendetta carried out to garner political and ideological mileage, So, when a host of retired Army personnel and important members of society write to the Prime Minister and the President expressing shock and anguish at the alleged calls for genocide and ethnic cleansing against Muslims at the Dharam Sansad, we need to look at the issue of hate in an objective, dispassionate and impartial manner. Any hate speech is vile and needs to be condemned, including by these worthies. Additionally let us not be under the impression that such deplorable vituperation is occurring for the first time in our country.
Calls for genocide directed against the Hindus were voiced routinely at frequent intervals. Political leaders, members of the clergy and terrorists operating within our borders are all culpable of such abominations. At the height of the Kashmir unrest in 1990, the following threat was broadcast repeatedly from religious sites offering the Hindus three options: Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive (convert to Islam, leave the place or perish)—in effect a dual threat of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
In 2013, Akbaruddin Owaisi, Telangana MLA and brother of Asaduddin Owaisi, the AIMIM party chief. at an election rally declared that if police are removed for 15 minutes, “we will finish 100 crore Hindus”.
A similar sentiment was reiterated by Waris Pathan, the spokesperson of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and a former MLA. In 2020, at an anti-CAA rally in Kalburgi Karnataka. He said: “We are just 15 crore, but we can be heavy on the 100 crore Hindus.”
And in 2017 in Kolkata during a protest in support of the Rohingya Muslims, a noted Islamic cleric, Maulana Shabbir Ali Azad threatened: “If the Muslims are in minority, are we weak? You don’t know the history of the Muslims. We are Hussaini Muslims, even if we are 72, we can kill lakhs.”
Are these not calls for genocide, and how is it that these vitriolic outpourings do not garner the same attention as the happenings at the so-called Dharan Sansad? Why is it that an alleged call for ethnic cleansing raises the shackles of some as opposed to an actual case of ethnic cleansing in Kashmir, which has been met with a deafening silence?
The explosion of hate all around us is the result of double standards. In the lexicon of our public discourse, hate is not an absolute non-negotiable term but an arbitrary one defined by the identity of the individual. So much so that the UPA government in 2011 attempted to pass a bill (Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011) that categorically stated that only minorities can be victims of communal violence and not members of the majority community.
Over the years too many have condoned, accepted and even turned apologists for such hate rants directed against the majority community.
When hate ran rampant through the Valley of Kashmir driving away a quarter million Hindus from their homes, the self-declared votaries of secularism remained silent. We blamed the terrorists, overlooking the role of the many who were tacit accomplices to this hate crime. The commentariat even papered over their malevolence by claiming that the Hindus voluntarily fled Kashmir at the insistence of the then Governor Jagmohan.
Double standards are what perpetuates the cycle of hate. Hate begets hate. The harsh revilement emanating from the so-called Dharan Sansad is shocking. It took place in the face of gubernatorial inaction and the tacit concurrence of some sections of our society.
Nevertheless, such hate speech cannot be condoned and must be dealt with firmly. The cycle of hate must be interrupted to usher in harmony essential for progress of society.
Eradication of hate, however, is not the responsibility of the government alone. Laws are only as effective as the sincerity of the people that they govern. All sections of society especially the media have a vital role to play in the maintenance of peace and goodwill.
Urgings by some for the Supreme Court to intervene by taking suo moto cognizance of the matter can only be meaningful if the scope of the SC intervention be expanded to include the hate rants from all sections of society, not just one.
Selective targeting is ideological triumphalism and can be counterproductive. What we require is Zero Tolerance for hate, a single non-negotiable benchmark that is applied impartially without nuance to all individuals and communities regardless of religion, caste or creed.