The international community is increasingly taking note of rising cases of hate speech and hate crime and failure of the state to protect the rights of minorities. The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, slammed India’s worsening record of human rights violations and hate speech during his recent two-day visit to India. Speaking at an IIT-Mumbai function, Guterres reminded, “India’s voice on the global stage can only gain in authority and credibility from a strong commitment to inclusive human rights also at home”.
While praising India’s historical commitment to non-violence, especially in its fight against the British colonial rule, Guterres reminded that the need to “unequivocally condemn” hate speech and must “protect and promote rights of all individuals, including members of minority community”.
The Human Rights Watch in its submission to the Universal Periodic Review of India stated in unambiguous terms India’s deteriorating record of human rights violation since the Bharatiya Janata Party came into power in 2014. “India is instead witnessing a serious regression in human rights and constitutional protections under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” noted HRW.
“The government has escalated its crackdown on independent and democratic institutions, and is using draconian sedition, counterterrorism, and national security laws to prosecute and harass human rights activists, journalists, students, government critics, and peaceful protesters. There are growing attacks, discrimination, and incitement against religious minorities. The government has adopted laws and policies that systematically discriminate against minorities. Muslims are being especially targeted both by BJP government policies as well as in violent attacks by party supporters.”
The Supreme Court on October 21 also expressed grave displeasure at the government’s inaction to curb hate speech, especially in the light of several inflammatory speeches made by Hindu religious leaders at gatherings in the recent past. Hearing a petition filed by one Shaheen Abdulla seeking intervention of the top court for stopping the “growing menace of targeting and terrorising of the Muslim community in India” , the bench comprising Justice KM Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy slammed the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi for their failure to initiate legal proceedings against people who delivered hate speeches at gatherings in the three states, reported the legal news website, Bar & Bench.
“Respondents will issue directions to their subordinates in this regard without looking at the religion of the accused, so that the secular nature of India is preserved,” observed the two-judge bench. It also ordered the police force of the three states to report on action taken in against the persons involved in delivering the hate speeches that were highlighted in petition.
“Respondents will issue directions to their subordinates in this regard without looking at the religion of the accused, so that the secular nature of India is preserved,” the bench ordered.
During the hearing, Justice Joseph expresses his anguish at the growing tendency of certain sections of the ruling political class and affiliated religious leaders for blatantly calling for violence against minorities at mass gatherings. “Where have we reached? What have we reduced religion to? It is tragic. And we speak of scientific temper,” observed Justice Joseph. Adding to the observation, Justice Roy expressed his displeasure, stating, “Statements are certainly very shocking for a country that is to be religion neutral”.
Earlier this month a committee comprising retired judges of the Supreme Court and various High Courts and bureaucrats released a detailed report titled “Uncertain Justice” in which they highlighted the complicity of Delhi Police in failing to control the communal riots that singed north-east Delhi in February 2020, against the backdrop of the anti-Citizens Amendment Act protests, in which 53 people died, with the majority hailing from the Muslim community. “Protesters were labelled “traitors” by candidates and party leaders, such as Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur, at election rallies and public demonstrations. Calls for violence against the so-called “traitors”, in the form of the “goli maaro” (Shoot the traitors) slogan, were casually repeated, with no censure. The vilification of the protests and anti-Muslim hate was amplified by widely viewed television news channels and social media,” says the report, detailing communal passions were deliberately inflamed in the lead-up to the riots. “Hindu nationalist figures such as Yati Narsinghanand and Ragini Tiwari, as well as BJP political leaders in the fray such as Kapil Mishra, further spread hate messaging among their thousands of followers through social media platforms from December 2019.”