Friday, 28 June 2013

Modi, Advani and Sangh’s Agenda

Ram Puniyani

The nomination of Narendra Modi as the chief of campaign committee of BJP for 2014 elections (June 2013) has created more than a storm in the tea cup. Incidentally it is the first time ever that such a nomination has created 24x7 news and controversy. It has a lot to do with the propaganda machinery, which Modi has created around him. The atmosphere being created is that this nomination is like being nominated as the Prime Ministerial candidate or a prelude to it, which may be true. The major opposition to this came from Modi’s own mentor Lal Krishna Advani, who for quite some time has been the one to promote and protect Modi. It is his politics due to which Modi has his present stature and power within BJP and in Gujarat. Advani was the one to suggest his name as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, when Gujarat’s political fortunes were declining, and Modi revived those electoral fortunes, the linkage between carnage 2002 and Modi’s rise to power is a matter of conjecture.

With the discernible role of Modi in Gujarat violence, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted Modi to be sacked but it was Advani, who saved Modi’s skin. Even earlier it was Advani who promoted Modi to the forefront. The reason was nothing personal; it was the matching political agenda of both these swayamsevaks, Modi and Advani, who were working in tandem to enhance the creeping communalism in the polity of the nation. They are swayamsevaks of RSS and have been major players in the RSS agenda of Hindu Rashtra. Advani, having brought BJP to the forefront from two seats in 1984 Lok Sabha elections to the later 161 in the post Babri demolition elections and to further peak of 182 in 1999, with the further polarization. Advani’s communal actions catapulted BJP and it became the major opposition party and then came to the seat of power in Center for close to six years. Advani, being a shrewd politician knew that though he is the one responsible for the BJP’s enhanced fortunes, he also realized that his divisive actions will prevent other political parties to enter in to an alliance with BJP. It is because of this that he pushed forward the name of a fellow swayamsevak, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who managed to keep a moderate image despite having the same agenda of Hindu rashtra.

After Vajpayees innings as PM, Advani’s Prime Ministerial ambitions forced him to adopt a moderate image. The demolisher-in-chief of Babri mosque started making moderate noises to the extent that he picked up Jinnah’s speech in Pakistan Constituent Assembly on 11th August 1947, to call him a secular leader. This speech alone cannot be the base of evaluating Jinnah, as it is the same Jinnah, who was the Chief of Muslim League and he was the one who gave the muscles and teeth to the communal ideology of ‘Two Nation Theory, the ideology which was shared both by Hindu and Muslim communalists. Calling Jinnah secular was probably overkill as by that time RSS combine had consolidated the Hindus around ‘hate Muslims and hate Jinnah’. To swallow this statement from Advani was a bit too much for the patriarch, RSS, and so Advani was dumped. RSS as such also wanted a change of guard keeping the age factor in mind. For the lack of any credible face, Advani had to be resurrected again for 2009 general elections.

As such RSS had also some reservations about giving the command to Modi as RSS wants the primacy of organization over individuals. Modi overshadows the organization to which he belongs. But in case of Modi, RSS seems to have made an exception as Modi has cultivated his appeal through carefully constructed propaganda and through the communal polarization brought in by his role in the Gujarat carnage. RSS politics is an Indian version of supra authoritarian politics, couched in the identity of religion, it’s a sort of fascist politics. Fascist politics needs a charismatic mass leader, so in deference to the political contingency RSS has loosened its reservations about Modi and has to accept his uncontrollable rise.

In the whole drama, as it is unfolding, the divisive image of Modi is making other NDA allies to shift away from BJP. These allies have to nurture their own constituencies amongst minorities, so they cannot easily accept the leadership of Modi. So the already deflated NDA will be further deflated and barring the diehard Hindutva Shiv Sena and communal Akali Dal all others may desert the ship which is likely to be captained by Modi. In this case what is noteworthy is the role of RSS. While Advani raised the banner of revolt, it was only a phone call from RSS supremo that Advani did a climb down. For swayamsevaks trained by RSS, there is no question of defying the dictates from Nagpur. This is for number of reasons. One that these swaymasevaks are taught that their primary loyalty is to RSS and Hindu Rashtra. One recalls that when the previous avatar of BJP, Bhartiya Jansangh merged into Janata party after the lifting of emergency in 1977, the other constituents of Janata party asked the Jansangh members to severe their links with RSS. The Jansangh components broke away from Janata Party leading to split in Janata party and retained their umbilical cord and their ideology with RSS. Atal Bihari Vajpayee the supposedly moderate face of BJP, in Staten Island, in US, while talking in to the NRIs reaffirmed that he is primarily a swayamsevak and later a Prime Minister.

Apart from ideological factors there are electoral factors which are operative as well. The main strength of BJP at electoral level comes from the RSS volunteers, who sweat it out to make their nominees win. The organization of BJP is tightly controlled by RSS through the organizing secretaries of BJP, who are the nominees from RSS. RSS felt rewarded as Ram Temple issue picked up, Advani’s divisive Rath Yatra led to series of acts of violence and communal polarization went to higher levels, which were electorally profitable to the Hindutva politics. Today the stage has come where on one hand the BJP has been declining in the electoral arena and on the other the regional parties are coming up with big strength. These regional parties are more focused on their local issues, so one does not know which way they will turn after the election results.

The whole episode has demonstrated two major things. It has shown the polarizing impact of Narendra Modi. People also perceive that he is dictatorial in his attitude and when in power he is capable of usurping all the power to himself. This authoritarian character is being projected as his being ‘powerful’. The other leaders in Gujarat have perceived it and ex BJP leaders have either been marginalized to the full. One cannot be very hopeful about the attitude of the regional and other parties out for keeping power irrespective of values. One recalls that when BJP emerged as the largest single party in 1996 no other party was willing to ally with it. But just a couple of years later so many of these parties hovered around BJP to share some power as NDA. RSS-BJP-Modi may be banking on this historical experience to woo the other parties, still it seems a difficult task as at that time the sobering presence of Vajpayee was instrumental in making the other parties fall in to delusion and have the some part of the cake of power.

Today the challenge for secular movement remains quite mammoth. The ‘social common sense’ is heavily biased against religious minorities, their plight is becoming close to second class citizens. The threat of Modi coming to power does not seem imminent but one cannot say what role BJP-RSS combine will play to come to power. Earlier also one has seen that after every communal violence, the communal formations become stronger. Communalists know it too well. It is a dangerous portent for the country. The simmering acts of religious violence are strengthening the communal forces at grass root level. What about Federal front of regional parties? It will be like a sack of potatoes, with so many prime ministerial aspirants and diverse political agendas. What about third front? Can it come up as a coalition of all and sundry? The third front can be viable only on the ground of democratic, secular and pro poor programs. Who can take the lead for that is the million rupee question. While dumping Advani and selecting Modi, RSS has given a clear signal that it is going to orchestrate the aggressive Hinduta, authoritarian leader with fascist agenda and to try to impose Hindu rashtra on the secular democratic India. The creeping fascism hidden behind the persona of Modi and the organization called RSS needs to be engaged with in right earnest on democratic grounds.   

Monday, 17 June 2013

Whither Justice: Fabricated Cases and State

Ram Puniyani

Rihai Manch, a forum for getting justice to the falsely implicated youth in the cases of acts of terror has currently (June 2013), a protest Dharna (sit in) to demand the arrest of police and IB officials responsible for the death of Maulana Khalid Mujahid, to implement the R.D. Nimesh Commission report and to release the innocent Muslim youth implicated in acts of terror. This campaign is getting broader support from more human rights groups and affected community. This is the major effort by a civic society group to democratically protest against the insensitive and biased state machinery, to pressurize it to come to the path of justice.

The Samajvadi Party, Akhilesh Yadav Government in UP, had earlier claimed to be the major champion of the cause of Muslims, to the extent that the main leader of this party Mulayam Singh Yadav was derogatorily called Mulla Mulayam. But as he came to power last time also during his regime many a communal episodes, violence, took place under the very nose of the Government. Currently also Akhilesh Yadav‘s regime is marked by over 27 episodes of major riots. On the top of that this Government in its election promise had said that the innocents, implicated in the acts of terror will be released. On the contrary, the death of Maulana Khalid Mujahid in the police custody has raised sufficient doubts about the intentions of the Government. Even R.D. Nimesh Commission report was kept in the cold storage from last one year, and now when it has been released finally, the government is refraining from taking action, hiding behind the argument that it will be discussed in future Assembly session before action is taken on the report. As such Government has full prerogative to take action at Cabinet level. People fear that this commission report may also face the same fate as the other commission reports, which are generally put on the backburner or put in the cold storage.

Ashsish Khaitan, one of the journalists with dogged determination, sensitivity and honesty, has floated a portal, Gulail (Slingshot) (Facebook page here) to highlight the investigative reports related to the framing of innocents by authorities. Many an officers have falsely implicated innocents, despite knowing the truth, to enhance their own career prospects or to due to the biases which have gripped the large sections of the law enforcement agencies. These agencies regard that only youth from one religious community are responsible for the acts of terror. Khiatan also opines that putting forward the truth of such cases is also not of much use; as in such cases reports of honest investigations are overshadowed by the biased reporting and opinions in the print, T.V. and social media. He is pinning his hopes on judiciary and the people’s campaigns for getting justice. The ongoing dharna in UP is drawing the attention of the social groups and is being sustained for over two weeks by the social activists and the pained and anguished community, whose young ones’ are being incarcerated and have to suffer not only the future career prospects but have also to get the blame, which ostracize them from social life. In this direction various efforts have been undertaken in the past but after temporary response and restraint the investigation agencies lapse in to their usual prejudiced actions.

Not only can this be seen in the case of UP, but overall one sees the wide gulf between the promises and actual actions of the so called ‘secular parties’. While in Maharashtra the Congress coalition came to power with the promise of implementing Shrikrishna Commission report of 92-93 riots, after coming to power on this promise it put forward the usual excuses and the guilty police officers and political leadership continued to be in their positions of power despite sufficient proof of their involvement in instigating and participating in the riots., As for as justice to the victims and action against the guilty is concerned Samajvadi Party seems to be no different. The R.D. Nimesh Commission has given the full truth based on which it can proceed to punish the guilty police officers, but that’s what is being avoided. The credentials of so called secular parties are more are less similar, be it the Congress or be it the Samajvadi Party, they have very opportunistic attitude as far as the justice to minorities is concerned. While communal parties are out to do away with the rights of minorities and deny them justice through and through, these so called secular parties have dual character. They promise and are unable to deliver as their calculations are built around the vote bank politics.

This is due to multiple factors. One is that these supposedly secular parties are also being trapped by the considerations other than the values of secularism. So, controlling of communal violence, which is possible if there is adequate determination to do so, is not being done effectively. The second reason is the communalized state machinery, the investigating agencies, police and bureaucracy. How to investigate the cases, how to frame the innocents is an easy enough job, which the authorities do and their Khaki uniform empowers them to do it with ease. It is precisely due to this that the fate of inquiry commission reports has not been significant one. Starting from Madon Commission of inquiry into Bhiwandi riots, to Shrikrishna Commission and Liberhan Commission reports, the outcome, taking action based on the report, is close to zero as the implementing authorities, political leadership is opportunist and lacks the strength to stick to principles.

So where do we go from here. While the communal forces are out to proactively browbeat the religious minorities, the secular formations do not have the spine to ensure justice and equity. Its’ here, that the social activism which has prominently come up during last two decades in particular, needs to be strengthened. The activist groups have taken up these issues seriously and the initiatives by social activists is a major landmark in this direction. One wonders, why are the left parties, which should be principally secular to the core are shunning these efforts. Their joining these efforts to get equity and justice to minorities will put pressure on the parties like Congress and Samajvadi to try to become sincere in their efforts.

The intensification of efforts through judiciary and popular protests has to be intensified. The rot set in our democratic polity due to the infiltration of communalism through different mechanisms has been a very dangerous one to the values of our Constitution. It is time that we as a nation introspect and get over the biases and prejudiced behaviors towards weaker sections of our society. The path to social progress is paved through amity and justice. Professional attitude in investigation of acts of violence, communal amity and justice for all are the prerequisites of social progress, progress of society in the real sense.    

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Why Study Ancient Philosophy?

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya

"Why do you study ancient philosophy?"

I have faced this question so often that it is high time to give a reply in print.

The question may be answered rather tartly, following a famous mountaineer: 'Because it's there.'1 Such an answer, however, will not satisfy everybody.Yet the answer is perfectly valid. ’The first philosophers’ (as George Thomson called the Presocratics) succeeded in making the final break with mythology; by turning themselves into physiologoi, observers of nature ‘as it is without alien addition’ (Engels 198) they laid the basis of the scientific method. Benjamin Farrington noted that they were more than mere observers of nature: ‘The novelty of their modes of thought is only negatively explained by the rejection of mystical or supernatural intervention. It is its positive content that is decisive.’ (41)

The comment is equally true of the ancient Indian materialists. They too rejected any preternatural creator and asserted that consciousness arises out of matter, not the other way round.

J. D. Bernal further points out why the Presocratics are of importance even now:
‘Greek thought, for historical reasons, underlies that of later ages, and particularly the theories of modern science, social as well as natural. We cannot think rationally except along the lines the first philosophers laid down for us; most often we think in the very words they first invented.’ (22)
Bernal explains why ancient Greek philosophy is particularly important for the Marxists:
To a Marxist these are by no means just far away and long ago events to be studied for their intrinsic interest alone. They are part of the struggle of today and tomorrow. Marx himself wrote his doctoral thesis on the atomic philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus; Engels, notably in The Origin of the Family, discusses the social origins of the Greeks. Just because reaction is still able to use ideological weapons forged in defence of privilege in Ancient Greece, there is all the more reason to examine how and why this was done and to show the contrasting ideology which is arising in the making of a classless society. (22)
JD Bernal
Defenders of the existing forms of class society indeed often refer back to the glorious past of India and highlight only a part of it. They tacitly deny the existence of classes in ancient civilizations and speak of the idealist systems of philosophy as the greatest achievement of human speculation. Greece produced Plato, India produced Sankaracarya: they are projected as infallible guides for all times. Many people fall prey to such propaganda. Generations of scholars too have joined in reasserting this claim. If a challenge is to be thrown to them, one must learn what the other side of the shield was like, and explain why the other side had not been brought to light.

For example, was idealism the only form of philosophy cultivated in India through the ages? Was there no dissident voice at any point of time? It is not enough to conjecture that there must have been anti-idealists and anti-fideists in India. Concrete evidence would have to be produced to establish any counter claim. One can always assert that any view about the world is bound to produce its opposite: as early materialism was followed by idealism, latter-day idealism begot materialism anew. Such an assertion, however logical and convincing it may sound, needs empirical evidence to support it. All the evidence may not be available on the surface; they have to be unearthed.

This kind of attempt has its drawbacks too. It may lead to another sort of glorification of the past. Farrington cautioned long ago:
There is great danger, in discussing these old thinkers, that one may read into them the meaning of a later age. It must always be remembered that they were ignorant of all the accumulated knowledge of modern science and all the refinement of ideas that centuries of philosophical discussion had produced. In the world of thought, as in the world of nature, everything flows.2 The very words with which we translate the sayings of Heraclitus are charged with meanings unknown to him. It takes an effort of historical research and of historical imagination to put oneself back into the frame of mind of this great thinker when he supposed himself to have solved the riddle of the universe by saying that there was a tension in things, ‘like the bow and the lyre’. (41)
What is true of Heraclitus is also true of Kanada, the founder of Vaiseshika atomism, and even of the Carvakas who were the last school of materialists in India. Hence a balanced view regarding the ancients, giving praise where it is due and keeping in mind the shortcomings that inevitably accompanied their achievements, is to be studiously maintained. The same approach would apply to the moderns as well. Notwithstanding the inroads they have made and are making, posterity will also judge them in the same way, acknowledging their credits but, at the same time, noting what they missed.


It may not be out of place here to remember how Frederick Engels assessed the value of ancient philosophers. After dealing with the new strides made in the fields of geology, physics, chemistry and biology, Engels concluded:
Thus we have once again returned to the mode of outlook of the great founders of Greek philosophy, the view that the whole of nature, from the smallest element to the greatest, from grains of sand to suns, from Protista to man, has its existence in eternal coming into being and passing away, in ceaseless flux, in unresting motion and change. (30-31)
More significantly Engels added a proviso:
Only with the essential difference that what in the case of the Greeks was a brilliant intuition, is in our case the result of strictly scientific research in accordance with experience, and hence also it emerges in a much more definite and clear form. (31. Italics mine.)
Frederick Engels
Does it mean that the nineteenth-century scientists had solved the whole mystery of nature and left nothing for their successors to explore? Engels was modest enough to admit that ‘empirical proof of this cyclical course’ is  still not free from gaps,’ but said in defence that ‘these are insignificant in comparison with what has already been firmly established, and with each year they become more and more filled up.’ (31)

Writing in the 1870s Engels further argued that the most important branches of science ‘have a scientific existence of barely a century, and the comparative method in physiology, one of barely fifty years, and that the basic form of almost all organic development, the cell, is a discovery not yet forty years old’ (31).


Let us go back to the question that was raised at the beginning of this essay. Engels provides an answer that concerns empirical natural science vis-à-vis philosophy:
Empirical natural science has accumulated such a tremendous mass of positive material for knowledge that the necessity of classifying it in each separate field of investigation systematically and in accordance with its inner inter-connection has become absolutely imperative. It is becoming equally imperative to bring the individual spheres of knowledge into the correct connection with one another. In doing so, however, natural science enters the field of theory and here the methods of empiricism will not work, here only theoretical thinking can be of assistance. (42. Italics mine.)
To those who have an insufficient acquaintance with Marxism, such a statement may appear to be somewhat unexpected. But Engels did emphasize the importance of ‘theory’ without any reservation. What he says next may appear equally startling to some:
But theoretical thinking is an innate quality only as regards natural capacity. This natural capacity must be developed, improved, and for its improvement there is as yet no other means than the study of previous philosophy. (42-43. Italics mine.)
How can ‘previous philosophy’ be of any use in the study of modern science? Engels the dialectician explains the matter lucidly:
In every epoch, and therefore also in ours, theoretical thought is a historical product, which at different times assumes very different forms and, therewith, very different contents. The science of thought is therefore, like every other, a historical science, the science of the historical development of human thought. And this is of importance for the practical application of thought in empirical fields. … Formal logic itself has been the arena of violent controversy from the time of Aristotle to the present day. And dialectics has so far been fairly closely investigated by only two thinkers, Aristotle and Hegel. (43. Italics mine.)
Why is dialectics so important in the present-day world? Engels puts his finger on what has come to be known as the philosophy of science:
But it is precisely dialectics that constitute the most important form of thinking for present-day natural science, for it alone offers the analogue for, and thereby the methods of, explaining the evolutionary processes occurring in nature, inter-connection in general, and transitions from one field of investigation to another. (43)
At this point Engels deplores the lack of acquaintance of modern natural scientists with the history of philosophy. It has caused great harm to the advancement of knowledge. Moreover, what is now claimed to be something new may, historically speaking, not be true: in very many cases old wisdom has reappeared in a new garb. But modern scientists were not aware of it. Engels mentions a specific case:
Since physics and chemistry once more operate almost exclusively with molecules and atoms, the atomic philosophy of ancient Greece has of necessity come to the fore again. But how superficially it is treated even by the best of natural scientists! Thus Kekulé tells us … that Democritus, instead of Leucippus, originated it, and he maintains that Dalton was the first to assume the existence of qualitatively different elementary atoms, and was the first to ascribe to them different weights characteristic of different elements. Yet anyone can read in Diogenes Laertius … that already Epicurus had ascribed to atoms differences not only of magnitude and form, but also of weight, that is, he was already acquainted in his own way with atomic weight and atomic volume. (44. Italics in the original.)
George Thomson writes on the atomic theory of the Greeks in considerable detail (302-14). But he makes an important reservation regarding the ‘atomist cosmology’:
The resemblance of the atomic theory of Demokritos and Epicurus to the atomic theory of modern physics is superficially so striking that we are tempted to regard the work of those philosophers as scientific. This is a mistake. Ancient atomism is not science but ideology. It is, no less than Parmenidean monism and Platonic idealism, an exercise of pure reason ‘reflecting the structure of the society in which it was generated. (312. Italics mine.)
J. D. Bernal, himself a practicing scientist, however, looks at the matter in a different way. He concurs with Thomson’s formulation that ‘the truth of the matter is, not that these ancient Greeks anticipated the results of modern science, but that modern scientists have succeeded in reaffirming certain fundamental but forgotten truths and establishing them securely on the basis of experimental proof’ (Thomson 162). Nevertheless Bernal insists:
But this is only part of the story. Those truths would never have been reaffirmed, never indeed examined but for the form in which their first statement was made, a form clear enough to be grasped, tested, rejected, and improved upon. The Greeks were supreme as model builders. Even if the models came from clan organization they are the linear ancestors of our modern scientific concepts. The atom of today is not a rediscovery, it is the original Democritan atom, hard, massy, impenetrable, that was recovered by Gassendi and passed through Newton to Rutherford. (31. Italics mine.)
This indeed is a strong reassertion of Engels’s emphasis on the importance of theoretical thought, which is no less important than empirical research. Why is it so? The following observation made by Engels is therefore worth pondering:
The fact that our subjective thought and the objective world are subject to the same laws, and hence, too, that in the final analysis they cannot contradict each other in their results, but must coincide, governs absolutely our whole theoretical thought. It is the unconscious and unconditional premise for theoretical thought. (266)
This is why ancient philosophy has much to teach us even today, for much of it was grounded in sound theoretical thought.


1George Mallory (1886-1924) said this in reply to the question, ‘Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?’ Reported in an article published in the New York Times, 18.3.1923.

2 The fragment, ‘Everything flows’ (panta rhei), it is now more or less certain, is not one of Heraclitus’ sayings nor has it survived as a quotation from his works (all lost). Simplicius (c.496-560), a neoplatonist, first refers to it. Plato (Cratylus 401d and 402a), however, uses a different verb: ‘Everything moves’ (panta chorei).

The image of flux even then is Heraclitean and it is tempting to compare it with the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence (kshanabhanga).

The image of ‘the bow and the lyre’ mentioned at the end of the passage quoted above, however, is an authentic Heraclitean saying (Fragment 51 (Diels)). See Barnes, 65-66 and Freeman, 28.

Works Cited

Barnes, Jonathan. The Presocratic Philosophers. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.
Bernal, J.D. ‘The Birth of Reason,’ Mainstream (USA), 10:6, 1957, 22-31. (A review of the US edition of George Thomson’s The First Philosophers published by International Publishers, New York).
Engels, Frederick. Dialectics of Nature. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982 (Strictly speaking, not a ‘book’, but the edited version of four folders consisting of unfinished drafts. Published posthumously from the USSR in 1925).
Farrington, Benjamin. Greek Science: Its Meaning for Us. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966.
Freeman, Kathleen. Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962.
Thomson, George. The First Philosophers (Studies in Ancient Greek Society, vol. 2). London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1955.

Acknowledgements: Siddhartha Datta and Sunish Kumar Deb

This essay first appeared in Psyche and Society, Volume 11, No.1, May 2013. The original title of the essay was ‘Why Do You Study Ancient Philosophy?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Ignore Those Who Love to Hate:Hate Speech and Communal Politics

Ram Puniyani

Mahatma Gandhi, who laid down his life for communal harmony, who was murdered because he was espousing the cause of building bridges of amity between different religious communities had a statuette with three monkeys. One of the monkeys in this puts his hand on his mouth, signifying that we should not speak evil. While those following the path of peace and amity talk of uniting the different religious communities, those who trade in the politics in the name of religion, base their politics on hatred for others and regularly spew poison against other communities. This hate speech of theirs’ incites violence and widens the gulf between the diverse religious communities. One concedes that the political parties and political groups need to be criticized for their policies; this is different from talking evil about other ‘religious community’. This ‘Hate Speech’ is the cannon fodder of the practitioners of communal politics. They know that in short term ‘Hate other’ politics can pay rich dividends on the electoral arena.

The most recent case of Varun Gandhi, no blood relation of the great Mahatma, but great grandson of another die hard messiah of communal peace Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, is very disturbing for many a reasons. Varun Gandhi indulged in Hate speech in the public meeting, in 2009. While speaking in Pilibhit he talked of cutting the hands of others, and many such abominable things. He was caught on camera and cases were lodged against him. Despite all the evidence in place he has been exonerated in the court as all the witnesses in the case have turned hostile, have changed their version. One is reminded of the Gujarat’s Best Bakery case, where also they were lured by money or frightened by the threats, most of the witness turned hostile. Tehelka sting operation later revealed as to how the BJP workers had managed to frighten or lure away the witnesses. India does not have the witness protection act, which is one of the demands of social activists, working for getting justice to the victims of violence. In Zahira Sheikh case again the culprits were released by the lower court.

The Varun Gandhi case draws our attention to the witnesses turning hostile once again. Again this time Tehelka has exposed how the witnesses were ‘managed’. At another level such an exoneration of the guilty Hate speakers will pave the path of such people spreading hatred in the society. There is another aspect also which has got attached to the issue. Recently Akabaruddin Owaisi of All India Majlis-eIttihad al-Muslimin was arrested and is facing the court case for his anti Hindu speech. Which is as it should be. The guilty must be punished to ensure that such acts are not repeated.  At the same time Praveen Togadia also delivered a ‘tit for tat’ Hate speech. Only a mere FIR, has been filed- no arrest-no further action so far. On one hand some action is taken and that too is not fully followed up. Just to recall Togadia is old player in this game but only once he was put behind the bar, so he continues to spew poison most of the times.

Akabaruddin Owaisi and Praveen Togadia

As such Indian Constitution is very clear about the matters of ‘Hate speech’. India prohibits hate speech as per several sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and by other laws which put limitations on the freedom of expression. Section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure gives the government the right to declare certain publications “forfeited” if the “publication ... appears to the State Government to contain any matter the publication of which is punishable under Section 124A or Section 153A or Section 153B or Section 292 or Section 293 or Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code”. India is also signatory to the The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states that "any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law" We must remember all communities have a diverse section of individuals. The Hate speech also presents the ‘other’ community’ as a uniform one, which is not true.  That apart when J.B. Desouza a retired civil servant and ardent follower of the values of Indian Constitution filed a case against Bal Thackeray for his inflammatory speeches in the wake of post demolition Mumbai violence, he also had to draw a blank, as the implementation of the law is mired with many a weaknesses.

As such while predominant culture of India has been that of amity and peace, the ‘Hate other’ speech, portraying religious communities as uniform monoliths, began more with British rule, who in pursuance of the policy of ‘divide and rule’ introduced the communal historiography and encouraged the communal elements to speak and propagate against the other community. They had chosen Hindu and Muslim as the major communities for their divisive politics. Some core points were picked about the practice of others religion and they were picked up to spread the divisive politics. Eating pork, eating beef, music in front of the mosque, spread of Islam, destruction of temples etc were those ‘themes’, which were communalized and around which ‘Hate speech’ was built up. With Advani’s Rath Yatra (Chariot procession, a political move with religious imagery) these points came up again in a big way, the temples destruction point was taken up to the maddening heights and during rath yatra the symbolic use of these issues spread the hatred, hatred led to violence and as the rath yatra proceeded the series of acts of violence followed the trail of yatra.

Today there are many who are subtly using this divisive propaganda. Many a web sites and emails, which circulate and have a long chain, are doing the same damage to amity of the society. Subramaniam Swamy is another politician who has been indulging in this hate speech on regular basis, but no action against him here in India. In response to one of his ‘hate articles’ which was full of venom for Muslims, while in India no action was taken his visiting professorship was withdrawn by the University in US. Even now many of his video clips are circulating which instigate hatred. Such things have by now become part of social common sense and we tend to ignore it. But surely, these videos and speeches are a big blow to our National Integration. The Varun Gandhi case also shows the vulnerability of our legal system, where the guilty are getting away, after having reaped the ‘benefits’ of their vile speech.  

At global level the propaganda by US media in the wake of 9/11 WTC attack, the hatred for Islam and Muslims has been constructed and many an instances are picked up to subtly jack up ‘hate other’ propaganda leading to ‘hate crimes’. In recent times UK has also been seeing a rise in Hate crimes, the latest pretext being the murder of drummer Lee Righby in Woolwich. These are harrowing times where the values of amity are being attacked and the divisive notions are increasing in intensity. 

Javed Akhtar in one of his lively poems writes. Bhul ke Nafrat Pyar ki koi baat karein (Lets Forget hate and talk of love). One wishes we take this vision seriously. While on one hand these negative things, the Hate speech by Varun Gandhis, Owaisis and Togadias are there, there are also many a friends in the society who have been taking out peace marches and singing the songs peace and spreading the message of harmony in different parts of the country. It is friends like these who will lay the foundation of national integration overcoming Hate, Hate speech. It is time that we as a society reject those who are harping on hatred for the ‘other community’.


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