Hate speeches have come under judicial scrutiny, with the Supreme Court agreeing to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking an ‘independent, credible and impartial’ investigation by an SIT into the inflammatory remarks made by speakers at last month’s Dharma Sansad in Hardwar and an event in New Delhi. The petitioners have claimed that no effective steps have been taken by the Uttarakhand and Delhi police to arrest those who targeted the Muslim community in their speeches. Another petition, filed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind in the apex court, has sought a ban on anti-Muslim speeches and programs, saying that ‘it is not just a matter of religion but of the Constitution, law, unity and integrity of the country.’
Uttarakhand is among the five states going to the polls next month. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has already cautioned political parties over hate speeches and said that it is keeping tabs on social media posts. Even as a SIT formed by the BJP government in the hill state is probing the Hardwar case, the ruling party is being accused of dragging its feet on the sensitive issue due to electoral considerations. What seems to have emboldened the hate-mongers is the silence of the Central and state governments on the ‘genocidal’ speeches, which were also delivered at a recent conclave in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
‘Practise your religion but don’t abuse and indulge in hate speech and writings’ — that’s what Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said at an event held in Kerala last week to mark the 150th death anniversary of Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara, a 19th-century Catholic priest and social reformer. His strong disapproval of attempts to ridicule other religions and create dissensions in society ought to spur politicians of all hues to call out the black sheep. However, most of them are preferring to remain mute spectators with an eye on their vote banks. With the political class generally reluctant to condemn bigotry and intolerance, the courts and the ECI would have to go the extra mile to ensure exemplary action against those spreading hatred and inciting violence in the name of religion.