Sunday, April 27, 2014

Communal politics and hate speech...

During past month or so countless speeches are being delivered in India by various leaders from various political parties. 2014 general elections for Lok Sabha are still going on, many political parties are engaged in fierce political battle to win seats in lower house of Indian parliament. Mostly these political speeches are full of emotional calls, crude jokes, personal remarks, rarely they contain anything substantial or useful. Main aim of these speeches is to highlight their party's agenda, engage the audience and challenge them emotionally to vote for their party. Even though these speeches don't contain much authentic data and are normally full of impossible promises they have huge capacity to influence voters. Many people get inspired after listening to them, it can also mobilize masses if required, there are many examples in history which show that. That is why any hate speech or inflammatory speech is very dangerous, because like other inspirational speeches which can have positive influence these speeches can have huge negative impact on people. It doesn't matter who is delivering that speech and where it is delivered, such speeches can instigate feeling of hatred among people against certain caste, religion, gender, community or group. This feeling of hatred then can manifest in some ugly forms like communal tension, social boycott or even communal riot which can kill many innocent people.

I wrote a blog post somewhat related topic after that infamous hate speech by MIM (Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) leader Akbaruddin Owaisi. BJP leader Amit Shah and SP leader Azam Khan are already warned for their hateful remarks they made during election campaign speech, these are one of the top leaders from those parties. Recently few more similar instances happened, surprisingly most people involved in these incidents were related with BJP or its allies. In one recent incident Mr. Praveen Togadia from VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) talked with some group about how to get rid of Muslim neighbors, the content of his speech is really disgusting and full of hatred towards Muslims. This was not the first time he delivered such hateful speech, he is serial offender in this area and so far no action has been taken against him in any case. Another instance was when Giriraj Singh BJP's candidate from Bihar told to all Modi opponents to leave India and go to Pakistan. In another instance Saharanpur Congress candidate Imran Masood threatened to kill Bharatiya Janata Party's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The most recent one which I saw was the more serious incident where in presence of Mr. Narendra Modi Shiv Sena leader Mr. Ramdas Kadam threatened a revenge against Muslims and also said that Modi would destroy Pakistan in six months of assuming power. All these speeches have something in common, feeling of tremendous hatred towards some community or person, such a deep hatred that people are willing to go any extend to attack each that person or group. This is not a democracy but fascism, in democracy people criticize each other, argue, debate but don't threaten to kill each other just because of difference of opinion. Another common thing among all these incidents is that none of these people faced any serious action from their own party for making such statements. Rather many of them became more popular and prominent faces in their respective parties. There is no strong deterrent which can stop them from making such statements or using such tactics. Expression of freedom should not be curbed under any situation, all these people have full right to express their opinion, it's up to people or voters to respond to such statements. Obnoxious statements like these should be opposed on every level shutting these people up is not a option, freedom of expression comes at a cost but violence should not be encouraged in any civil society. People need to decide if they want such people to represent them in assembly or parliament or any other place, as long as people vote for such people even after delivering such speeches they will use such dirty tactics to achieve their goals.

Words like 'secular' and 'communal' are used very frequently and casually in Indian politics. Every party claims to be secular and accuse their opponent for being communal. BJP, Congress or any other regional party (like BSP, SP, etc.) all play this game with each other, they all try to fool voters by playing this game. AAP is very new entrant in this field and it will be too soon to say anything about them in this area, so I will wait and watch before making any conclusions about them. According to me there is no real secular political party in India, some are less communal than others but thats the only difference, they all use equations of caste or religion as per their own convenience. Some even don't hesitate to use means of communal violence to achieve their political goals which is more dangerous according to me. In fact I don't even expect any party to be completely secular, a society like India where religion plays such important role in people's lives it is practically impossible to keep religion and politics completely separate. But to spread feelings of hate and animosity between different groups purposely, create division among people for political benefit is completely wrong and dangerous exercise. Communal tension, frequent riots, rampant gender discrimination, casteism, regionalism, etc. are results of these type of actions by political and religious leaders. These dirty tactics work because not all people are mature enough to understand real intentions behind these type of statements, they don't understand that these political parties make use of religious sentiments of people to create polarization. Because of lack of awareness about these things political parties make very good us of these ugly tricks to fool people. There can be several other reasons for this lack of awareness about this divide and rule policy (British used similar policy to rule India for many years); some people just don't have capacity to  understand this trick because of years of brainwashing and some don't have time to look into all these things as they are so busy in their day to day lives, some just don't care or rather support these type of divisive politics, etc. Because of proven track record of divide and rule policy it is very difficult for all these political parties to avoid the temptation of using it for their own political gains. It is for people to recognize this trap and make sure that it won't work, if this happens then only these political parties will be forced to abandon these methods, as long as this method works some party will make use of it so we need to make it ineffective, they are not going to stop on their own.

Hate speeches are as dangerous as racism, casteism or any other type of discriminatory or hateful act, they deserve strong condemnation and people should demand answers from respective political parties for such statements. We cannot ignore these things anymore, these things have already done enough damage to our society, now time has come to put an end to such divisive politics. This type of politics already resulted in division of our country in past, if we can't stop it now then we don't know what problems it might create in future. Politics should be based on issues and topics related with development and social problems it should not be based on hate and revenge. Religion should not be mixed with politics as much as possible, hate speeches should not be encouraged at any cost. Communal politics and hate speeches are different sides of the same coin and they should not have any place in any civilized and tolerant society. I hope all political parties and voters understand the danger which lied behind use of such tactics and behave accordingly. Time has come to change the direction of political discourse in India and only we the people of this country can play very important role in this. Let's hope we recognize this and act responsibly before it's too late.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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