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Hate Speech: Who Would Know Better Than Amit Shah?

Teesta Setalvad 08 Apr 2016

Amit Shah, the BJP’s National President has given a clean chit to Baba Ramdev over his expressly uttered fantasies to ‘chop of heads of any and all, especially those in the much-loved skull caps, who refuse to utter Bharat Mata Ki jai.”



Image: Indian Express
Who better than Amit Shah to play judge and jury on hate speech?

First,  Shah told The Hindu that the "whole country" – specifically using "rashtra" a term with several connotations – is with the BJP on the nationalism debate, failing to explain what that meant for all of those people who refuse to chant Bharat Mata ki jai. Then, when asked about Ramdev, he reportedly told a TV channel "Baba Ramdev is not a member of the BJP. However, I want to know from those who talk of free speech, does it not apply to Baba Ramdev."

It should be reassuring to hear that the president of one of the country's largest political parties has suddenly become a champion of free speech, except if we remember this party and government’s discomfiture with political critiques and their rights to free speech.

Barely three days ago, on April 4, the BJP's own Information Technology cell chief Arvind Gupta announced that the party had against a journalist for using photoshop to joke about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's closeness to the Saudi royal family. And despite several news reports about the government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) being misused to ‘morph’ pictures of the prime minister neither the government nor the BJP (a beneficiary of the morphing?) has yet filed a case against the ‘morph-ers!’

But before he became a champion of Baba Ramdev’s brand of free speech, Shah himself had spewed his own brand of free speech attracting censure from the Election Commission of India (ECI). He had even been charge sheeted for this very speech made in Muzaffarnagar in September 2014.

2014
In April 2014, during electioneering for the Lok Sabha Polls he made his famous ‘Revenge Speech” in Shamli. Shamli one of four districts of western Uttar Pradesh was swept by brute violence in September 2013 that left over 60 dead, over ninety per cent Muslims. The count of how many lost their lives, incidentally, by rights activists and the figures presented in court are much higher. The violence had also contained the characteristic revenge rapes of young Muslim women and girls and widespread displacement from which the local community still reels. Not just the ruling Samajwadi party, but sections of the BJP have been held responsible for the violence.

Modi’s close aide Amit Shah had then said ‘Apmaan ka badla toh lena padega’ The occasion was a meeting with Jat leaders, critical to winning the polls and the location was 40 km from Muzaffarnagar town. Here was a speech, brimming with vitriol. With him, present, was BJP legislator Suresh Rana, who is accused of instigating the riots last year. “This election is about voting out the government that protects and gives compensation to those who killed Jats,” Shah had said. “It is about badla (revenge) and protecting izzat (honour).” The use of such hate speeches and communal polarisation, not to speak of the ‘Modi magic’ had ensured the saffron party win in 71 out of the 80 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh.

Amit Shah’s ‘revenge’ speech had received a great deal of media attention and had prompted the Election Commission to ban him from campaigning in the state. The EC move came a day after two FIRs were lodged against Shah. “The commission is, prima facie, of the opinion that…you have violated the provisions of model code of conduct… Therefore, the commission gives you an opportunity to explain your stand in making the above said statement before 5 pm on April 9, 2014, failing which the EC shall take a decision without further reference to you,” the notice said, while mentioning his objectionable remarks made at three places. The ban was lifted later.  Shah was charge sheeted for this criminal offence under section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act.

A year later in the lead up to the Bihar state polls, Shah did it again.

2015
Is Pakistan ‘code-word’ for Muslims, Mr Shah?

During the run up to the Bihar state polls in October 2015, Shah had used the ‘crackers in Pakistan’ metaphor as a threat cum warning ‘if the BJP lost elections in Bihar.’  He wording in the election rally at Raxaul was precise. “Agar BJP galti se bhi Bihar me haarti hai to jay-parajay to Bihar me hogi, pataake Pakistan me chhutenge (If BJP loses in Bihar by mistake, then victory-defeat will be in Bihar but crackers will be burst in Pakistan”).

(This, by the way, is a Sangh Parivar favourite. Using the Pakistan metaphor to constantly ‘other’ and target Indian Muslims. Remember, also, Narendra Modi’s controversial poll campaign in the lead up to the 2002 state elections in Gujarat by ---barely months after the carnage of 2002 that rocked the state --repeatedly referring to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as “Miyan Musharraf” when talking in public meetings of his resolve to fight Pakistani terrorists. BJP even published advertisements asking people to choose between “Modi and Musharraf.”)

 
2016
And much more recently, while leading the saffron assault on the north eastern state of Assam where electioneering is on, Amit Shah vowed to calibrate nature and control how birds fly, under BJP rule. Mother Nature would, so to say, bow to the Borders drawn by the Rashtra.  'If BJP Wins Assam, Not A Bird Will Fly Across,' Amit Shah

In West Bengal, however,  out of respect –some would say electoral greed – for the 34 per cent Muslim vote across the state – Amit Shah magnanimously stopped his speech for the Azan (prayers)

So its clear that hate speech or political consideration, sedition or free speech, for the likes of Amit Shah it all really depends on who is speaking, where and when.

On Sedition, Freedom of Expression
And here is what Shah has had to say on BJP and the Sangh’s favourite buzz word, sedition "Sedition is being camouflaged as freedom of expression. In the name of expression of freedom, the debate on anti-national slogans is being turned in another direction," Amit Shah said. Citing the Emergency, when the Congress "crushed the voices of the common people during the period", Amit Shah said that it had no right to lecture others.

That is until Baba Ramdev stepped  in to threaten that millions of us could have been beheaded. But for the writ of the Rule of Law and the Constitution quite wisely being made the bedrock of India, 69 long years ago. Thank you Babasaheb and the Fathers and Mothers who formed the Constituent Assembly. And by the way, who did not compel anyone to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai.’

Hate Speech: Who Would Know Better Than Amit Shah?

Amit Shah, the BJP’s National President has given a clean chit to Baba Ramdev over his expressly uttered fantasies to ‘chop of heads of any and all, especially those in the much-loved skull caps, who refuse to utter Bharat Mata Ki jai.”



Image: Indian Express
Who better than Amit Shah to play judge and jury on hate speech?

First,  Shah told The Hindu that the "whole country" – specifically using "rashtra" a term with several connotations – is with the BJP on the nationalism debate, failing to explain what that meant for all of those people who refuse to chant Bharat Mata ki jai. Then, when asked about Ramdev, he reportedly told a TV channel "Baba Ramdev is not a member of the BJP. However, I want to know from those who talk of free speech, does it not apply to Baba Ramdev."

It should be reassuring to hear that the president of one of the country's largest political parties has suddenly become a champion of free speech, except if we remember this party and government’s discomfiture with political critiques and their rights to free speech.

Barely three days ago, on April 4, the BJP's own Information Technology cell chief Arvind Gupta announced that the party had against a journalist for using photoshop to joke about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's closeness to the Saudi royal family. And despite several news reports about the government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) being misused to ‘morph’ pictures of the prime minister neither the government nor the BJP (a beneficiary of the morphing?) has yet filed a case against the ‘morph-ers!’

But before he became a champion of Baba Ramdev’s brand of free speech, Shah himself had spewed his own brand of free speech attracting censure from the Election Commission of India (ECI). He had even been charge sheeted for this very speech made in Muzaffarnagar in September 2014.

2014
In April 2014, during electioneering for the Lok Sabha Polls he made his famous ‘Revenge Speech” in Shamli. Shamli one of four districts of western Uttar Pradesh was swept by brute violence in September 2013 that left over 60 dead, over ninety per cent Muslims. The count of how many lost their lives, incidentally, by rights activists and the figures presented in court are much higher. The violence had also contained the characteristic revenge rapes of young Muslim women and girls and widespread displacement from which the local community still reels. Not just the ruling Samajwadi party, but sections of the BJP have been held responsible for the violence.

Modi’s close aide Amit Shah had then said ‘Apmaan ka badla toh lena padega’ The occasion was a meeting with Jat leaders, critical to winning the polls and the location was 40 km from Muzaffarnagar town. Here was a speech, brimming with vitriol. With him, present, was BJP legislator Suresh Rana, who is accused of instigating the riots last year. “This election is about voting out the government that protects and gives compensation to those who killed Jats,” Shah had said. “It is about badla (revenge) and protecting izzat (honour).” The use of such hate speeches and communal polarisation, not to speak of the ‘Modi magic’ had ensured the saffron party win in 71 out of the 80 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh.

Amit Shah’s ‘revenge’ speech had received a great deal of media attention and had prompted the Election Commission to ban him from campaigning in the state. The EC move came a day after two FIRs were lodged against Shah. “The commission is, prima facie, of the opinion that…you have violated the provisions of model code of conduct… Therefore, the commission gives you an opportunity to explain your stand in making the above said statement before 5 pm on April 9, 2014, failing which the EC shall take a decision without further reference to you,” the notice said, while mentioning his objectionable remarks made at three places. The ban was lifted later.  Shah was charge sheeted for this criminal offence under section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act.

A year later in the lead up to the Bihar state polls, Shah did it again.

2015
Is Pakistan ‘code-word’ for Muslims, Mr Shah?

During the run up to the Bihar state polls in October 2015, Shah had used the ‘crackers in Pakistan’ metaphor as a threat cum warning ‘if the BJP lost elections in Bihar.’  He wording in the election rally at Raxaul was precise. “Agar BJP galti se bhi Bihar me haarti hai to jay-parajay to Bihar me hogi, pataake Pakistan me chhutenge (If BJP loses in Bihar by mistake, then victory-defeat will be in Bihar but crackers will be burst in Pakistan”).

(This, by the way, is a Sangh Parivar favourite. Using the Pakistan metaphor to constantly ‘other’ and target Indian Muslims. Remember, also, Narendra Modi’s controversial poll campaign in the lead up to the 2002 state elections in Gujarat by ---barely months after the carnage of 2002 that rocked the state --repeatedly referring to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as “Miyan Musharraf” when talking in public meetings of his resolve to fight Pakistani terrorists. BJP even published advertisements asking people to choose between “Modi and Musharraf.”)

 
2016
And much more recently, while leading the saffron assault on the north eastern state of Assam where electioneering is on, Amit Shah vowed to calibrate nature and control how birds fly, under BJP rule. Mother Nature would, so to say, bow to the Borders drawn by the Rashtra.  'If BJP Wins Assam, Not A Bird Will Fly Across,' Amit Shah

In West Bengal, however,  out of respect –some would say electoral greed – for the 34 per cent Muslim vote across the state – Amit Shah magnanimously stopped his speech for the Azan (prayers)

So its clear that hate speech or political consideration, sedition or free speech, for the likes of Amit Shah it all really depends on who is speaking, where and when.

On Sedition, Freedom of Expression
And here is what Shah has had to say on BJP and the Sangh’s favourite buzz word, sedition "Sedition is being camouflaged as freedom of expression. In the name of expression of freedom, the debate on anti-national slogans is being turned in another direction," Amit Shah said. Citing the Emergency, when the Congress "crushed the voices of the common people during the period", Amit Shah said that it had no right to lecture others.

That is until Baba Ramdev stepped  in to threaten that millions of us could have been beheaded. But for the writ of the Rule of Law and the Constitution quite wisely being made the bedrock of India, 69 long years ago. Thank you Babasaheb and the Fathers and Mothers who formed the Constituent Assembly. And by the way, who did not compel anyone to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai.’

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