It is dangerous to ignore Haridwar’s hate speech
The recent gathering of so-called sadhus at Haridwar in Uttarakhand has called for the mass murder of Muslims. The videos of the violent hate speech have been in circulation for a few days and have been partially analyzed by the media. But with the rise of Covid and election news dominating the headlines, this latest avalanche of hate speech has already started to hit the front pages of newspapers. We neglect this new low at our own risk.
A little over 50 years ago, in May 1970, Lok Sabha saw a competition between two Indian ideas, one represented by the poet and rising star of the then Jana Sangh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the other by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. While discussing communal unrest in the country, Vajpayee stated, “We should understand two things. Whatever the reason, our Muslim friends become more communal (sampradayavadi) and, in response, Hindus become angrier (ugra). We have had a tradition (parampara) of accepting violence for 700-800 years. ”After the terrible unrest in Allahabad, Ranchi, Bhiwandi, Jalgaon, Jabalpur, Vajpayee’s speech came in the face of evidence that Hindus did not, as he claimed,“ violence would begin ”. Indira Gandhi, who normally kept speeches going non-stop, intervened to let Vajpayee know that he was saying things that “would deeply hurt all minorities” and that his speech “would create a bad atmosphere in the country”. In response, Vajpayee urged her to “resign and get out” and accused her of running a minority government.
When elections were called in early 1971 the following year, Vajpayee predicted that even if 95 percent of rickshaw drivers voted for Indira’s Congress and helped nationalize the banks, 95 percent of Hindus on the Hindu-Muslim issue would vote for the Jana Sangh would agree.
By chance the number of Jana Sangh was reduced from 44 to 22 seats. Indira’s Congress won 352 seats in the Lok Sabha. The right-wing magazine Organizer analyzed this defeat, which Jana Sangh had predicted a massive victory, and now edited that they had made a mistake to argue in fine details: “The people in the crowd only understand and appreciate courageous actions.” It also came concluded that their victory was “purely personal”. There is no organization or ideology behind it. Ideological parties like Jana Sangh can lose battles, but not the war. Because while individuals can come and go, ideology remains. “
Should the youngest juggernaut of the BJP, the successor to the Jana Sangh, who pushed through parts of India, be seen as proof that the organizer was right after all and that the opposition had no ideology behind them? Why did so many Hindus vote for Indira’s Congress in 1971? Was it because they alone supported their populist measures? Had ideology nothing to do with their victory? It is notoriously difficult to understand the many factors that influence decision making when choosing individuals, and we know this is true from so many polls that went wrong. Historians can only count on strong speeches and campaign programs, and Indira’s Congress put on a good show. The year before, there had also been a protracted debate about “Indianization” – a barely veiled attack on the patriotism of Indian Muslims.
While at the national congress of the Jana Sangh in Patna in December 1969 Indianization was defined as “subordination of all close loyalties such as religion, caste, region, language or dogma to the overriding loyalty to the nation of all splitters” elements, especially of those with extraterritorial loyalties … on the two-nation or multi-nation theory ”, Vajpayee advocated in parliament that Indianization was simply“ an attempt to make India strong ”to ensure that India was not influenced by the Americans or Russians in determining their foreign policy. He went on to say that India did not become Hindu rashtra after independence because our Sanskriti did not give us permission to do so. Secularism, he argued, was “not a slogan or an innovation of the Congress Party; This is a mantram that was created from the culture of this country. ”He complained that secularism now means“ Hindu Virodh ”and stated that the Prime Minister must also become Indian.
When it was the Prime Minister’s turn to respond to the debate, she admitted her absence from Parliament when Vajpayee spoke. Therefore, she read his speech in “Kaltdruck”, in which “your true intentions come into their own when you lose your jingling cadences”. She thought “his theory … not quite so innocent”.
“Who will judge the quantity or quality of an individual’s Native American Indians? … We remember vividly the devastation wrought in America by some people who declared other Americans to be un-American, and all over the world when some Germans claimed that other Germans were unarian and therefore un-German. … the test of any statement is not how you interpret it, but what effect it has on the people you are making that statement about. … I have devoted a lot of time to Shri Vajpayee’s thoughts because I think they deserve them. I tried to see through his words, his cute phrases and his beautiful Hindi, ”she said.
Indira’s English was no less beautiful. In the years leading up to the emergency, their convictions were clear. Whether it came from their advisors or from speechwriters like PN Haksar is not entirely decisive. She knew what she stood for, and in the service of such an idea, she passed laws such as Section 153B of India’s Criminal Code through parliament that criminalized the acts of anyone who “claims … or publishes that any class of person” based on their affiliation to a religious… or regional group… are… denied their rights as citizens of India. ”Another thing is that the courts have failed to keep their promise and have left the hate speech and hateful editorials by Bal Thackeray in the 1990s unpunished despite such laws.
But the will to secular practice, be it in Vajpayee’s elaboration of secularism or Indira’s defense, when “secular” was officially included in the preamble of the Indian constitution in 1976, is limited to the area of beautiful language. This recent iteration of diabolical hate speech against Muslims on the eve of yet another momentous election campaign should remind us that dangerous speech has consequences. The courts, police and electoral commission of India ignore them to our collective danger.
Nair is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia. She is currently finishing a manuscript on hurt feelings and state ideology in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh