Indian premier to address hate speech issue - GulfToday

Indian premier to address hate speech issue

BRP Bhaskar

@brpbhaskar

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Narendra Modi.

Investigators have attributed two gruesome murders reported from two different states in the last few days to the thoughtless remarks made by Nupur Sharma, spokeswoman of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in a television debate.

Her words which denigrated the Prophet Muhammad had raised a storm of protest within the country and abroad. Following this, the BJP suspended Ms. Sharma from membership of the party.

The BJP may consider this sufficient to distance itself from her tasteless observation and assuage hurt feelings.

But her words also fell foul of the law of the land. The government cannot shirk its responsibility to let the law take its course.

Delhi police registered a first information report and called Ms. Sharma in for questioning. But, weeks later, there has been no arrest or any other sign of action against her under the law. This has led to suspicion that the authorities are dragging their feet. According to reports, Ms. Sharma had offered what has been described as a “half-hearted apology” for her objectionable remarks. Even a whole-hearted apology will not wash out a serious crime although it will merit consideration by courts as a mitigating circumstance.

People who look up to the police and the government to act promptly to contain communal mischief expect them to initiate legal action against offending individuals.

It appears that, apart from the case registered by the police in Delhi, many more have been filed against Nupur Sharna in various magistrate’s courts in the country. Last week she approached the Supreme Court with a request to transfer all complaints against her to Delhi to be heard together.

This is a prayer which the court grants in the normal course. But Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala, before whom the matter came up, could not help referring to the serious consequences Ms. Sharma’s words have had already.

Asked about the judges’ observations, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told a news agency he would discuss the issue at an appropriate forum. He did not elaborate.

Unfortunately the Minister’s statement has created an impression that the government is seeking to shield Nupur Sharma.

The judges’ remarks did not contain anything that called for a response from the Law Minister. The court was alluding to lack of timely action by the government on Ms. Sharma’s “loose talk” which has had consequences. If a governmental response was indeed called for, it should have come from Home Minister Amit Shah under whom the Delhi police functions.

A tailor in Udaipur, Rajasthan, and a chemist at Anaravati, are the two persons whose murder has been linked to Nupur Sharma’s comments. They had reportedly supported her in WhatsApp groups.

The National Investigation Agency, which was set up to probe terrorism cases, have taken over both the cases from the local police.

The NIA has found that some of the accused in these cases have contacts in a neighbouring country. Their link does not in any way lighten the seriousness of the charge levelled against Nupur Sharma in Delhi police’s complaint. It must actually persuade the BJP to ensure that its leaders at all levels display the sense of responsibility expected of them as part of the ruling establishment.

During the weekend, the BJP’s top leaders were engaged in confabulations aimed at retaining power for four more decades.

The Prime Minister, who has placed before the nation the goal of all-inclusive development, needs to step in at this stage and take stern measures to check hate speech, which, by all accounts, has grown in recent years.

The sooner the better.



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