March 06, 2016

Hate Speech of Minister

THE spectacle of a minister in the Modi government making a speech of communal incitement and violating his or her oath of office has become a regular feature. Even so, the latest instance of Ram Shankar Katheria, the minister of state in the human resource development ministry making a hate speech against Muslims in Agra has to be taken with the utmost seriousness. Katheria participated in a gathering organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parisad which was meant to be a condolence meeting for one of its workers who was killed recently. Katheria was among the speakers who gave a call for retaliatory attacks on Muslims. He said: “We have to make ourselves powerful. We have to launch a struggle. If we don’t begin a struggle, then today we have lost an Arun, tomorrow we will lose another. Before another is lost, we must show such strength that these killers themselves disappear”. He continued in this refrain making other inflammatory remarks. Another BJP MP declared: “If you want to test Hindus, then let’s decide a date and take on Muslims”. Another BJP MLA said: “Elections are approaching in 2017, begin showing your strength”. Similar speeches were made at the Mahapanchayat organised in Muzaffarnagar prior to the outbreak of the horrific communal violence there in September 2013. That a minister in the Modi cabinet is fomenting such communal violence is an act which cannot be condoned in any way. It will be a mistake to see Katheria’s incitement of violence as an aberration. There are some who still think that all this would stop if Prime Minister Modi intervenes and reins in his ministers. The reality is otherwise. The Modi cabinet is filled with ministers, who, motivated by their RSS and Hindutva links, not only spout communal rhetoric, but also act on it. The prime minister knew fully well who Sanjeev Baliyan was when he was inducted into the cabinet. Baliyan is an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riot case. There are others like Giriraj Singh and Niranjan Jyoti who are in the cabinet despite their communal credentials and propensity to rouse communal passions. As for Katheria, he has already been in the limelight for the wrong reasons. He was accused of having faked his MA mark-sheet and manipulating the educational records. A magistrate’s court had indicted him on these charges in 2011, which was subsequently set aside by a sessions court in 2014. Persons like Smriti Irani and Katheria have been placed in the HRD ministry, not for their educational credentials, but for the sole purpose of implementing the Hindutva agenda in education. From the union cabinet itself, there are attempts to undermine the constitution and rework the definition of the law. So incitement to violence against minorities becomes “nationalism” and fealty to Bharat Mata, while defence of secularism and freedom of speech becomes “anti-national” and seditious. In Narendra Modi’s dispensation, we are seeing how ministers, including Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani brand dalit and Left student activists as “anti-national” while shielding the elements who resort to goondaism and violence against those who express dissent and stand against the Hindutva forces. The Uttar Pradesh state government has the bounden duty to book Katheria and all others who incited communal violence in Agra. They should learn from the lapses of the administration in the build up to the Muzaffarnagar violence. As for the central government, the demand raised in parliament that the minister should be removed, has to be complied with, if the minimum obligation towards the constitution and the rule of law is to be observed. (March 2, 2016)