October 01, 2023
Hate Speech in Parliament

HATE speech against Muslims, which has become rampant in society, has now invaded parliament.  On the last day of the special session, which was held in the new parliament building, the BJP member of parliament from Delhi, Ramesh Bidhuri, used the most foul and crude anti-Muslim epithets against Danish Ali, who represents the Bahujan Samaj Party in the Lok Sabha.  Words such as `Mullah terrorist’ and worse never heard before in parliament, were heard from Bidhuri repeatedly targeting Danish Ali.  The video of Bidhuri’s rant has been seen by tens of thousands across the country causing widespread dismay and outrage. 

One would have thought that the Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and the leadership of the ruling party would immediately take strong action against the offending member.  But nothing of that sort has happened.  Rajnath Singh, union minister for defence, “expressed regret if the sentiments of the opposition were hurt”.  Apart from the if, there was no condemnation of the anti-Muslim abuse nor was there any apology extended to Danish Ali.

The speaker, who should have taken prompt action suspending Bidhuri from the house, confined himself to administering a severe warning to Bidhuri and stating that a repetition of such behavior would not be tolerated. 

This is in stark contrast to the manner in which the presiding officers of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have dealt with opposition members whenever they have tried to persistently raise issues or question the government.  In the Rajya Sabha, the AAP MP Sanjay Singh remained suspended for the whole of the monsoon session and the suspension continues till the privileges committee decides on the complaint against him.  Another AAP MP, Raghav Chadha, was also suspended during the last session.  In the Lok Sabha, Sushil Kumar Rathi, an AAP member, was suspended for the remaining part of the monsoon session, while the leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, was suspended till the privileges committee met and recommended his reinstatement.

The speaker has not responded to Danish Ali’s letter pleading for action against Bidhuri. The BJP issued a show cause notice to him, but has not taken any action so far.

Rather than acting against Bidhuri, the BJP is more concerned with providing a defence for him.  BJP MPs like Nishikant Dubey have sent letters to the speaker alleging that it was Danish Ali who had provoked Bidhuri by making `unsavoury’ comments against the prime minister.

Bidhuri’s hate speech must be seen in the context of the virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric and attacks taking place by the Hindutva brigade around the country.  `Dharam Sansads’ have given a call to eliminate Muslims; lynching of Muslims for suspected cattle smuggling or carrying beef occurs punctually in BJP-ruled states like Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra; a Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable shot dead, three Muslims he identified in a moving train; a private school teacher in Muzaffarnagar called upon students in a class to slap a seven-year old Muslim boy turn by turn.  All this is taking place amidst threats of economic boycott and stopping Muslim vendors from plying their trade in Hindu localities. 

Failure to take strict action in parliament against Bidhuri has demeaned the institution of parliament and given a stamp of legitimacy to the Islamophobia fostered by the ruling party. What this reveals is that Bidhuri’s hate speech is part of the overall mindset of the BJP.  It appears that in the new parliament building, where the `sengol’ is installed, BJP members of parliament are interpreting this as signifying “Hindutva power” and behaving accordingly.


(September 27, 2023)