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Hate speech: Praveen Togadia is just a 'saffron' Owaisi

Dr Praveen Togadia obviously isn't used to ignoring trolls on Twitter. Or in real life, for that matter. Why else would he with precision, as if GPS-enabled, choose a location in the same geographical patch that Akbaruddin Owaisi used to spread hate about the Hindu community among his Muslim brethren. Togadia performed his tit-for-tat act on 22 January in a place called Bhokar in Nanded district of Maharashtra, 25 km from the Andhra Pradesh border. Bhokar is 80 km from Nirmal in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, where Akbar became the focus of national notoriety in December.

And as if that wasn't enough, Togadia matched hate word for hate word, his smile masking the underlying expression of threat. In his sing-song manner of speaking, Togadia was on a song, his lyrics laced with poison.

VHP president Pravin Togadia. AFP

VHP president Praveen Togadia. AFP

"Remember Nellie in Assam, where the police was removed. Over 3000 people died, not one of them was a Hindu. Remember Bhagalpur, where the police was removed, so many people died that it was difficult to count, not one of them was a Hindu. Dead bodies flew into the sea. Remember Meerut, Moradabad, Gujarat.'' This crass assertion of Hindu supremacy was a rejoinder to Akbaruddin Owaisi's challenge to the "Indian police to stay away for fifteen minutes so that the 25 crore Muslims could take care of the 100 crore Hindus''. The language just like Owaisi, was of glee while celebrating hatred for the other community.

Both Owaisi and Togadia are in effect from the same school of thought. Togadia is nothing but Owaisi dressed in saffron and in effect, both feed off each other. Neither of them treats rabble-rousing as a hobby, it is a professional skill. The idea being to polarise both communities on religious lines and if the response from the crowd, in both instances, to the two speakers is anything to go by, everyone loves a mad hatter.

The Andhra Pradesh police has received a complaint but will first go through the process of verifying the authenticity of the speech uploaded on Youtube and seek legal opinion on matters of jurisdiction, an exercise that may take some days.

Togadia is the International Working President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad but considered a bit of a loose cannon within the saffron parivar. The irony is not lost on anyone. Here is a "renowned cancer surgeon'' as his profile on Twitter boasts, who spreads the cancer of hatred between communities.

But hear the speech carefully and you realise that Togadia has been clever while Owaisi was plain stupid. He uses unparliamentary language for Owaisi but without taking his name. As far as the references to the riots are concerned, Togadia will take recourse to the excuse that he was merely quoting facts while Owaisi was issuing a threat. In his speech, Togadia issues a veiled threat couching it in praise of the sword-wielding Goddess Durga. Owaisi in contrast spoke of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in an offensive manner.

If we must get into hair-splitting, the other crucial difference is that Togadia is relatively a nobody while Owaisi is the leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. He is an elected representative and he is under oath to promote religious amity. Though sections like 153 A (promoting enmity between communities) are not meant to apply only to elected representatives but to all.

Rightfully, the rulebook has been thrown at Owaisi and he has been lodged in Adilabad jail for four weeks now. Though it must be mentioned that state politics is also playing out in the manner in which all old cases of hate speeches are being dug up and slapped on Owaisi. All these years, when the MIM was a Congress ally, the ruling party chose to look the other way but after the falling out, the police has been let loose on the Owaisi brothers.

In the interest of the polarised society that India is, the state, irrespective of which party is in power, would do well to rein in such loose tongues. And find a way to ensure such hate speeches do not go viral on the net for they only spread the virus more.

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