Haridwar 'Dharma Sansad' event sparks outrage over hate speeches: Here's what happened at the three-day event

The event organised by Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati has caused massive outrage, with many questioning if 'India is still a democracy' and demanding for the arrest of the hate-mongers

FP Staff December 24, 2021 12:11:47 IST
Haridwar 'Dharma Sansad' event sparks outrage over hate speeches: Here's what happened at the three-day event

A screengrab from the event held in Haridwar.

A controversial religious event held in Haridwar last week where speakers allegedly made hate speeches and called for violence against Muslims and Christians, which has sparked outrage, has led the Uttarakhand police to take action.

The Uttarakhand police has registered a first information report (FIR) against Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi, formerly known as Waseem Rizvi, and others for allegedly giving a “provocative speech” against “a particular religion” at a Dharma Sansad held in Haridwar between 17-19 December.

We examine what exactly was said at this controversial event and why hate speeches continue to dominate Indian polity.

The Haridwar event

The event in Haridwar, held from 17-19 December, saw several leaders making inflammatory speeches and also calling for killing members of the minority community.

The event was organised by Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, head priest of a temple in Ghaziabad who has several cases registered against him. At the religious event, he called for war against Muslims and urged Hindus to take up weapons to prevent a Muslim becoming prime minister in 2029.

In one of the videos from the event, which circulated later on social media, Dharamdas Maharaj, a seer from Patna, targeted former PM Manmohan Singh, saying “I wish I was an MP there holding a revolver; I would have become Nathuram Godse and pumped all the six bullets into him inside Parliament."

Some of the seers also warned Haridwar district administration against allowing Christmas celebrations in hotels and commercial establishments in the district.

Anand Swaroop Maharaj of Sambhavi Dhaam said if people and hotels in Haridwar celebrated Christmas, then they would be responsible for their properties. He warned to “wage a war far scarier than the 1857 revolt”.

In another video, Narsinghanand is seen to be offering Rs 1 crore to Hindu youth for becoming like LTTE leader Prabhakaran as he called upon Hindu youth to become “Prabhakaran” and “Bhindranwale”.

“When we needed help, the Hindu community did not help us. But if any youth worker is prepared to become the Hindu Prabhakaran, then before anyone else, I will give him Rs 1 crore… if anyone takes on the responsibility to become the Prabhakaran of the Hindus, I will give Rs 1 crore, and if he continues for one year, I will raise at least Rs 100 crore to give,” he said at the conclave.

Police action

The FIR, which comes after a police complaint by Trinamool Congress leader and RTI activist Saket Gokhale, names Jitender Narayan, alias Waseem Rizvi, who was earlier the chairman of Shia Waqf board of Uttar Pradesh.

"Taking cognisance of the video that is going viral on social media for spreading hatred by giving provocative speeches against a particular religion, a case has been registered against Wasim Rizvi alias Jitendra Narayan Tyagi and others under Section 153A IPC in Kotwali Haridwar and legal proceedings are in progress," read a tweet by the Uttarakhand police.

After the FIR was registered, Uttarakhand government spokesperson Subodh Uniyal said that whatever happened at the conclave was wrong.

"Police will take required action against those involved and responsible," he added, according to The Indian Express.

Reactions galore

The hate-filled affair, not surprisingly, caught the attention of netizens on social media, who baulked at the comments being made.

On Thursday evening, Indian Twitter witnessed trends such as #ArrestBhagwaTerrorists and #ArrestHaridwarGenocideMongers as users demanded the arrest of the Hindutva hate mongers.

And it wasn’t only Indians who recoiled at the viral event. Former American tennis player Martina Navratilova too reacted, saying ‘what is going on’.

The tennis ace’s tweet was in reaction to Hindutva groups taking a pledge to "fight, die and if required, kill" in order to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra.

According to the news agency PTI, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind chief Maulana Mahmood Madani wrote a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Minorities, over the remarks made at the Haridwar meet, calling on them to take cognisance of the matter and prosecute the perpetrators.

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said, "This is bloodcurdling stuff. Is it too much to expect. @CMuttarakhand to take action under the existing hate-speech laws?"

Congress MP Karti Chidambaram said on Twitter, "Narsinghanand Organises 3-Day Hate Speech Conclave in Haridwar... are the Faux Hindutva Nazis planning an holocaust? Will the Union of India & its institutions be a blind/mute spectator?"

Congress spokesperson Shama Mohammed said Munawar Faruqui has been relentlessly punished for alleged jokes which he didn't even crack, but there is no action against the 'Dharm Sansad' members who openly called for "genocide against Muslims in Haridwar!".

"Is India still a democracy!" she said.

CPI(M), from its official Twitter handle said, "Munawar Faruqui has been relentlessly punished for alleged jokes which he didn't even crack, but there is no action against the 'Dharm Sansad' members who openly called for genocide against Muslims in Haridwar! Is India still a democracy!".

Hate speeches in India

This is not the first time that such comments have been made in India. In the past, political leaders and MPs have used their words to spread hate, fuelling communal divisions.

In January 2020, Anurag Thakur, then Minister of State for Finance, had said at an election rally in Delhi: "Desh ke ghaddaron ko, goli maaron s*****n ko (Shoot down the rascals/the traitors to the country)." Interestingly, no action was taken against him — either by the police or his party.

Dilip Ghosh, the Bengal BJP chief, in November 2020 had said, "All brothers of Didi better mend their ways in six months. Otherwise their arms, legs, ribs and heads will be broken. You will either end up in the hospital or the crematorium!"

Speeches such as these are just the iceberg.

One of the issues with hate speeches is that Indian law has no specific definition for it. The term is used to mean expression which is abusive, intimidating or which incites violence, hatred or discrimination based on race, religion, region, language, caste, sexual orientation or personal convictions.

The Daily Guardian in a 2020 article states that “since achieving every single public interest is cumbersome; pointing towards the flaws of ruling party which may or may not have a religious back up and flaming the emotions of the public at large through continuous hate speech was a trend in early ’90s and the immediate years of second millennium. Hate speech was therefore procuring a wide scope with respect to democracy in India.”

With inputs from agencies

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