Jignesh Mevani, Umar Khalid booked for 'spreading disharmony', but court cases haven't reduced hate speeches in Indian politics

The Pune Police registered an FIR against JNU student leader Umar Khalid and newly elected MLA from Gujarat Jignesh Mevani on charges of spreading communal disharmony with their alleged hate speeches. Mevani and Khalid had participated at the 'Elgar Parishad' event in Pune on 31 December, where they are said to have made the provocative speeches.

Mevani allegedly called for a "revolution" and said it will have to come about on the roads. "If there is to be a revolution in India, it won't be in the Assembly or Parliament but on the roads. And it's this people's movement that will end the 'New Peshwas'. It's this message that we want to spread through the Bhima Koregaon movement," he said, calling the BJP-RSS dispensation the 'New Peshwas', a reference to the notoriously upper caste Maratha rulers from the 18th Century.

File image of Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani. Image courtesy: Twitter/jigneshmevani80

File image of Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani. Image courtesy: Twitter/jigneshmevani80

"There will be a revolution in 2019, and all the pro-poor of India have to come together. The communists, the Dalits, the backward classes, and people of all different religions and those who are atheists like me will have to join hands with each other. Because, as (BJP MP Anant Kumar) Hegde said, the BJP's aim is to amend the Constitution," he added.

Speaking to the DNA newspaper, additional commissioner of police (south/north region) Ravindra Sengaonkar said, "We had already recorded video and audio of the speeches given by Mevani, Khalid and others who were present at the event. We are analysing each and every speech given on that day."

It is believed that his call for action and revolution may have inspired thousands of Dalit activists who took to the streets in across different cities of Maharashtra on Wednesday, disrupted public transport, and threw normal life out of gear.

Hate speeches not new to politics

Candidates with hate speech cases against them were three times more successful in elections compared to those without a criminal record, according to an IndiaSpend report that analysed self-disclosed crime records of candidates who have contested various elections across India over the last 12 years.

To put this data in perspective, over the last 12 years, only 10 percent of candidates with no criminal cases won elections, while the figure was 20 percent for candidates with criminal cases of any kind.

The term "hate speech" has no specific legal definition. But there are several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that pertain to hate speech, including 153(A) for statements aimed at creating enmity related to communal, racial, linguistic, ethnic and descent; 153(B) for statements against sovereignty of the country; 295(A) for statements aimed at hurting religious feelings; and 505(2) for statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.

The Law Commission of India in March recommended tougher norms for discouraging hate speech, in a report made available on its official website, according to LiveMint. The report suggested adding new provisions to make speech inciting hatred and speech that causes fear, alarm or provocation of violence, a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). "The Law Commission of India is of the considered opinion that new provisions in IPC are required to be incorporated to address the issues," it said in its 53-page report.

Here are some recent incidents involving hate speeches:

File image of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Twitter@MamataOfficial

File image of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Twitter@MamataOfficial

Mamata Banerjee: The West Bengal chief minister came under the police scanner when she was booked for hate speech on Thursday for terming the updation of Assam's National Register of Citizenship (NRC) a "conspiracy against Bengalis", according to The Times of India.

The FIR followed complaints by several lawyers who alleged that her speech was inflammatory and could promote enmity between different groups in Assam, the report said.

Vikram Saini: The BJP legislator in Uttar Pradesh is known for making provocative comments. He stirred yet another controversy on Tuesday when he said "our country is called Hindustan, which means a nation for the Hindus". He further accused earlier governments of policies that benefit only Muslims, according to NDTV.

He was giving a speech in the communally sensitive Muzaffarnagar town of the state. "I'm a hardcore believer in Hindutva. Our nation is called Hindustan, which means a nation for the Hindus. Today, everyone gets benefits without any discrimination," he added.

Zakir Naik: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had charged the controversial televangelist and Islamic preacher Zakir Naik with inciting terror and delivering hate speeches.

The agency filed a chargesheet before the NIA special court in Mumbai. Naik, who is not in the country, was charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and sections 120B, 153A, 295A, 298 and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

File image of Islamic preacher Zakir Naik. News18

File image of Islamic preacher Zakir Naik. News18

Naik fled India on 1 July, 2016, after terrorists in neighbouring Bangladesh claimed that they were inspired by his speeches. The NIA had on 18 November, 2016, registered a case against Naik at its Mumbai branch under various sections of the IPC and UAPA.

His Mumbai-based NGO, the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), was declared unlawful by the Union home ministry in December 2016.

At one his videos, Naik even endorsed Osama bin Laden and Taliban as fighters of Islam and argued that they aren't necessarily damaging Islam.

Raja Singh: A case was registered against Telangana BJP MLA Raja Singh following a provocative speech he made at the Virat Hindu Samavesh convention in Yadagiri in December. Known for making controversial statements, the BJP MLA has already many cases filed against him.

During his speech, Raja Singh brandished a sword on the stage and called upon Hindus to keep swords in their houses. Here is a video of one such speech:

Just a few weeks earlier, speaking to a Rajput gathering, he had threatened to burn down theatres in Hyderabad if they screened Padmavati, according to The News Minute. Calling for a boycott of the film, Raja had said that it is "every nationalist's duty, every Hindu’s duty and every Rajput's duty."

Over the last two years, five FIRs have been registered against him for hate speech; two have been closed, and the fate of three remains uncertain.

Owaisi brothers: No strangers to controversy, the Owaisi brothers are known for their highly inflammatory speeches.

Asaduddin Owaisi, Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad, and Akbaruddin Owaisi, an MLA, are both known for routine inflammatory speeches in and outside their respective constituencies.

Akrabuddin had famously launched a tirade against Hindus in a speech in Adilabad. But even before this, he had incited hatred by saying, "We in Hyderabad want to behead this woman according to the fatwa," when Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen had come to Hyderabad.

File image of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owasi. AFP

File image of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owasi. AFP

His elder brother Asasuddudin is not to be left too far behind. Though he has toned down after becoming an MP, it did not stop him from declaring that Salman Rushdie should be arrested for writing books that seemingly desecrate the sanctity of Islam.

Sakshi Maharaj: At the beginning of this year, an FIR was filed against BJP lawmaker Sakshi Maharaj in Meerut for his comment blaming population rise on Muslims.

"The population rise is not because of Hindus. The population has risen due to those who support the concept of four wives and 40 children," he had said.

According to NDTV, there have also been other VIPs who faced no action for their alleged hate speech, including former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi, who had said, "I dare them to cut (our hands)," adding there was no dearth of people in Bihar to "chop off" the hands of the Prime Minister. No case has been filed against her.

With inputs from agencies.

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Updated Date: Jan 05, 2018 15:04:13 IST

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