Skip to main content

'Painfully' applicable to India today: UN-declared Day for Countering Hate Speech

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* 

On all counts, the decision by the United Nations General Assembly to declare June 18 as the International Day for Countering Hate Speech (beginning this year 2022) is significant. It comes at a special moment of world history, when hate speech in several parts of the globe seem to have become the order of the day – leading to xenophobia, jingoism, exclusivism and ultimately to unbridled violence.
For India particularly, it comes at a time when ‘hate speech’ is not merely mainstreamed but those who indulge in hate speech do so with impunity – since they are guaranteed with immunity by a regime which provides legitimacy to an agenda which is divisive, discriminatory and which has no qualms of conscience in denigrating the ‘other’!
Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, officials of the BJP, are classic examples, in recent weeks, of how they have used hate speech to the hilt and of the law-and- order mechanism does not do anything about to them!
Three years ago, in May 2019, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement said:
“Around the world, we are seeing a disturbing groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance – including rising anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and persecution of Christians. Social media and other forms of communication are being exploited as platforms for bigotry.
“Neo-Nazi and white supremacy movements are on the march. Public discourse is being weaponized for political gain with incendiary rhetoric that stigmatizes and dehumanizes minorities, migrants, refugees, women and any so-called ‘other’. This is not an isolated phenomenon or the loud voices of a few people on the fringe of society.
“Hate is moving into the mainstream – in liberal democracies and authoritarian systems alike. And with each broken norm, the pillars of our common humanity are weakened. Hate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability and peace. As a matter of principle, the United Nations must confront hate speech at every turn.
“Silence can signal indifference to bigotry and intolerance, even as a situation escalates and the vulnerable become victims. Tackling hate speech is also crucial to deepen progress across the United Nations agenda by helping to prevent armed conflict, atrocity crimes and terrorism, end violence against women and other serious violations of human rights, and promote peaceful, inclusive and just societies.”
What Guterres said two years ago is painfully applicable to India today! One does not have to be a rocket scientist today to realise that hate speech is on the rise in India, with the potential to incite violence, undermine social cohesion and tolerance, and cause psychological, emotional, and physical harm to those affected.
The nation has witnessed all of it, these past weeks – in the wake of Sharma’s obnoxious outburst! Hate speech not only affects the specific individuals and groups targeted, but societies at large. In several parts of India today communities which lived in harmony and unity for years – are violently divided!
In a backgrounder for the ‘International Day for Countering Hate Speech’ the UN states, ‘the devastating effect of hatred is sadly nothing new. However, its scale and impact are amplified today by new technologies of communication, so much so that hate speech, has become one of the most frequent methods for spreading divisive rhetoric and ideologies on a global scale. If left unchecked, hate speech can even harm peace and development, as it lays the ground for conflicts and tensions, wide scale human rights violations.
Hate speech is not only a denial of the essential values of the Organization, but it also undermines the UN Charter's very core principles and objectives, such as respect for human dignity, equality, and peace. Advancing human rights and fighting hate are at the heart of the Organization’s mission and the United Nations has the duty to confront the global issue of hate speech at every turn.
The impact of hate speech cuts across numerous existing UN areas of focus, from human rights protection and prevention of atrocity crimes to sustaining peace and achieving gender equality and supporting children and youth.
‘The International Day of Countering Hate Speech’ is an initiative that builds on the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech launched on June 18, 2019. This first UN system-wide initiative designed to tackle hate speech provides an essential framework for how the Organization can support and complement States' efforts.
The strategy emphasizes the need to counter hate holistically and with full respect for freedom of opinion and expression, while working in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, including civil society organizations, media outlets, tech companies and social media platforms. Hate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability and peace.
As a matter of principle, hate speech must be confronted at every turn and be tackled in order to prevent armed conflict, atrocity crimes and terrorism, end violence against women and other serious violations of human rights, and promote peaceful, inclusive and just societies. India will not take this seriously!
In India, we have mainstreamed violence ‘in the name of religion’. The violence against Muslims and Christians have been given a legitimacy unheard of, in any democracy all over the world. This violence, the UN emphasizes, is often manifested through targeted attacks on individuals or communities, acts of extremism, communal violence, bulldozing houses of those involved in anti-government campaigns, discriminative policies or legislation (like the anti-conversion laws, use of hijab etc.) and other types of embedded structural violence.
Incidents involving hate speech, negative stereotyping, and advocacy of religious or national hatred have resulted in killings of innocent people, attacks on places of worship and calls for reprisals. Such violence also disproportionately targets religious dissidents, members of religious minorities, converts or non-believers. We see this happening today with frightening regularity!
On July 1, 1946, just a year before India got her independence, Ahmedabad was on the boil with the traditional rath yatra taking place. Unfortunately, instead of it being a day of bonding and harmony the day flared into communal violence as both Hindus and Muslims went for the jugular: in a rioting spree and murdering one another.
Vasant Rao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani were good friends and also volunteers with the Seva Dal. Deeply disturbed with what was happening in the city, they were determined to do all they could to stop the venom, the fire and the killing from spreading. They jumped into the midst of the violence begging those involved on both sides to cry halt immediately; many did listen and relented.
There is recorded evidence which shows that their heroics helped save a Muslim driver from a Hindu mob and a Hindu who owned a washing company from a Muslim mob. Their acts of valour seemed to have temporarily quelled the violence. Late that day, they returned very exhausted to the Congress Office at Khand-ni-Sheri, when they received news that a group of Dalit families in the Jamalpur area were surrounded by a very violent mob. They immediately ran back and tried to pacify the mob.
Their entreaties were in vain. The crowd warned them to stay away; but Vasant and Rajab lay down on the road in order to prevent the Dalit families from being touched. The blood-thirsty mob did not spare them and brutally murdered them: two young men who had the courage to lay down their lives for the cause of communal harmony and peace!
In an India today, rife with hate and violence, Vasant and Rajab have much to teach us: the country thanks to machinations of the fascists is deeply polarized and divided on communal lines. Manipulative politicians and other vested interests leave no stone unturned in dividing and instigating people in the name of religion. A great shame but a painful reality!
‘The International Day of Countering Hate Speech’ and the anniversary of the martyrdom of Vasant and Rajab, less than a fortnight away, are reminders to all, that our great country is about pluralism and diversity; about respect and tolerance of all religions and ideologies and above all, about justice and equity for all. The preamble to our Constitution embodies these!
A National Campaign Against Hate, in a draft statement says:
“The goal is to strive for fraternity which is the only way to robustly strengthen the other pillars of our democracy, namely justice, liberty and equality. We need to perforce formulate evidence-based collective responses that resist all forms of discrimination, as well as attacks and atrocities on all oppressed communities, whether marginalised due to caste, religion, gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality or ability, as well as those who organise as workers, civil rights activists, and also individuals who raise their voices. 
"We seek to:
1. Build harmony and solidarity at every level from grassroots to international within a framework of justice
2. Strive to safeguard fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms and resist draconian laws and measures
3. Educate ourselves about syncretic pluralistic cultures, traditions and sub-altern histories country-wide
4. Build upon these traditions to strengthen fraternity within and across communities’ country-wide
5. Stem all Hindutva-driven attempts to dilute or replace our constitution
6. Seek justice for victims of communal, casteist and misogynist hatred and discrimination
7. Be alive to India’s heritage of casteism and patriarchy in order to strengthen our democratic ethos within
8. Comprehend and support ‘Not in My Name’ campaigns and all local resistance against fascism.”

There is hope, as long as there are committed citizens, who have the courage to address the hate-spree and to stop the rot. The regime must be held accountable and there has to be a people’s movement that is visible and vocal in saying, “enough is enough”! Today, the first ‘International Day of Countering Hate Speech’ is a beginning, the journey ahead will be tough!
The words from the Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali’ could help sustain one in the journey:
“Obstinate are the trammels,
but my heart aches when I try to break them.
Freedom is all I want,
but to hope for it I feel ashamed.
I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee,
and that thou art my best friend,
but I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room.
The shroud that covers me is a shroud of dust and death;
I hate it, yet hug it in love.
My debts are large, my failures great, 
my shame secret and heavy;
yet when I come to ask for my good,
I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted”.

---
*Human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/writer

Comments

Anonymous said…
promoters of hate speech and acts are really never bothered by words - unless reinforced by economic pain or physical pain. unfortunately the current political story is replete with bigotry by all . the UN is an impotent voice.

TRENDING

You promised 50 lakh houses, give us one: Ahmedabad migrant women's plea to Modi

Women display letters containing rakhi for PM    By Hirabhai Solanki, Bhartiben Dantani, Ramesh Shrivastav*  Poor labouring families, including seasonal or long-term migrants of nearly 15 squatter settlements -- working as construction and casual workers and petty vendors, providing cheap but critically important labour for Ahmedabad city, living under plastic sheetings -- have reminded the Gujarat and Central Governments about the promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of building 50 lakh dwellings, wherein every pavement dweller and homeless would be given a decent home by the end of 2022. Holding a meeting in Ahmedabad under the aegis of the Majur Adhikaar Manch, they also referred to the appeal of the Prime Minister to poor and labouring women, seeking his support as brother by sending rakhis to protect their humble basti dwellings and provide them with decent housing, which is secure for them and their families. So far, about 300 women have posted rakhis to the Prime Ministe

Kailash Satyarthi NGO floats new centre in Delhi to 'empower' underprivileged children

By Our Representative  A voluntary organisation linked with Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi-supported NGO has floated a unique children’s resource centre at Sanjay Camp, Chankyapuri, New Delhi, in order to facilitate in imparting remedial education, recreational training and holistic development of children of around 2,500 under-privileged slum-dwelling families. Virender Singh Kadian, MLA of Delhi Cantonment, inaugurated the centre, which is called Shaheed Kalu Bal Vikas Kendra. The resource centre is in memory of Kalu Kumar, who died at an young age serving and working towards the development of under-privileged children, said an NGO source. A firebrand activist, Kalu Kumar was trafficked from Bihar to the carpet manufacturing belt of Allahabad when he was six. He was rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan at the age of 10. A bright student, Kalu he covered up the lost ground very quickly and grew up to become a leader fighting for the rights of other child slaves at Bal Ashram. In

A countdown to disaster: Breach in fly-ash bunds of Nagpur's thermal power plants

Fly-ash dyke, Koradi thermal power plant  By Dhwani Shah, Deepmala Patel*  Last month the residents of several villages of Nagpur district woke up to the nightmare of being inundated with fly-ash. Located in the north of Nagpur city are Koradi and Khaparkheda thermal power stations which have their ash dykes in the vicinity. On July 10, 2022 at 3 am, the ash dyke of the Khaparkheda thermal power station broke, leading to ash contaminating the Kanhan river. Though the authorities claimed to have acted quickly and the fly ash dumping in the river was stopped, the claim stood to be misleading and false. Even today, the Kanhan river continues to be polluted with fly-ash, and the water supply to the city is affected. Not only did ash dyke of the Khaparkheda power station break, on July 16, 2022, the ash bund of the Koradi thermal power plant also broke. Fly-ash and water stored in the dyke gushed downstream to six villages -- drowning houses, water bodies and farmlands. With such large-

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Multi-crore NRC updation scam? Awaited: Assam media's self-cleaning mechanism

By Nava Thakuria  If some editor-journalists are allegedly involved in a financial scam, shouldn't the people get an opportunity to identify them? As the mainstream newspapers and news channels of Assam are avoiding the issue in their coverage, how come the actual picture will come to the public domain? If the mainstream media outlets intentionally kill the news, reasons best known to the editors, should the social media users take a lead? By now a number of senior journalists (with experience in print journalism for many decades) have highlighted the issue in social media. Their message is loud and clear- identify the corrupt television journalists who grabbed a huge amount of money which is actually meant for thousands of Assamese professionals. It all began when a second first information report (FIR) was filed by the outgoing State coordinator of National Register of Citizens (NRC) against his predecessor alleging corruption and money laundering while updating the 1951 NRC in A

US rights groups claim 'continued violation' of basic freedoms in J&K since August 2019

By Our Representative  Top US-based non-profit, Human Rights Watch (HRW), headquartered in New York, and the Washington DC-based Indian diaspora group, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), recalling the abrogation of Article 370 three years ago, have taken strong exception to "continued restrictions" on free expression, peaceful assembly, and other basic rights in Jammu and Kashmir. Claiming that after revoking the region’s special autonomous status on August 5, 2019, the government’s “repressive policies and failure to investigate and prosecute alleged security force abuses have increased insecurity among Kashmiris”, in a statement, HRW said, “The government action was accompanied by serious rights violations including arbitrary detention of hundreds of people, a total communications blackout, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement and peaceful assembly.” It added, “Since then, the authorities have released many of the detainees and restored the internet, but have

Why global recession is 'big threat' to India, despite Nirmala Sitharaman’s bravado

By Prasanna Mohanty*  It would be imprudent to assume that a global recessionary trend will bypass India. In fact, a day after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman categorically ruled out the possibility of recession and stagflation (with high unemployment and high inflation India is technically witnessing stagflation) hitting India in her responses to the Parliament earlier in the week, Commerce Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam dropped a bomb shell. He released latest trade data showing fast deteriorating trends. The data showed, in July 2022, exports fell to five-month low of $35.2 billion and imports sequentially increased to $66 billion. The details revealed a fall in seven of top 10 export items: engineering goods, petroleum products, gems and jewellery, pharmaceuticals, readymade garments, cotton yarn and plastics. All this happened, Subrahmanyam acknowledged, due to the growing recessionary trends in developed countries and elevated commodity prices. The trade deficit (merchandise g

Bangladeshi women crossing borders: Demand to sensitise cops, BSF personnel

Counterview Desk  Bringing more instances of how the security personnel along the borders in West Bengal refuse to probe the human trafficking angle while arresting Bangladeshi women, human rights leader Kirity Roy has said, they are treated as accused in violation of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Government of India and the Government of Bangladesh on Bilateral Cooperation for Preventing of Human Trafficking, especially trafficking in Women and Children. In a letter to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly, said, “The victims should be immediately repatriated to their own country and the criminal charges against them must be withdrawn at the earliest”, insisting, “The matters must be handled by the police or the BSF personnel with a human approach.” Text: I am writing this complaint regarding det

A tale of horror and fraud: Profits in trillions of dollars for vaccine manufacturers?

By Aruna Rodrigues*  John Leake is a best-selling and “experienced non-fiction, true crime author”. Having just read what must be described as an extraordinary ‘telling’ of the Covid-19 saga, his book “The Courage to Face Covid-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex”, co-authored with Peter A McCullough, MD, MPH, is the narration of true crime on a scale that could top the list in the history of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. The book chronicles the unique role of national governments across the world and their health agencies, led by the USA and WHO, which followed an agenda that led to completely avoidable fatalities numbering several million. The question is why? The usual culprits are money and power. But to ascribe cause to these two is woefully insufficient. The sheer magnitude of the ‘dark agenda’ – coordinated and played out by governments, health agencies, the medical establishment (hospitals, doctors and chemists) and the massive a

Draft notification: MoEF&CC should 'critically protect' eco-sensitive Western Ghats

Counterview Desk  In a detailed representation to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Shankar Sharma, power and climate policy analyst, commentin on the draft gazette notification of the MoEF&CC dated July 6, 2022 on the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) of the Western Ghats (WGs), has said that the political class, having vested interests in Karnataka, has been opposing such a move for many years. Stating that there is no “rational basis to do so”, and stating that the opponents do not even seem to have even read the recommendations of Dr Kasturi Rangan committee report or the actual draft notification itself, Sharma underscores, the only aim of the vested interests, who have “unauthorisedly occupied massive pieces of forest lands”, to continue to do on in near. “These vested interests are continuing to be ignorant of the fact that Western Ghats not only harbour rich biodiversity of critical importance to our people, but also support