17, Jul 2018 | CJP Team
Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) was founded in April 2002, in response to the massacre in Gujarat. Born out of the desire to stop hatred, CJP was founded on the constitutional values of harmony, dialogue, and understanding between all sections of Indians. Our campaign against hatred and hate speech is an effort to bring to account those who seek to divide Indian society along arbitrary lines for the sake of personal and political gain.
CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad has long since worked against communalism and the hatred it fosters. In 2003, CJP and other concerned citizens had petitioned the Supreme Court of India with the object of curbing hate speech, and we have continued in our efforts to fight hate.
On Wednesday, January 30, 2019, CJP launched Hate Hatao, a revolutionary new app to fight hate and hate speech. Hate Hatao lets citizens submit reports of instances of hate that they may encounter: whether they are victims of these instances, or just witnesses. CJP will then take these reports forward as possible complaints to the relevant authorities; these could include the local police and administration, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, among others.
Unfortunately, hate and hate speech are rife in Indian society. You can take action, and join our campaign against hate by downloading the Hate Hatao app here, and by donating to support our efforts here.
Within a day of the launch of the app, we received reports from users regarding the shooting of an effigy of Mahatma Gandhi by a Hindu Mahasabha leader, who was captured on video, on the very day that many other Indians mourned Gandhi’s death. We have written to the Aligarh and Uttar Pradesh police, where the incident took place, calling for a thorough and complete investigation into those involved in the incident.
Our legacy informs our work today
India has too often experienced the dangers of communalism, and the resultant hate that frequently arises from it. Following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, communal riots set Bombay aflame.
Even then, CJP’s founder trustees had intervened for peace and sanity, and had worked to defuse hate. Public hearings were held, witnesses were aided in deposing before the Justice BN Srikrishna Commission, and petitions were filed with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and in the courts. CJP’s founder trustees published and sold the Srikrishna Commission report so that citizens could access the true story behind the violence. They were also part of the vibrant community movement to form Mohalla Committees to improve citizen-police relations.
Twenty-five years later, on December 6, 2017, CJP, along with more than 30 prominent Indians from all walks of life filed a petition in the Supreme Court to intervene in the Ayodhya dispute, with the belief that the case is not a property dispute, nor a Hindu vs. Muslim issue, but one that affects the very soul of India. Our petition was filed with the aim to end the bloodshed and religion-based politics over the Ayodhya dispute, and heal the wounds of December 6, 1992. CJP also had a petition soliciting support from the public.
Join CJP’s Hate Watch campaign! Helps us monitor hate speech by supporting us here.
Earlier this year, CJP stood up against the communal Rath Yatra that was mounted by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates in February, even as the Supreme Court was hearing the Ayodhya dispute case. Recalling the last Rath Yatra of 1990, and its aftermath, in which the Babri Masjid was demolished, sparking communal riots, CJP appealed to the public for support for its petition against the 2018 Rath Yatra, and called for peaceful protests at each of its stops.
In February 2018, CJP filed a complaint with National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) over violence in central Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj Kasbah town, where a Tiranga Yatra was held on January 26, Republic Day. CJP closely monitored the situation, and acquired videos and extracts of Facebook posts suggesting an agenda to inflame communal tensions. CJP also received detailed grievances from local members of the minority community in Kasganj, which it submitted to the NHRC and called on the commission to conduct a dispassionate and thorough investigation to re-establish people’s faith in the rule of law. Also in February, CJP found that in western Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha, social media posts and local newspaper reports found an alleged conspiracy to change the name of the area from Gautam Nagar to Islam Nagar, an attempt at stoking tensions between Dalits and Muslims. Then, too, CJP approached the NHRC with a complaint, calling for an NHRC inquiry into the social media posts, and asking the commission to urge to Uttar Pradesh Cyber Cell to investigate them as well. Our complaint was forwarded by the NHRC to the Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), which directed the District Magistrate to submit a report regarding any action taken over the issue.
CJP monitors the public discourse for hate speech
Combating hate is not solely the job of activists and the media; ordinary citizens can and should take steps to fight it. Any citizen can take legal action against hate speech by filing an FIR under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The first step towards acting on hate speech is to be alert in order to monitor/ tape/video–tape the entire text of such a speech. Sections 153A and 153B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) oblige the state to prosecute those guilty of such violations. Section 295 of the CrPC is also a section that can be invoked whenever there are deliberate attempts to disrupt communal harmony. CJP urges you to take steps to fight hate speech, to ensure more peaceful dialogue. For more about registering a complaint over hate speech, and for a format for such a complaint, go here.
Help CJP fight for tolerance and understanding by donating here and filing your own complaints against hate speech.
Unfortunately, given India’s current socio-political landscape, hate speech, and the callous disregard for its potential for provoking violence, seems to abound. In April 2018, the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW), released a report listing the MPs and MLAs who had cases of hate speech filed against them. Notably, most of the lawmakers were from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): 10 out of the 15 MPs the report highlighted were from the BJP, while this was the case for 27 out of the 43 MLAs that were singled out.
CJP continues to monitor the public discourse, including the media, for instances of hate speech, several examples of which we have highlighted in recent months.
In June 2018, CJP’s Hate Watch wrote about how a BJP youth page spread false news about Kashmiri Opposition leader Omar Abdullah ending the annual Amarnath Yatra, a symbol of syncretism and Kashmiriyat that bridges the communal gap. This propaganda was later exposed as a hoax.
Following this, another page responded with Facebook Live broadcast by T. Raja Singh, a BJP Telangana MLA who serves as the party whip for Telangana.
As of writing this, Singh’s video has been viewed more than 300,000 times. The video indicates a clear pattern, in which one BJP-associated social media page spreads fake news, and another delivers a hate speech based on that news, in a well-coordinated strategy to foment communal division around the Amarnath Yatra.
Later in June 2018, CJP’s Hate Watch also highlighted senior BJP leader and former Kashmir minister Choudhary Lal Singh, who was forced to resign from his post as Minister for Forest, Environment, Ecology in the Jammu and Kashmir government after he participated in the Hindu Ekta Manch march supporting the accused in the Kathua case in which an eight-year-old Muslim Bakarwal girl was gang-raped and murdered. A serial hate speech offender, Lal Singh openly threatened journalists in June, saying, “Kashmiri journalists should draw a line on the journalism they do. Do they have to face [something] like what happened to Basharat [referring to Shujaat Bukhari], so that such a situation emerges. So mend your ways and draw a line, so that this brotherhood remains intact and there is progress”.
Spot the offender: Donate here to help CJP highlight serial hate speech offenders who are inciting violence.
In January 2018, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and student leader Umar Khalid were booked for allegedly making inflammatory and inciteful statements. Then, CJP noted how focus remained on Mevani and Khalid even as the two prime accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence were walking free. CJP also recalled how other major leaders, including now Prime Minister Narendra Modi and now Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have, in the past, been guilty of multiple instances of hate speech.
CJP takes action against hate speech
In July 2018, CJP’s Hate Watch took note of a Zee News show, called ‘Kya Kehta Hai India’ aired a poetry meet, or kavi sammelan, a staple for Hindi news channels. This particular segment featured poets discussing Kashmir, and engaging in divisive discourse, and calling for widespread violence against the population of Jammu and Kashmir, with no regard to the hatred they were propagating and no sensitivity regarding the potential impact of such propaganda.
CJP President Anil Dharker and CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad have written to the Zee Media Corporation, calling on the company to issue an appropriate apology to the Indian public for carrying such violence-inducing content, and violating basic media ethics and standards. Unfortunately, this particular programme is not an isolated incident, but one in a long list of similar broadcasts that have featured unconscionable hate speech and propaganda.
Failing to get a response from Zee, CJP proceeded with an official complaint filed with the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), a separate and independent body established by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) to consider such complaints. In our letter, CJP noted that Zee News has violated NBSA code of conduct, which is “To ensure that national security is not violated”. Our letter explained that the content the channel broadcasted “encouraged and promoted violence against a particular community, thus endangering national security”. The complaint prompted a response from Zee, which CJP then countered. We requested the NBSA that our complaint may be pursued further, and arguing that Zee’s reply did not “satisfactorily” respond to the issues raised by our complaint, which is still ongoing. Citizens themselves can take action against such instances by filing such complaints with the NBSA. To learn more about how you can file a complaint, go here.
CJP intends to map and monitor organisations spreading hate and inciting violence. Join us and help support our project here.
In July 2018, CJP highlighted a conclave of sants that had gathered in Haryana for a dharma sansad, where multiple individuals spewed venom about Islam. Four main resolutions were passed at this conclave, including, “To end love jihad and rape jihad by Muslim jihadis, the Hindu society should develop their own strength and not place any trust in the government”. Narasimhanand Saraswati ji Maharaj, the National Convenor of the All India Sant Parishad, made sharply Islamophobic statements, including saying that he feared that a Muslim India would be the centre of all Islamic Jihadi terrorism in the world.
In August, CJP filed a complaint over the dharma sansad with DGP of Haryana, which was co-signed by prominent citizens, including documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, and Dr. Vivek Monteiro, scientist and senior trade unionist with the CPI-M. Our complaint maintained that statements made at the event were “baseless and highly offensive to the Muslim community and the people of India,” and “were clearly spoken to create disharmony and feelings of hatred toward the Muslim community,” thereby falling under Sections 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The complaint was also sent to the NHRC, and the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
CJP flags hate speech on social media
CJP has acknowledged that social media platforms have frequently played host to hate speech and venom. In October 2018, CJP composed a statement in support of a letter submitted to officials by Varanasi citizens’ groups that alleged that a mob of members of the Hindu Yuva Shakti Sangathan vandalised the 200-year-old St. Thomas Church in Godaulia, Varanasi. In our letter, we flagged specific inflammatory Facebook posts that were highlighted by CJP’s sister organisation, SabrangIndia, in two separate pieces. We called on the NHRC to monitor the situation in Varanasi, and take action over hate speech on Facebook. We also wrote separately to Facebook regarding this matter, noting that it “is undeniable that Facebook has given a voice to many who previously lacked a platform, but, it cannot allow hate to fester with impunity, especially when there could be real-life consequences for those being targeted.” Later in October, we found that although we had not received a response from Facebook, the posts we had flagged appeared to have been removed.
In December 2018, CJP took note of Hindutva activist Deepak Sharma, who was peddling hate on social media. CJP wrote to the NHRC, detailing Sharma’s history, calling for an investigation into Sharma, and a permanent ban on his Facebook profile and associated pages. In January, CJP discovered that the Facebook profile in question was unavailable, but it was unclear whether Sharma himself, or Facebook, took it down. When the profile was active, it had more than 40,000 followers, indicating that Sharma had a wide reach. His posts, some of which were highlighted by our sister publication SabrangIndia, garnered several thousand reactions.
CJP plans to continue its long tradition of fighting all kinds of hate. Support our efforts by donating here.
CJP firmly believes that hatred of any kind against any section of society, particularly those communities who have already been disadvantaged or marginalised, has no place in Indian democracy. CJP intends to persist with its campaign to highlight, stop, and educate about hate speech and further constitutional values.