23, Jun 2022 | CJP Team
The politics of hate has run amuck in India. Even before the change in the ruling regime in 2014, the seeds of such animosity were sown much earlier, with its first significant impact observed in Gujarat. Even 20 years later, the horrors of the 2002 riots are fresh in the minds of survivors and witnesses. It Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a human rights organisation that pursues justice for victims and survivors of hate crimes,was borne in defiance of those very communal flames.
Eager to combat hate on the battlefronts and at the grassroot level, CJP’s ‘Hate Hatao’ campaign has branched off from Gujarat and Mumbai towards Purvanchal and Assam regions. Volunteers in this region have reached out to locals to discuss not just hate and its many forms, but the need for peace and peacebuilding.
CJP is dedicated to finding and bringing to light instances of Hate Speech, so that the bigots propagating these venomous ideas can be unmasked and brought to justice. To learn more about our campaign against hate speech, please become a member. To support our initiatives, please donate now!
CJP’s on-ground teams continue to work on initiatives to address and combat hate via peace-building meetings, active hate buster campaigns and the inclusion of youths, ASHAs, artisans, labourers, and residents of low-income neighbourhoods alike in this work.
Like all of CJP’s campaigns, Hate Hatao focuses on empowering the dis-empowered, and defending their rights and freedoms. While the website has a range of tools available virtually in this regard – Hate-Busters, Hate Watch, Hate Maps – CJP felt that the most effective manner of tackling hate in reality would be through regular MohallaCommittee meetings.
CJP’s Purvanchal team in particular has taken the lead in forming such committees by including ASHAs and youths in the organisation of the events.
Peacebuilding in Purvanchal
Varanasi citizens were deeply concerned by the Gyanvapi mosque controversy. Aware of the ruse to create communal tensions, citizens only wished to protect the secular sanctity of their region. For this reason, activists and leaders from all faiths began visiting neighbourhoods, market and commercial centres to engage people in meaningful discussions.
The first such meeting was held on May 16 at the Vishwajyoti Jan Sanchar Kendra in Varanasi. Participants represented people not only from various progressive groups but from various socio-economic section of society. To give an idea, there was Bunkar Sajha Manchrepresentative FazalurRehman Ansari, farmer leader Ramjanam, Dalit activist AnupShramik, Gandhians Sunil Sahasrabuddhe and Vijay Narayan Singh, CJP’s Purvanchal Coordinator Dr Muniza Khan, Shia mosque Spokesperson Haji Farman Hyder, Left leader Manish Sharma, PUCL’s Praval Singh and social activists Parmita and Jagruti.
While condemning the sealing of the Wazu Khana, the group resolved to prevent and outbreak of violence in the city, and aimed to maintain peace. For this, members decided to widen the scope of such peace-building meetings to the whole of Varanasi with sensitization meetings with local media to curb fake news. They also identified news media that promoted fake news and decided to put their trust in the courts.
The meetings started off immediately with one held at KilaKohna locality on May 19. It was through these meetings that CJP learnt about how the local administration had marked houses of minority, Dalit and Malhar families for demolition. As per official reports, this demolition was to build a road on the land that the residents had allegedly encroached upon.
CJP’s Dr.Khan offered legal aid and assistance, advising them to maintain peace while standing firm in their struggle for housing rights and justice.
Similarly, in Saraiya region, known for its weaver artisan community, people condemned the government for discriminating against minorities. Here, the Mohalla Committee had to jump into action. Locals reported that youths in the area had grown enraged with the status quo. Therefore, the committee gathered the youths and reasoned with them not to engage in aggressions. Members asked children to continue their jumma prayers as usual and not gather on the roads considering the current socio-political environment.
Such has been their resolve that Mohalla Committees were even called to session in the dark after sunset. On May 30, people gathered at NakkiGhat and used their mobile phone light to hold the meeting and take the minutes. Then on June 5, CJP met with the Lok Chetna Samiti that works with labourers in four blocks of Varanasi. Here too, CJP engaged 60-65 people to discuss peace-building measures and the need to curb fake news.
As these meetings continued, local activists and CJP volunteers reached out to villages. Well-aware of the hate that simmers amongst people after Covid-19, CJP held a Mohalla meeting at Dalit Basti Deenapur in Varanasi on June 13. Anganwadi workers, local women and village youths gathered to discuss the attempts to spread communal enmity in the district.
Anganwadi workers talked about the state of such remote villages during the pandemic. One worker raised concerns about ration packages not reached all villages. Women further condemned the government for focusing on Hindu-Muslim conflicts rather than more pressing matters of unemployment and starvation.
“Our sisters are being abducted, reservations being dismissed, inflation… the law is supressing us,” said an Anganwadi worker. The meeting highlighted people’s anger against the administration, the police and the law.
In response to all this, CJP Fellow Alam Ansari told the gathering, “We are humans first and then people with faith. If we still have humanity in us then our first duty when a person is in distress is to help them – regardless of the religion, language. We have to keep in mind not to be duped by others. Mohalla committees will work to ensure to work unitedly and resolve grievances at the local level.”
Having engaged in such vibrant discussions in all these localities, ASHAs and Kishoriyas in Ghazipur and Jaunpur too invited CJP leader Dr.Khan to hold such meetings wherein people get to voice and discuss their complaints. Another meeting will also be held on June 26.
Purvanchal committee observation
Having engaged with artisans, local civil society groups, marginalised communities during these meetings, Khan noticed that people at the ground-level were not fooled by the hate speech. Despite these committees being sparked by the Gyanvapi controversy, she saw that the people were more invested in issues of employment, hunger, healthcare. In fact, some locals even accused the government of using hate speech to divert the public from real issues.
When committee organisers directly asked the people about the controversy, many said that they would prefer if the two structures remained as they have throughout history. There was a consensus that the government had chosen to focus on the issue but the public had not.
Instead, one ASHA worker talked about hospital and medication prices wherein the economically-disadvantaged communities were unable to avail the latter. Similarly, the administration in many of these areas had failed to ensure proper sanitation despite approaching monsoon. This again puts the area in danger of diseases.
Peacebuilding in Mumbai
Like in Purvanchal, CJP succeeded in starting vibrant Mohalla committees across Mumbai city following Ram Navami protests. Taking after the Bhiwandi model, CJP called for civil society groups to form Mohalla Committees that will maintain neighbourhood peace and security.
Responding to this call, active meetings and initiatives were initiated to address hate. The first meeting was held at YMCA, Mumbai Central, where as many as 90 representatives of various rights groups in Mumbai discussed the creation of Mohalla Committees. Attending Mohalla Committee Trust members talked about how 94 Mohalla Committees were started as citizens’ initiative in 1994 and some of them are active still. Mohalla Committee Pioneer Suresh Khopade attended the event as well as Mumbai Commissioner of Police Sanjay Pandey.
However, the diversity of the congregation went beyond executive powers. There was TISS professor Brinelle D’Souza, Advocates Lara Jaiswani and Mihir Desai, Maulana Azad Vichar Manch President Hussain Dalwai, Political Science student Danish Lambe, CPI(M) General Secretary Vivek Monteiro, rights group Parcham’s Founder Sabah, Bombay Catholic Sabha’s Dolphy D’Souza, Kamgar Sanrakshan Samman Sangh leader Bilal Khan and of course CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad attending the meeting.
All these members discussed the hate politics at length along with the working of universities, localities, police and artificial intelligence into peace-building initiatives.
Later, D’Souza and Bilal Khan met with CJP on April 21 to chart out further steps for peace-building. Here, Khan emphasised the need to work with all sections of society, particularly unorganised labourers. The meeting finally concluded with a goal to inspired discussions around constitutional values, ahinsa, peaceful dialogue, pluralism, brotherhood and agency of marginalised groups.
Then on April 25, CJP met with Maharashtra App-based Transport Workers Union President Prashant Sawardekar. Once again, CJP tapped into another section of the urban work culture, the Ola and Uber cab workers, Swiggy and Zomato app workers for better working conditions.
All of this culminated into diverse and vibrant iftars during the month of Ramadan. Notably, there was a diverse iftar and then a Sai Bhandar in Mankhurd, the very locality that suffered aggression from Hindutva goons during Ram Navami.
“People will succeed in maintaining this peace and unity. But there will be suffering along the way. However, with police patrolling every masjid street yesterday and people celebrating, I felt good,” said activist and violence witness Jameela Begum.
Finally on May 1 Labour Day, unions organised huge secular rallies to assert their solidarity against communal hate. The Samyukt Kamgaar Shetkari Morcha (SKSM) marched from Kasarvadavli in Thane to Mumbra region in assertion of communal harmony, labour rights and the Constitution. Thousands of people participated on-foot, on motorcycles and similar vehicles. Even children observing Ramzan joined the march in 45-degrees Celsius heat for ‘Hindu-Muslim Ekta’.
There were chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’, ‘HarHarMahadev’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ as leaders resolved to always support Muslims for humanitarian causes. Meanwhile, Mumbai’s Kachra Vahtuk Shramik Sangh (KVSS) observed a secular bike rally from Chembur to Sion Koliwada. Around 400 labourers assembled for the event organised in light of growing hatred in India.
“Considering how the current scenario is changing with this government, we felt the need to take a wholistic approach on this Labour Day. We also inaugurated our new office in Koliwada where members can now go to have their grievances heard,” said KVSS Organiser Anushka Damle.
Hate Hatao in Assam
Although CJP’s Assam team primarily focuses on legal intervention, helping Indian nationals out of detention camps, etc. volunteers also keep a look out for any signs of hate in the region. Before the terrifying inundations began in the state, the team visited local villages and engaged with people from different backgrounds. Volunteers talked to people about identifying and curbing fake news that tries to divide the society.
“Most of the time, we see that the people want to maintain peace and consider such hate to be politically motivated. Even during these floods, we see Hindus and Muslims sharing their food or stoves. There’s a feeling of camaraderie here,” said CJP Assam Coordinator Nanda Ghosh.
Overall, CJP’s work in this region has a long history including regular reportage and complaints regarding hate activities. On December 21, 2022 the NCM responded to CJP’s complaint against RSS leader Kamalendu Sarkar regarding his speech at a public function in Sonitpur on December 13. Sarkar’s speech hurt the sentiments of the members of the Muslim community.
For virtual hate, CJP rakes through various social media platforms, gathers hate content like videos, memes, audio messages, WhatsApp forwards, Twitter posts and takes appropriate action.
For this, Hate Bustersare the first recourse. Here, CJP analyses the hate-content and understands the ‘claim’ made by the post/video and then fact-checks it. Most of the time, the claims are fabricated or made using dubious information. CJP gathers verified data to ‘bust’ the lies.
For example, in ‘Hate Buster: Meat, meets fact checks’ CJP looked at the claim that ‘India is a vegetarian country’. It then looked at the newly released NFHS-5 data to bust the myth and state that India is in fact an omnivorous country with a diverse cuisine. Indian diet changes as per region, topography, caste, economic status, religion, and even gender.
There are also Hindi Hate Busters like the ‘Taj Mahal, TejoMahalaynahihai!’ wherein CJP busted the frequently-surfacing myth that the historical monument was built by a Hindu ruler.
Of course, there are times when the hateful content discovered by CJP is not based on facts but uses words and opinions of the content-creator as its driving force. In such cases, CJP employs Hate Watch. It flags hate speech or actions promoting hatred. CJP also looks at the intention of the media. For example, CJP looked at the repeated news debate invites to serial hate offender IlyasSharafuddin and discussed why a self-proclaimed scholar is often invited to debate shows by News channels to speak on ‘Hindu-Muslim’ issues.
Another manner in which CJP tracks hate is by ‘Mapping Hate in India’. The organisation has released two such maps that charts hate against various communities in India. While in 2021, it created separate maps, the 2022 map is a single NafratkaNaqsha to plot incidents of communal, casteist, ethnic conflicts and gender violence in India. Additionally, it records secular attempts to preserve India’s democratic social fabric.
After documenting the hate, CJP files formal complaints to authorities such as the central and state government officials, human rights commissions, women’s commissions, NBDSA, local police authorities, relevant personnel on various social media platforms, etc. This section also marks the real impact of CJP’s Hate Hatao campaign as it moves to ensure that those spreading hate are prosecuted through the proper legal process.
The complaint to the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) is one such instance wherein CJP flagged BJP MLA HaribhushanBachaul’sgenocidal speech. Thanks to CJP’s persistent reporting and tracking, the NCM sent a letter to the Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) on June 2 to investigate the MLA’s speech and provide a report within 21 days. Bachaulhad, in May, compared Muslims to demons and called for them to be set ablaze.
Similarly, CJP also appealed to YouTube about hate-filled videos of Yati Narsinghanand that claimed ‘India belongs to Hindus’. YouTube on May 31 apprised CJP that it took cognisance of the accounts reported and suspended six videos for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines regarding Hate Speech.
Then in May, CJP approached the Government Railway Police (GRP) deputed in Borivali, Mumbai via Twitter to flag communal posters in a local train. The police acted on the complaint the same day and by the night of May 25, the reported bogie was rid of the posters completely.
While filing complaints on its own, CJP also welcomes the masses to call out hate. For this CJP offers a ‘Report Hate’ section at the end of its Hate Hatao campaign page wherein people can flag communal, gendered, racist and casteist hatred. The person only needs to upload the relevant media or link, a short description of the same along their name, number and email address.
To ensure comprehensive and effective complaints, CJP also offers a plethora of hate-related literature and media on its websites. CJP community and legal resources termed ‘CJP’s Resource Against Hate’ along with hate-offender cards profiling every vile hate-speech proponent in recent years. Additionally, it maintains a ‘From the Archives’ section that offers a collection of curated content from sister publications suchas the erstwhile Communalism Combat and the vibrant SabrangIndia.