23, Jun 2018 | CJP Team
The Amarnath Yatra begins every year in the month of Shravan (July-August) and this year it is scheduled from June 28 to August 26. This year, with Governor’s Rule suddenly declared after the BJP pulled out its support from the alliance government in the state, there is an anxiety around this annual event. This anxiety appears justified given what CJP’s Hate Watch has found.
Hate Watch identified this particular brand of hate speech as a part of a systemic campaign in which one BJP youth page spreads false news of Omar Abdulla threatening he’ll end Amarnath Yatra and then the other page responds with hate-speech on a Facebook Live broadcast. All happens right after the PDP-BJP alliance fails and when the Amarnath Yatra is starting.
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Shameless display of Unbridled Hate
The video may be viewed here. We must warn you that the language in this video is deeply offensive and unsuitable for minors. The description to the video says:
This Facebook live video of Raja Singh has already been shared 6600 times, and viewed 1,72,000 times!
Here’s some Background: Kashmiriyat and pluralism
Kashmir has a very unique syncretic culture where the Muslims and Hindus both revere common saints. Nuruddin Nurani is Nund Rishi and a Shaivite female mystic, Maa Lalleshwari, is fondly remembered by the Muslims as Lalla Mauj (‘Mother Lalla’) or Lalla ‘Arifa (‘Lalla, the Realised One’).
Though Amarnath cave is reported to be about 5,000 years old many people don’t even know that the Amarnath cave was discovered by a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik (from the Bakrawal Tribe), in 1850!
Last year, 2017, the bus driver Sheikh Salim Gafur who saved 52 Amarnath pilgrims got second highest gallantry award ‘Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak’. The Mamalaka temple which is a stopover for pilgrims going to the Amarnath cave shrine is maintained by Mohammad Abdullah and Ghulam Hassan, who are fulfilling the promise given to the Pandit of Mamalaka temple by his friend Abdul Bhat in 2004. In Mohammad Abdullah and Ghulam Hassan’s words “We have faith in Lord Shiva. We not only maintained the temple, undertook repairs but also ensured that the temple remains fully functional despite threats from the militants”.
Amarnath Yatra is a great occasion that bridges the communal gap and a living example of Kashmiriyat, the ethno-national and social consciousness and cultural values of the Kashmiri people. Therefore, it has become the target of all hatemongers who want to destroy the secular identity of India and disrupt peace to polarize masses.
However, the June 22, 2018 Facebook live video by Raja Singh is blatant example of inciteful expression or hate speech intended, in CJP’s view, to create hostilities between communities that may well lead to violence. It is pertinent to note that T. Raja Singh is not just another extreme right-wing social media troll posting hate speeches. He is a member of the Telangana Legislative Assembly representing the Goshamahal assembly constituency in Hyderabad. He is a member of the Bharatiya Janta Party, and also occupies the position of party whip for Telangana. He has half a million followers just on Facebook and therefore, BJP cannot isolate itself from this hate speech. This appears to be a deliberate attempt to divert the attention from four years of failure of governance and chaos in J&K by the alliance government (BJP and PDP) of which the party was a part. In the live video one can see Raja Singh reading out the scripted hate message by looking at the bottom of the frame instead of the camera.
The premise of this hate speech is based on a Fake propaganda by the social media page of BJP youth wing
“Youth India” page (which has about 2.5 lakh followers) in their propaganda have cooked up a fake news saying “Omar Abdullah has threatened to end the Amarnath Yatra.”
This bit of fake propaganda has been exposed in this link.
The pattern is clear, even sinister. One BJP-associated page spreads fake news on social media then the other makes hate speech based on that piece of fake news. This is a well coordinated and collaborative strategy to create communal division (even hatred) around the time of Amarnath Yatra.
Venom in the Video
The video starts with a warning to “mere dushmano (my enemies)”. He says, “The time of war has arrived and we have to see who is standing with the nation and who is not.” Which war is he talking about?
“Ek Kashmiri k#*%a bhaunka, Omar Abdullah” (A Kashmiri dog barked, Omar Abdullah) and goes on to say that he (Abdullah) will end the Amarnath Yatra.
Then Raja Singh reminds of Bala Saheb Thackeray’s hate speech where the late Shiv Sena where he had said, “If Amarnath Yatra stops then no flight for Hajj will take off from Mumbai.”
He also says that PM Modi should have broken the alliance much before now. Then he also contradicts himself by saying that the day Hindus stop going for the Amarnath Yatra the Muslims of Kashmir will die of starvation because that is the only source of earning for Kashmiris. He says, “Every year I request my Hindu brothers and sisters to boycott Kashmiri Muslims when they go for Amarnath Yatra and they should only buy products and take services of Hindus”.
In the video, Singh also warns all the Muslims of India saying, “Till now there was the government of impotent people, now under Modiji’s government you can survive (only) by keeping quiet and obeying us. Otherwise, we’ll pull the carpet below your feet and you won’t even know.”
Of late the earlier spontaneous Amarnath Yatra has also gotten increasingly militarized.