Wild Goose Chase: From filing preemptive complaints to following up with officers, a round-up of CJP’s efforts to curb hate speech Even after strict SC guideline, hate speeches flow unregulated in Maharashtra despite an active citizenry and civil rights groups, who is then to be blamed?
13, Mar 2023 | Tanya Arora
On October 21, a Supreme Court bench, comprising of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, had issued stern interim directions directing the police chiefs of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to take “immediate” suo motu action against any hate speech delivered. The directives were not new, they reiterated existing laws and directed the police to do its constitutional and statutory duty: lodge criminal cases and investigate these without waiting for formal complaints from a citizen. Before and after this, the Supreme Court of India has, vocally bemoaned the fact that police and other authorities have not been taking any action against instances of hate speech despite orders from the apex court. Sad to say, these words by India’s highest court have been met with a lackadaisical response from police authorities on ground.
Following up on the orders issued by the Supreme Court from time to time, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had, in line with its consistent campaign to curb hate speech, has been monitoring the Hindu extremist outfit, Hindu Janajagruiti Samaj (HJS) and its ominous recent forays into Maharashtra. Its trajectory and track record is well known in neighbouring Karnataka. Are these the credentials then that have invited entry into Maharashtra, notably after a regime change in June 2022?
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The campaign began with the HJS being at the forefront (though it was not the only outfit by any means) to run a campaign advocating the passage of an anti-conversion (read ‘anti-love jihad’) laws in Maharashtra. Extremist Right-wing Hindu groups have been using the term “love-Jihad” loosely now, wielded by an aggressive majoritarianism, woven into a dominant caste Hindu narrative of religious extremism, Islamophobia, and communal hatred. The HJS fairly brazenly claims on its website that the outfit has been conducting regular workshops to make Hindus “aware” of the consequences of autonomous and free choice marriages, derogatively and provocatively termed ‘Love Jihad.’
The website of HJS provided information regarding the many events the outfit had planned for the month of February and March 2023, in various parts of Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Goa and Karnataka. These events began from February 21, in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. They have since dotted both the Maharashtra and Karnataka landscape. Karnataka goes to the polls mid-2023 and Maharashtra in the second half of 2024. Since prior to this date, CJP has continuously monitored the HJS events page, which is updated on a daily basis and new events were included. In each of these cases, CJP has sent preemptive complaints to the state and district authorities. Through these preemptive complaints, CJP had urged the police and authorities to take preventive action, monitor, video tape and thereafter prosecute the speakers at these scheduled events. In many of the cases where events have been scheduled, CJP had also sent memorandums to the elected Members of the Maharashtra & Karnataka Legislative Assemblies (MLA) or the Members of Parliament (MPs) of the particular constituency/region where the HJS event was scheduled to take place, urging them to ensure that the police and authorities under them take the necessary preventive action. In almost none of these was any action noticeable.
A detailed table listing the complaints sent by CJP is as follows:
What did the preemptive complaint entail?
Through this preemptive complaint, CJP had has brought to the notice of the concerned district and state authorities that a “Hindu Rashtra Jagruti Sabha: event was scheduled to be held in their district, wherein anti-Muslim hate speeches were in all likelihood likely to be delivered, and calls for establishing a Hindu nation will be made, most often by stigmatizing (as second class, untrustworthy citizens) and targeting religious minorities.
The complaint first began by pointing out the guidelines and precedents set by the Supreme Court on hate speeches and the duties of the police officers in taking preventive actions. On February 3, 2023, the Supreme Court issued directions with respect to an event which was scheduled to be held in Mumbai on February 5 by Sakal Hindu Samaj. The court had taken an undertaking from government of Maharashtra that if permission for this event is granted “it will be subject to the condition that nobody will make any hate speech and in defiance of law or disturbing the public order.” There has been clearly multiple breaches of this “undertaking” made to the highest court. The court also gave directions that it shall be the duty of the police officers to invoke section 151 of Code of Criminal Procedure for preventive action in case the need for the same arises.
The complaint also highlighted the oath taken by every government servant, including Indian Police Service officers, under the Third Schedule of the Constitution [Articles 75(4), 99, 124(6), 148(2), 164(3), 188 and 219]. Through this emphasis, the complaint reminded the specific elected representatives, and the concerned IPS and IAS officials of the constituency/district — as government servants who took an oath to be wedded to true faith solemnly affirm an allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, it is their statutory and Constitutional duty to take action against speakers at such events that make discriminatory remarks that affect the Right to Life, Equality, Justice and Equality before the Law of all Indians.
To substantiate their raise concerns about the HJS outfit, CJP, in its complaint has highlighted the divisive and majoritarian track record (background) of HJS, along with the previous hate speeches delivered at events organised by the HJS as well as the hate offenders associated with the organisation. It was provided that, in the past, many notorious hate offenders and hate speakers, such as T. Raja, Pramod Muthalik, Meenakshi Sharan, H.H. Sambhajirao Bhide, Kalicharan Maharaj and Suresh Chavhanke, had been associated with HJS, and participated in their activities. An event had been organised by the HJS last year where notorious hate offender Sambhaji Bhide had advocated for the boycott of Halal Products.
On these detailed and researched lines, the CJP had urged the Police to take preventive measures to stop this event from taking place and take any other action deemed necessary in this regard.
A sample of such a complaint in its entirety may be read here.
In addition to this, CJP had sent preemptive memorandums to the elected MLAs and MPs of the concerned districts, reminding them of their oaths and duties, to do all that they can in their power in ensuring that the police takes the required preventive action in this highlighted regard by following due process of law.
The full memorandum sent to the MPs/MLAs may be read here.
Was any action actually taken in pursuance to the preemptive complaints?
After sending the complaint, the standard procedure developed by the CJP Legal Team was to call at the numbers of the authorities to whom the complaint was sent, to ensure that the authorities have received the complaint. This said SOP was developed after the CJP team had contacted the Ratnagiri authorities with the aim of following up and questioned them regarding the inaction pursuant to the complaint. It is essential to note, that after the first preemptive complaint was sent to the Ratnagiri preemptive complaint, the HJS had uploaded pictures and photos from the Ratnagiri event. Thus, it had become evident that the event had taken place with no checks and balances apparently in place. After have questioned the authority, it had become evident that the complaints had not even been opened by the police officers, much less been taken cognizance of.
A detailed account of the same can be read here.
Pursuant to this, the CJP Team had started contacting each and every officer to whom the complaint had been addressed. Most of these phone calls yielded no results, the officers would only shrug responsibility, provide more numbers of more police officers, stating that the area of the scheduled event did not fall under their jurisdiction! Contacting those numbers would just lead to more numbers being given, of control rooms, of constables and police station inspectors, none of whom knew what guidelines or what events we were referring to.
What is most concerning is that the apparently efficient digitalized mode of communication (emails etc.) listed on police websites for the citizenry are completely ineffective: there is almost no connect between the computer cabins that “receive” such communications and the district police or location/beat police offices meant to respond to potentially disruptive programmes!
Ironically, there were also rare cases where the police officer would actually be aware about the event and the complaint. In the case of Udupi, the police officer officially told CJP that even though they are aware of the event taking place, they do not think that hate speeches will be made! When the team highlighted that the HJS has been notorious for indulging in hate speech against Muslims, –that too in Udupi itself–the office of the police came back with “we will look into it.”
In the case of Jharkhand, the officers contacted by the team were aware about the event. Despite this, they repeatedly asked the team members to physically come to the station to file a complaint. This clearly means that the SC guidelines directing the police to follow the; law and file complaints is not being followed. On being told that CJP is a non-governmental organisation in Mumbai, the officer just said that nothing can be done in that case, and only coming to the police station will help. All the efforts of re-iterating the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court did not result in any action.
In the case of Mumbai, CJP Team spoke to the senior police inspector of Azad Maidan police station. When the team raised its concerns regarding the impending rally, the officer said that they had said that they are aware about it, and are planning to monitor it. When asked if they will be video-graphing the event as well, they did not clarify. The officer had also said that they did not think any hate speech or any anti-Muslim speech will be taking place at the said event.
What actually happened: the hate speeches made at the events
From the Facebook pages and the Twitter pages of HJS, videos and photos events have been uploaded. Except for Jharkhand and Mumbai, the HJS had organised a Hindu Rashtra Jagruti Sabha event at all the other places. While only the video of the Dapoli event speech has been provided on the HJS Facebook, it can be easily asserted that a similar speech was given at the event organised at other districts too. In Dapoli, the speech given was one hour long, and the same repeated calls for establishing Hindu Rashtra, previously also uttered, were also made. The main speaker was Manoj Khadaye, Coordinator of HJS. In his speech, he brought in the favourite bogey topics of the extremist Hindu outfits, such as “Love-Jihad,” “Halal Certificate”, “Forced” Religious conversions, to target the religious minorities of the country.
Some of the derogatory statements that were made are as follows:
“Until Love Jihad law is not introduced, our struggle will continue. When Shraddha Walker was murdered, many morchas were held but that is not enough. When our women are in distress, we do not do candle march. When Sita was kidnapped, Hanuman burnt Lanka- that is our tradition”
“We do not speak against Muslim(s) but who are the ones doing love jihad? Who are killing cows? We have to take their name”
“Around 30,000 cows are being slaughtered every month.”
“These Christian missionaries are roaming around with Bibles in villages and trying to converting people. They lie to people and try to convert them that you will be cured of diseases. Hence we should oppose religious conversion.”
The video can be viewed here:
In Mumbai, the event that was planned was for promoting the agenda of fort protection of Islamic encroachment. Through their speeches that were promoting the event, each person had specifically mentioned that the forts in Maharashtra have been encroached upon by Muslims and mosques and ‘Mazar’ have been built in the premises of these forts. Through this event, they had demanded for the removal of encroachments on forts, action against those officials who allowed such encroachments, no rehabilitation of encroachers at the expense of the government and setting up of a State level Committee to preserve forts. Words like land jihad, love jihad bulldozers were also used a lot during this event
Some of the derogatory statements that were made are as follows:
“If they can come together for breaking our country (anti-CAA protests) why can’t we come together for our religion?”
“There is no adharm in removing this encroachment.”
“We are ready to shed blood.”
“This way they are taking over all the heritage structures that were built by Shivaji Maharaj and stern action is necessary from the state government.”
The video can be viewed here:
Is India a country with myriad laws and guidelines, but no implementation?
The Supreme Court of India used the word “embarrassed” to express itself when lawyers kept approaching the court to prohibit hate speeches from happening. “You ask us to be embarrassed again and again by getting an order [and nobody taking action],” the bench remarked orally when a lawyer wanted to argue an application to prohibit a Hindu Jan Akrosh Morcha rally in Mumbai on February 5, on the grounds that this rally would be platforming anti-Muslim hate speech.
But the truth is that human rights activists and human rights lawyers have no option left but to approach the Supreme Court for even the smallest hate speech violation, faced as they are with brazen inaction by the state police on ground. Approaching the Supreme Court has become the only resort for justice.
Not only is there a lack of implementation of the Supreme Court guidelines at the grass root level. From police to elected leaders, our urges and preemptive complaints fell on deaf ears despite dedicated and responsible follow-up. It became evident that these emails and phone numbers available on online police station websites are cosmetic
What will the Supreme Court now do if the officers in charge of implementing the guidelines are simply refusing to do so, owing to either willful ignorance or political pressure, influence or affiliation? How may a common concerned citizen of India even raise the issue of rights for law if the officer within whose jurisdiction these events fall remain unreachable? Who do the citizens approach when the police refuses to do their jobs?
Curbing hate speeches in India cannot be the job of an individual. The strong oprganisational network, political patronage and funding backing these extremist Hindu outfits is substantial and subversive. It behooves district courts, the high courts and the Supreme Court to step into the act. Has India reached a stage where in several states the political executive and it’s police is/are violating the law and Constitution and simply ignoring the substantive diktats issued, time and again, by our constitutional courts.
(A petition demanding strict action on growing hate speech events in the state of Maharashtra has been initiated by CJP. The petition points towards the systematic hate speech rallies being carried out throughout the state, states that “some organised groups, politically connected, are involved, in a systematic organisation of such events across many districts and carry out rallies and invite speakers known to have delivered hate speeches in the past. The said petition may be signed here.)
 HJS was one of the first extremist outfits to start a movement against ‘Halal Jihad’, a ban on Halal meat, and had even come out with a book on the same issue. They had called for a boycott of halal meat products during Ugadi in Karnataka in 2019, a festival where many Hindus offer meat to deities and also eat it themselves. Mohan Gowda, the Samiti spokesperson, had even told the media that this campaign against halal meat was started by them as, in Islam, halal meat is first offered to Allah, and the same cannot be offered to Hindu gods. They have been pressurising the government to ban Halal products, motivating people to economically boycott the Muslim community. This halal ban then snowballed into a bigger controversies, turning it into ‘Halal Jihad’ or ‘Economic Jihad’.
Memo seeking preventive action against Hindu Janajagruti Samiti event sent to authorities
Citizens’ attempts to prevent hate speech event ignored, Hate Event allowed by Ratnagiri Police
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The threat and lawlessness of “Gau-Rakshaks” in North India
How the Supreme Court has interpreted hate speech over decades
Supreme Court trains its gaze on hate speech, once again
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