Congress Manifesto and Banning Hate Speech: Case of Karnataka
Dr. Ram Puniyani
As the Karnataka election campaign is underway (May 2023), Congress released its manifesto in which it committed that the organizations spreading Hate will be banned. Already PFI has been banned, on those lines it equated Bajrang Dal, a part of RSS combine, with PFI.
In response there was a mini storm cup and BJP, right from top Narendra Modi downwards made it a major election campaign. In a way they got their favorite election plank. They equated Lord Hanuman with Bajrang Dal, and Mr. Modi accused Congress of trying to lock up Lord Hanuman as they earlier locked up Lord Ram. Incidentally BJP has been using Lord Ram in most of the elections so far. In contrast Congress retaliated by stating that equating Lord Hanuman with Bajrang Dal is an insult to Lord Hanuman, that BJP is hurting the sentiments of Hindus by making such an comparison. Some reminded that Sri Ram Sene of Pramod Mutalik was banned in Goa by the BJP itself! So BJP itself did ban an organization named after Lord Ram, so crying hoarse if one talks of Bajrang Dal, is a sheer political opportunism on the part of BJP.
Lord Hanuman is greatly revered in most of the places and Tulsidas’s Hanuman Chalisa may probably be the most often recited one at popular level. Lord Hanuman is also a symbol of devotion, can Bajrang dal in any way be synonymous with Bajrangbali.
To polarize the community, slogans of Bajrangbali are being given in the public meetings of BJP. Someone did point out that those who have sworn by the Indian Constitution, can they invoke Gods and Goddesses in political public meetings? Can the politicians from other faiths give the slogans of ‘Nara-E Tadbeer’ or ‘Allho Akbar’?
What is Bajrang Dal(BD)? It is a wing of VHP, which in turn is an affiliate of RSS. VHP came into prominence from the 1980s when it raised the issue of Ram Temple. BD was formed as its youth wing, to involve youth in Ram Temple campaign, initially in UP and later in other states also. BD was largely instrumental in recruiting youth for Kar Seva, demolition of the mosque. They played a major role in mobilization for Babri demolition. The creed of violence was visible with their offering a cup of blood and also putting a tilak of blood on the forehead of Mr. Advani during his Rath Yatra. The cult of violence was an inherent part of their programs.
Vinay Katiyar, the Chief of Bajrang Dal, who later became BJP MP, stated on the eve of Babri demolition that the mosque will be demolished and its debris will be thrown in river Sarayu. One recalls the breaking out of massive violence in the aftermath of Babri demolition.
BD also took up the issue of Valentine day celebrations by young couples. Couples exchanging Valentine Day greetings and spending time together were beaten up in different places. In due course it started opposing the wearing of jeans by girls and also came up with a dress code for girls.
The burning of Pastor Graham Steward Stains came as an “a monumental aberration of time-tested tolerance and harmony. The killings belong to the world’s inventory of black deeds”. (Ex-President K.R. Narayanan). Initially the then Home Minster L.K.Advani denied Bajrang being involved in this gruesome act. The investigations pointed the finger to Rajendra Pal aka Darasing who was a member of BD. He is currently serving life imprisonment.
The period of 2006 to 2008 witnessed many acts of terror. One of the initial acts was that of two Bajrang Dal activists Naresh and Hinmashu Panse were killed while they were making bomb and some mishap happened. There was kutra-pajama and fake beard near the site. Many such cases were also reported from different parts of the country. In January 2019, a BD worker, Yogesh Raj was arrested for the murder of Inspector Subodh Kumar in Bulandshahar in an issue related to dead cow.
There are a dozen such incidents. In the recent violence related to Ram navami violence. In Biharshrif violence, Kundan Kumar of BD has been arrested in connection with the violence.
What about PFI? The spread of hate and consequent violence has been the hallmark of their activities. One recalls the horrific cutting of hands of Kerala Professor, Joseph, for blasphemy in 2010. The commonality between such organizations operating in the name of religion is that they are intolerant, spread hate and resort to violence. As such there are similarities and differences both. At an earlier occasion Rahul Gandhi had compared RSS with Muslim brotherhood. Rahul Gandhi said, “The RSS is trying to change the nature of India. There is no other organization in India that wants to capture India’s institutions… It is similar to the idea that exists in the Arab world of the Muslim Brotherhood. The idea is that one ideology should run through every institution and one idea should crush all other ideas,” and that “Muslim Brotherhood was banned after Anwar Sadat’s assassination; RSS was banned after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination… And the most interesting one — women are not allowed in either of these organizations,”
Surely their modus oprandi is different but what puts them in the same league is their foundation on the particular understanding of their religion, imposing that version on the society and making it the base of their politics. They also oppose the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. They also share the promotion of charity work in the society.
During the course of the last few decades the religiosity has been intensified and politics in the name of religion is becoming powerful by the day. The fulcrum of the society has shifted towards orthodoxy and faith based attitudes in most aspects of society. The result is that even secular parties do not dare to ignore the intense use of religion in politics by communal forces. Today Taliban’s dictates for women may be the worst but that is a matter of degree, opposing girls wearing jeans and imposing the burqa are two spectrums of the same phenomenon!