Activists, civil society groups demand action against ‘unchecked’ hate speeches in poll-bound Karnataka

The delegation submitted a memorandum to the DG-IGP's office demanding the immediate arrest of those delivering hate speeches.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Feb 22, 2023 | 7:45 AM Updated Feb 22, 2023 | 7:45 AM

A placard by civil society groups before police head quarters in Bengaluru on Tuesday

A group of concerned citizens from Bengaluru, including independent activists and civil society groups, met IGP-Public Grievances and HR at the State Police Head Quarters on Tuesday, 21 February.

Their concern? Unchecked hate speeches being delivered in poll-bound Karnataka in the garb of public rallies and speeches.

The delegation submitted a memorandum asking the police to register suo motu FIRs over hate speeches against minority communities — especially their women.

Sri Rama Sene chief’s speeches flagged

The memorandum listed out some of the recent hate speeches, including one from Sunday in Bagalkot, where hardline Hindutva outfit Sri Rama Sene’s chief Pramod Muthalik openly called upon young Hindu men to lure or trap 10 Muslim girls for every one Hindu girl “lost” to “love jihad”.

Muthalik told a cheering gathering that he would assure all kinds of security and employment to such men.

The right-winger had earlier asked all Hindus to keep sharp weapons at home.

On 13 February, Karnataka Minister for Higher Education Ashwath Narayan in Mandya asked people to “finish off” former chief minister and Congress Legislature Party chief Siddaramaiah as was the fate of Tipur Sultan, apparently according to a new play that takes a revisionist look at history.

Civil society groups against hate speech before police head quarters in Bengaluru on Tuesday

Civil society groups against hate speech before police headquarters in Bengaluru on Tuesday. (Supplied)

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) convenor Sharan Pumpwell, on 29 January in Tumakuru openly said that Hindus killed a Muslim youth named Mohammad Fazil to avenge the killing of Hindutva activist Praveen Nettaru.

He also justified the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat and deemed the atrocities on Muslims a “display of Hindu power”.

Pumpwell also deemed Muslims “Jihadi dogs” and added that they would kill “eight Muslims if one Hindu karyakarta is killed”.

Another controversial seer, Kali Swamy, also said in Tumakuru on 29 July last year: “At least nine Muslims should be killed for Bajrang Dal worker Praveen Nettaru’s murder.”

These are only some of the more egregious instances of hate speech. Casual bigotry and offensive comments about minority communities are par for the course in many election speeches, especially among the right wing.

Repeat offenders

Many of these people are repeat offenders. For example, Muthalik earlier called for an economic boycott of Muslim shops and vendors.

In December last year, BJP MP Pragya Thakur, at an event in Karnataka, called for violence against minorities, urging Hindus to “cut off heads of enemies like one cuts vegetables”.

Given the current situation, the activists demanded that the police register an FIR against Muthalik and all the others under Sections 153(a)(b) and 505(2) of the IPC.

The activists also demanded that suo motu FIRs be registered in all future cases of hate speech, they be probed thoroughly and quickly, and the results shared publicly.

The tone and tenor of hate speeches have been turning more vicious in nature, said the activists who had compiled a set of recent hate speeches in the memorandum handed over to the state’s top police brass.

However, as the DG-IGP was not present in office, they had to submit the memorandum to the IGP for Grievances and HR.

Independent activist Madhu Bhushan, Gamana Mahila Samuha member Mamata Yajman, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) member Arvind Narrain, Domestic Workers Rights Union member Geeta Menon, and Global Concerns member Maria were a part of the delegation that submitted the memorandum.

Can’t register suo moto FIRs, say police…

Civil society groups against hate speech before police head quarters in Bengaluru on Tuesday

Civil society groups against hate speech before police head quarters in Bengaluru on Tuesday

The delegation of activists also brought along placards and held a demonstration in front of the DG-IGP’s office before they met with the IGP.

The placard asked the DG-IGP questions like: “Does the police think women’s bodies from one community to another are for exchange?”, “Who is stopping the police from complying with the SC guidelines?”, and “Dear DGP sir, why are there no suo motu FIRs against hate speech?”

Responding to the delegation, the IGP said that the police could not register suo motu FIRs.

Senior officers did consider it, but after getting legal opinion, they felt they could act only on private complaints.

However, the delegation sought an appointment with the DGP to discuss preventive steps in detail.

…Yes you can, say activists

According to the activists, what the police were saying was wrong. They said the police can register an FIR on their own in all cognizable cases.

Suo motu FIRs were registered against the likes of Chetan Ahimsa, Amulya, and Arudra during the NRC protests. And the Supreme Court in the case of Shaheen Abdulla versus the Union of India and others directed three state governments to register suo moto FIR in cases of hate speeches.

Parliament has repeatedly said love jihad does not exist. What are the police doing against those who spread this myth of love jihad, the activists asked.

“We have clear guidelines from the Supreme Court that the police should register a suo motu case even when there is no complaint on instances of hate speech. The court is very cognizant about this, and the police have taken an oath to protect the constitution and safeguard the unity, integrity and fraternity,” said Arvind Narrain, an advocate and a member of PUCL.