Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Genocidal speech: Over 100 civil servants seek action against Pragya Thakur

A group of civil servants on Saturday sought action against Bharatiya Janata Party MP Pragya Thakur for urging Muslim genocide.

Two week ago, Terror case accused BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur urged Hindus to keep weapons prepared at home to use against enemies. Thakur’s remarks citing “Love Jihad” indicates she is referring to Muslims as enemies. “Keep weapons at home. Keep them sharp. If veggies can be cut well, so can the enemy’s head,” Thakur is caught saying at the event.

On Saturday, the ex-bureaucrats in a statement issued under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Group said that the context and the use of the term “love jihad” leaves no doubt that Thakur was targeting Muslims with her remarks.

The statement was signed by 103 retired civil servants, including Former Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Indian Administrative Services officers Harsh Mander, Julio Ribeiro and Aruna Roy.

On December 28, the FIR was filed against Thakur under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, and race) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code.

Read the full text of the statement:

We are a group of former officers of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. As members of the Constitutional Conduct Group, we believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Indian Constitution and in safeguarding its values.

It has been reported in the media that, on 25 December, 2022, while addressing a gathering of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike’s South Region annual convention in Shivamogga, Karnataka, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Pragya Thakur, also known as Sadhvi Pragya, exhorted the crowd to guard their women against men of other communities. She urged them to keep their vegetable knives sharp so these could be used as weapons against those who allegedly kill Hindus; these knives could also be used to cut off the heads of those indulging in ‘love jihad’, if such an opportunity presented itself. Such action would be construed to be in self-defence, she said, a right which every individual has. She was clearly telling her Hindu audience that they had to be afraid of attacks from non-Hindus, and though the word ‘Muslim’ does not seem to have been specifically used, the context and the use of the term ‘love jihad’ leaves no doubt that it was the Muslim community that she was targeting. It is also possible that she was sending out a warning against Christians and other non-Hindu communities as well. Though Sadhvi Pragya Thakur appears to have cleverly chosen her words to avoid criminal charges being made against her, the disguise is only a thin one. She is obviously fomenting hate against non-Hindu communities, and advocating violence against them.

By her incendiary words,  Pragya Thakur has not only  committed several offences under the Indian Penal Code, she has also violated the oath taken by her as Member of Parliament to uphold the Constitution of India, which is premised upon the rights to life and liberty, secularism, equality and fraternity. A group of civil society organizations (the Campaign Against Hate Speech, Bahutva Karnataka, All India Lawyers Association for Justice and People’s Union for Civil Liberties – Karnataka) has recently circulated a petition addressed to the Honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha to disqualify Pragya Thakur from being a Member of Parliament because of her recent communal utterances at Shivamogga. We, in the Constitutional Conduct Group, also strongly believe that stern action should be taken against her as per the rules of the Lok Sabha. By her incendiary hate speech and her repeated acts of propagating hate, she has forfeited the ethical right to be a Member of Parliament.

As a society, we seem to have become inured to hate speech against minorities.  A daily dose of venom is spewed, in the print, visual and social media against different non-Hindu communities, primarily against Muslims, and more lately against Christians as well. Often, these verbal attacks are accompanied by physical violence, assaults on their places of worship, anti-conversion legislation, hurdles placed in the way of inter-faith marriages, denial of livelihoods and a myriad other actions to lower their status in society. A compliant media and systematic distortion of history by people in positions of authority feed this frenzy of communal hate. Regulatory institutions are compromised through inducement or intimidation  and oversight institutions of democracy have been suborned.

In this very charged environment, it is the judiciary that has from time to time passed orders which have helped to partly stymie the flood of hate and reclaim the republic. We would like to quote extracts from two Supreme Court pronouncements in particular, Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan vs Union of India, 2014 and the more recent statements of October 2022 by Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy:

Hate speech is an effort to marginalise individuals based on their membership in a group. Using expression that exposes the group to hatred, hate speech seeks to delegitimise group members in the eyes of the majority, reducing their social standing and acceptance within society. Hate speech, therefore, rises beyond causing distress to individual group members. It can have a societal impact. Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on vulnerable people that can range from discrimination, to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide. (2014)

The Constitution envisages Bharat as a secular nation, and fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and unity and the integrity of the country is the guiding principle enshrined in the Preamble. . . We feel that this court is charged with the duty to protect these fundamental rights and also protect and preserve the constitutional values and the secular, democratic character of the nation and in particular the rule of law. (2022) 

This latter order goes on to direct some of the respondents, viz. the governments of the NCT of Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh that

whenever any speech or any action takes place which attracts offences such as those under Sections 153A  153B , 295A   and 505  of the IPC suo motu action will be taken even if no complaint is forthcoming and proceed against offenders in accordance with law. . . . any hesitation to act in accordance with this direction will be viewed as contempt.

(All the sections of the IPC mentioned above have to do with offences in places of worship and against people belonging to religious and other groups.)

It is commendable that the police in Shivamogga have not been taken in by Sadhvi Pragya’s attempt to disguise her speech as being about self-defence and have registered one or more FIRs against her under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. We hope they will speedily move to file a charge sheet in the court.

As a group committed to the rule of law, democracy and the checks and balances inherent in the Constitution, we are heartened by such action and by the judiciary’s efforts to protect the India envisaged in the Constitution. We believe that not merely the judiciary, but every other relevant institution, should take action to protect the Constitution. A particular responsibility devolves on the Houses of Parliament which make laws for the country. Surely its members cannot be permitted to violate the principles of the Constitution? We therefore urge the Honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha to take immediate action to refer the matter to the Committee of Ethics of the Lok Sabha for such action as may be deemed appropriate.  The very fact that an FIR has been registered by the police against the Member of Parliament for inciting hatred should be ground enough to take action.

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