Friday, May 24, 2024

“Grow a spine or resign,” democratic rights groups protest ECI’s inaction against hate speech and misconduct

In an effort to hold the ECI responsible for its lack of action against breaking the MCC and the law during the Lok Sabha elections, a number of democratic rights organisations launched a joint campaign.

A joint complaint was filed on Saturday through the Chief Electoral Officers in multiple cities, including Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and others.

A letter was also sent to the Chief Election Commissioner’s office in Delhi. This group of organisations and concerned individuals also launched a postcard campaign, in which hundreds of postcards with the image of a spine were delivered from different locations to ECI, Delhi.

The post-cards carried a message, “Grow A Spine or Resign”. 

The letter criticised ECI’s failure in combating hate speech and misinformation campaigns. It cited multiple hate speeches made by PM Modi targeting Muslim community during the election campaign.

“Mr. Modi has made several speeches which pit communities against one another and promote hatred between communities on religious lines. This amounts to a violation of the Model Code of Conduct, amounts to a corrupt practice under the Representation of People’s Act and is a violation of the ECIs advisory to political parties. So far Mr. Modi, who is a star campaigner has not even been served a notice,” the letter read.

Despite an FIR being filed in the case of BJP Karnataka hatred spreading videos, the content was not taken down until after the voting, the letter added. it also questioned the impunity given to BJP for using religious symbols and distorted facts in the election campaign.

Concern over ECI sharing the voter turnout in percentage alone and not in number was also raised since there were reported discrepancies between votes polled and votes counted during previous Lok Sabha election.

The letter also highlighted the partial approach of Election Commission in dealing with the complaints. it alleged while Randeep Surjewala of the Congress, Mr. K. Chandrashekhar Rao of the BRS, both belonging to the opposition, have been banned from campaigning for 48 hours over MCC violations, more serious violations by the BJP have been ignored.

It was also argued that the idea of democracy has been subverted. Several candidates have reported threats by the BJP in Gandhinagar and elsewhere. Some candidates have switched over to the BJP at the last minute. In Surat and Indore, there were no elections held and winners declared, the letter claimed.

The letter also demanded that surrogate advertising and targeted online campaigns carried out by political parties for influencing voters should be brought under adequate scrutiny.

Several democratic rights organisations including People’s Union for Civil LibertieS, National Alliance for People’s Movements, All India Lawyers Association for Justice, Bharat Bachao Andolan, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy, Citizens for the Constitution, The Bombay Catholic Sabha, Association for Protection of Civil Rights and others collectively undertook the campaign.

The letter was signed by 222 people from various walks of life, including lawyers, activists, filmmakers, academics and concerned citizens. 

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