Friday, May 24, 2024

In Kerala poll fray, two candidates have hate speech cases against them: Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, BJP national sec Anil Antony

While the hate speeches against Muslims by BJP leaders, including its star campaigners, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, make headlines and spark outrage, in Kerala, the campaign intensifies against two BJP candidates who were previously booked in hate speech cases.

Two of BJP candidates in Kerala were charged with hate speech. Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar and BJP National Secretary Anil K Antony were booked under Sections 153 and 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 120(O) of the Kerala Police Act for disseminating hate speech against Muslims.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar faced two separate charges of hate speech. The hate speeches are in connection with a bomb blast at a convention of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kalamassery on 29 October last year. At least eight people were killed in the incident. A few hours after the blast incident, a man named Dominic Martin, claiming to be an estranged member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, surrendered to the police in Thrissur district, asserting that he carried out the multiple blasts. Between the blast and the surrender of Martin, right-wing profiles spread Islamophobia through social media, and BJP leaders including Chandrasekhar and Antony were at the forefront in spreading hate.

Shortly after the blast, Chandrasekhar linked the blast to Palestine solidarity events in Kerala, accusing Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of “dirty, shameless, appeasement politics” and indirectly promoting terrorism through support for Hamas.

He was subsequently booked following a complaint by a Congress leader for his comments, which were widely criticized as spreading hate and Islamophobia.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan came down heavily on the Union Minister, accusing him of spreading hate speech and Islamophobia. Following Rajeev’s post on X, Vijayan said that Rajeev was not “spitting out just any poison, but deadly poison.”

Both FIRs against the minister were filed at the Ernakulam Central police station, covering charges of provocation with intent to cause a riot and promoting enmity between different groups, along with penalties for causing a nuisance and violating public order.

Anil Antony was also booked in two hate speech cases. The first pertained to the same blast, while the second case arose from a hate comment he made about burqa-clad women on social media, following a viral video of students protesting a bus not stopping at their college. Antony’s comment, “No bus rides without a burqa in northern Kerala,” led to widespread sharing and Islamophobic remarks on social media platforms. This comment drew a formal complaint, which led to the police booking.

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