Recently the BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri made a hate speech against Danish Ali MP from BSP in parliament. The words used against Danish Ali being a Muslim were urgrawaadi (militant), aatankwadi (terrorist), mulla (slur used against Muslims), bhadwa (pimp) and katwa (circumcised). Instead of a condemnation by the ruling party, what was witnessed were the senior BJP leaders Harsh Vardhan and Ravi Shankar Prasad laughing when such statements were being made. Om Birla, the speaker just left with a tweet indicating that such things should not repeat in future.
Hate speeches by BJP leaders is not something new. It has been part and parcel of BJP leaders exhibiting hate against minorities. Amit Shah had described Bangladeshi migrants (based on identity) as termites. Yogi Adityanath had made a statement that Hindu audiences should dig graves of Muslim women and rape the corpses and if one Hindu is killed, hundred Muslims should be killed. Modi had made a statement that people can be identified by their clothes. Raja Singh described a Muslim predominant area of the city as ‘Mini Pakistan’. Anant Hegde had stated that as long as there is Islam, there will be no peace in the world.
Hate speeches are not condemnable events in BJP but aspects that are incentivised. Hence it is not surprising that Yogi Adiyanath despite his hate speeches went on to become Chief Minister of the largest state. Anurag Thakur went on to become Minister for Information and Broadcasting. Competitive exhibiting of hate by BJP leaders – chief ministers, ministers, aspirant leaders only raise their position within the party and have been used again and again.
What makes the current hate statement of Ramesh Bidhuri different is that it has entered parliament. It was just about to happen anytime and happened now in an environment where hate has been mainstreamed. What was part of discussions of internal shakhas and close internal discussions of communal haters has entered the public domain and public speeches. It has entered homes through social media, whaatsapp university and godi media. It has been institutionalised through making representatives of hate as institutional heads. It has polarised families, neighbourhoods, rural and urban locations. It has converted security police into a murderer as was seen in incident of killing of four Muslims in a train by a Railway protection force (RFP) constable. It has made teachers to practice Muslim hate in a classroom as was witnessed where Hindu students were asked to slam a Muslim student. As hate has been mainstreamed among public, its entry into parliament was something about to happen. For BJP such mainstreaming of hate inside parliament may be seen as an assertion of nationalism. It represents an awakening of Hindus. It is nothing but reaching new lows in parliamentary democracy.
It was last year a booklet was released by Lok Sabha secretariat where it listed out what it considered as ‘unparliamentary words. Words used by opposition to condemn government was banned. Among such words include ‘jumlajeevi’, ‘baal buddhi’, ‘snoopgate’, ‘ashamed’, ‘abused’, ‘betrayed’, ‘drama’, ‘hypocrisy’, ‘incompetent’. The speaker acted against opposition in what he perceived as condemnable. In August 2022, the speaker suspended four congress MPs for carrying placards inside the house. About seven MPs were suspended in March 2023 during budget session. MPs from AAP were suspended recently over Manipur issue and a social media post. The speaker otherwise quick to act on opposition remains inactive when it comes to the government. The list of unparliamentary words released by the secretariat does not consist of the ones used by BJP members as part of their hate speech.
Given the fact that hate speakers go on to raise within the party in BJP, it would not be surprising Ramesh Bidhuri would acquire an important position in government or the party soon. The trend of mainstreaming of hate speeches in public including in parliament would continue. The new parliament would only accommodate words in line with hate speech by BJP and condemn words which are considered critical of the government.
Expectedly, the statement by Ramesh Beghuri is receiving international condemnation. Unfortunately, the Indian godi media is not debating this issue while the international media continues to do so. Al Jazeera described the speech as ‘a flagrant display of Islamophobia’ and a ‘reminder of the rising tide of hate speech against Muslims in India’. Guardian described it as ‘shocking, appalling and a reflection of the growing normalisation of hate speech against Muslims in India’. New York Times described it as ‘a new low in the Indian parliament and a sign of growing emboldening of Hindu extremists in India’. BBC raised concerns about the safety of Muslims in India. Deutsche Welle mentioned it as ‘a disturbing sign of the growing intolerance against Muslims in India, a dangerous example of hate speech and a threat to social cohesion in India. France 24 described it as a sign of the rising tide of Islamophobia in India. In India, Indian express described it as a dangerous and irresponsible statement that could lead to violence and hatred against Muslims in India. The Hindu described it as a shameful display of Islamophobia and a betrayal of the ideals of the Indian constitution.
The issue of hate speech in parliament perhaps needs to be discussed and debated to educate the public of how it threatens India’s secular fabric and democratic traditions. During G-20 summit, the Government had described India as a mother of Democracy. No democracy can discriminate its citizens based on religion and allow hate to be normalised.
T Navin is an independent writer