Incitement to violence

As the general elections approach the protagonists of militant HIndutva are becoming more intemperate in propagating their point of view. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad says it will gherao all the members of Parliament to get their consent for building the Ram Mandir. The hint is that any member who has a different view on the Mandir issue will be targeted. In West Bengal some senior BJP leaders have asked party members and supporters to “bury in the earth” anyone daring to obstruct the Ram Rath Yatras they are bringing out from three different corners of the State. These leaders have asked their supporters to come armed with sticks and spears. These are very dangerous statements coming from leaders of a party which is now ruling the country. Instead of condemning violence they are giving open incitement to violence.
Such threats are fraught with the danger of evoking an equally strong response from those that are being targeted. It is a pity that those who should have been the most restrained in their public speeches are doing just the opposite. Political temperature rises during every election. To a certain extent this is unavoidable but all responsible political parties should refrain from saying or doing anything that provokes violence. Intemperate speeches can only obfuscate healthy debate on issues of public importance. An organization may be ardently supportive of building a Ram Mandir and within the democratic framework they may propagate or agitate for their demand. But putting pressure on lawmakers to support a particular point of view goes against the spirit of democracy.
So far, the West Bengal Government has exercised restraint and refused to be provoked by public incitement to violence. But if incitements lead to actual violence, it will be left with no alternative other than to do whatever is necessary to stop violence. From verbal threats to physical action is but one remove. Actually, such threats expose the lack of public support for their cause. It may not be wise to expect that the ideologues of hard Hindutva will restrain their followers. In a plural society attempts at imposition of uniformity of thought and action have no place. But such attempts are very much in evidence and they have the backing of the powers that be. In these circumstances it is for civil society to act as watchdogs and do all that is necessary to maintain social harmony.

Saturday, 17 November, 2018