The Delhi police have arrested Umar Khalid for allegedly inciting the communal carnage that tore through Delhi in February this year, and charged him under the anti-terrorism law UAPA. The activist’s “crime”? He made speeches at protests against the citizenship law urging people to hit the street during American president Donald Trump’s visit to Delhi. According to the police, Khalid’s “provocative speeches” were part of a “conspiracy” to incite violence in the capital. As “evidence”, they have cited an of Khalid shared on social media by BJP leaders.
The police have also named Harsh Mander in one of the chargesheets related to the carnage filed in June. The veteran social justice activist, the chargesheet claimed, “instigated the protesters to not have faith in the Supreme Court and to fight their battle on road to get justice. He however used a façade of peace in a part of his speech.”
Mander had earlier been accused by no less an authority than India’s solicitor general of making a “hate speech” disparaging the Supreme Court and asking the people to hit the streets against the citizenship law.
If what Khalid and Mander said is construed as “hate speech”, what do we call the poison that BJP leaders, present and past, have injected into India’s national discourse? And if Khalid’s and Mander’s words are prosecutable offences, as the Indian state and its agents insist they are, why aren’t those of people like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, LK Advani, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Rithambara?
Clearly, the standards for what qualifies as ‘hate speech’ are quite selective.
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