March 02, 2016

India: Editorials in Times of India and Indian Express re central minister's endorsement of Agra hate speech: VHP, BJP leaders booked

Editorials from The Times of India and the Indian Express followed by a news report


The Times of India (March 2, 2016)

Say no to hate: Ruckus ensues over minister Katheria, BJP must rein in hatemongers
March 2, 2016, 3:22 am IST TOI Edit in TOI Editorials | Edit Page | TOI

Ram Shankar Katheria, Smriti Irani’s deputy in HRD ministry and BJP MP from Agra, has denied making inflammatory anti-Muslim remarks at a condolence meeting in the city for VHP worker Arun Mahaur where Muslims were equated by some speakers to “demons”, “descendants of Ravana” and warned of a “final battle”. However, according to reports backed by audiotapes, Katheria exhorted the crowd in Hindi, arguing that “we have to make ourselves powerful” and that “before another is lost, we must show such strength that these killers themselves disappear”.

With both houses of Parliament repeatedly disrupted and the opposition demanding his resignation for what Samajwadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav called “inflammatory remarks”, the minister has done a number of flip-flops. At first, on Monday, Katheria defended his remarks, saying that Arun Mahaur was murdered in broad daylight, that there was “too much anger among the Hindu community” and that the “protests will continue until we get justice”. On Tuesday, though, he insisted that “what has been published in newspapers” as his speech is “completely wrong” and that he didn’t name “any community” and only said that the killers “should be hanged”.

No one had the right to kill Arun Mahaur. His killing deserves the greatest condemnation, the guilty must be brought to justice and punished. The police have arrested five Muslim youth on charges of murder and rioting. Equally, no one has the right to take the law into their own hands, deliver mob justice or start communal riots. Yet, several BJP leaders at this condolence meeting, where about 5,000 people attended, seemed to urge this path. “If you want to test Hindus, then let’s decide a date,” BJP’s Fatehpur Sikri MP Babu Lal is reported to have said at the meeting.

With assembly elections due in 2017, politics in Uttar Pradesh is entering a trying phase. After the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, the last thing India needs is more communal violence. It is incumbent on all political parties to behave responsibly. Law and order is a state responsibility and lapses need to be debated and politically challenged, not responded to with threats of violence. BJP must rein in errant local leaders. It is time for all sides to urge restraint, or we risk opening up dangerous social fault lines again.

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The Indian Express (March 2, 2016)

Peddling hate
Central minister’s endorsement of the VHP’s call to arms is disturbing.
By: Express News Service
Published:Mar 2, 2016, 0:03

Last Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told Parliament that hate speech does not constitute free speech. He made the observation while defending the human resource development ministry’s role in the Rohith Vemula case and the JNU arrests. Three days later, the minister of state for HRD, Ram Shankar Katheria, was present at a VHP meeting called to condole the murder of one of its activists in Agra, where speaker after speaker urged Hindus to “corner Muslims and destroy the demons”. The minister said his official position would not stop him from taking to the streets for the purpose. Katheria has since clarified that he did not name any community in his speech, and the party seems satisfied with his explanation.

Unlike Jaitley, this newspaper believes that the right to free speech includes even hate speech as long as it is not an incitement to violence. But the Agra meet was a call to arms. Speakers threatened to turn Agra into a Muzaffarnagar, recalling the anti-Muslim riots in the town in the run-up to the 2014 general elections. The tone and tenor of the speeches were ominous. The BJP may argue that the VHP is an autonomous organisation that does not take orders from the party; it can’t be held responsible for the actions of fringe sections of the Sangh Parivar. But in this case, several BJP legislators attended the meet and a Central minister endorsed the call to aggression; BJP MP from Fatehpur Sikri, Babulal, called for an open fight with Muslims. The VHP now threatens to hold similar condolence meetings in every village in the Braj region. Local BJP leaders have endorsed the move, which is likely to polarise people along communal lines. With UP set for assembly elections next year, the tactic is obvious. In fact, the local MLA said in as many words that Hindus needed to show their strength — with rifles and knives — as the assembly election approaches. A polarising agenda may yield votes in the short run, but it can rupture the social fabric for a long time. The BJP brass must restrain its leaders from backing the VHP agenda, which can have disastrous consequences for UP’s composite society.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav bet on new investment to revive the economy. No policy intervention can attract investment in the absence of social peace. And, voters tend to penalise governments that fail to facilitate growth.

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The Indian Express

Agra hate speech: VHP, BJP leaders booked
Three persons named in the FIR are VHP’s Agra district general secretary Ashok Lavania, BJP corporator and party’s Braj Region unit vice-president Kundanika Sharma and one Prashant Chowdhary.

By: Express News Service | Lucknow | Published:March 2, 2016 12:11 am

TWO DAYS after Union minister of state and BJP MP Ramshankar Katheria delivered a hate speech against Muslims in Agra, the police on Tuesday lodged an FIR against VHP and BJP leaders on charges of hurting religious feelings and promoting enmity.

Last Sunday, Muslims were equated to “demons” and “descendants of Ravana”, and warned of a “final battle”, as the Sangh Parivar held a condolence meeting in Agra for VHP district vice-president Arun Mahaur, who was shot dead by some Muslim youths on February 24. Among those present on the dais were Katheria, the Agra MP, as well as BJP’s Fatehpur Sikri MP Babu Lal, apart from other local leaders, who joined in the threats to Muslims.

Three persons named in the FIR are VHP’s Agra district general secretary Ashok Lavania, BJP corporator and party’s Braj Region unit vice-president Kundanika Sharma and one Prashant Chowdhary.

The FIR was lodged on the complaint of Sub-Inspector Anil Kumar at Loha Mandi police station. Kumar, who is in-charge of Japraus police outpost, has stated in his complaint that he was present at Sunday’s meeting.

“Kumar has submitted a report stating that he was present at the meeting where the three named accused and others made objectionable speeches. On the basis of the report, an FIR has been lodged… We will obtain video footage of the meeting to identity other persons present there…,” ASP (Agra city) Ghule Sushil Chandrabhan said.

Loha Mandi Station House Officer and investigating officer of the case, Harendra Pal Singh, said those named in the FIR have been booked under sections 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of the IPC.

When contacted, Anil Kumar said the FIR has been filed on the basis of the video footage of the meeting.
- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/lucknow/agra-hate-speech-vhp-bjp-leaders-booked/