Thursday, May 19, 2022

Why there is one-sided application of “hate speech” laws in India

Image: Courtesy The Economist

“I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment”

Malcolm X

What is “Hate Speech”, making a lot of news in India lately, especially by a puppet pre-paid media?

“The hate speech laws in India aim to prevent discord among its many ethnic and religious communities. The laws allow a citizen to seek the punishment of anyone who shows the citizen disrespect “on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or any other ground whatsoever”. (NLUD Report on Hate Speech Laws in India, 2018).

Let me elaborate on “grounds” highlighted above first. 

On grounds of religion – hate speech and religious books may be a good place to start. Should we start with religious books that came from outside India first, or should we treat all religious books equally, and what would be the next steps?

On grounds of race – I like to think that trying to sort out where people came from defines race more than anything else. Since human beings are by definition nomadic, and race really can not be defined, maybe that is better replaced by “State”? Which may impact the “sons of the soil” concept being floated by “regional” politics?

On grounds of place of birth – this has become fairly complicated in an India where we call our own Citizens who move around for economic or environmental or any other reason as “migrant labour”. Maybe that term should be addressed first, how can a Citizen be a migrant?

On grounds of residence – very interesting. I live in a part of Delhi where the Association regularly tries to block other Citizens from transiting within, on public roads, paid for by tax-payers and the State. Does that fit, when it says “NO ENTRY for OUTSIDERS”?

On grounds of “language, caste or any other grounds whatsoever”. Presumably that also includes gender and social status in a newly affluent and assertive India. Caste, especially, since it appears to now have become a part of all religions in India, where sectarian hate gets conflated with caste hate – what is “Hate Speech” when applied to non-majority castes?

To me, “hate speech” goes way beyond the spoken or written word, it includes every form of communication that causes me to suffer from “discord”.

For example, I may find a “halal meat only served here” board in public to be equal to “hate speech”, if I am eating at a location where I have no choice. What are my options then? This question to, for example, Indian Railways – because it has caused me discord in the past too.

Is “hate speech” only about somebody threatening to kill violently another person or persons? In that case, do look at the above examples, and let me know – is killing the spirit of co-existence by creating “discord” by other means not included in “hate speech”?


Then there is Section 153(A) and Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code.

Here I want to quote from Malcolm X again, ““I don’t have any hate. I’ve got some sense. I’m not going to let anybody who hates me tell me to love him. I’m not that way-out.”

Those of us who read about who killed Malcolm X and why may find resonance with the present one-sided application of Hate Speech laws in India. Alternately, the movie on his life on Netflix, would be a good idea to understand the concept and context within which this was said.

Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.

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