What do you get when you cross a regime which spends its time othering minorities with a fourth estate whose TRP model is based on poisoning the atmosphere and spreading hate? You get what you deserve. Or to quote the honourable Home Minister – 'Aap chronology samajh lijiye.'
A few days after the MoS Finance and former BCCI President Anurag Thakur chanted ‘desh ke gaddaron ko’ at a rally, urging the crowd to finish the sentence, a juvenile calling himself ‘Rambhakt’, shot into a crowd of Jamia protesters.
The juvenile with his slicked-back hair – the follicular choice of young men spitting water in TikTok videos – chanted ‘yeh lo azaadi’ before shooting into the crowd. We should be glad that he was using what people in UP and Bihar call a desi katta with limited means to cause violence.
On the other hand, the Delhi Police – which moves with the alacrity of an airline about to ban Kunal Kamra when asked to infiltrate libraries – idly watched with the energy of a snail returning home from a funeral on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Even former UP DGP Vikram Singh was shocked and wondered why the cops didn’t neutralise the attacker. He told Aaj Tak: “I had high hopes from the Delhi Police. The shooter gave a chance of 20 seconds to the cops on ground. He brandished his weapon and shouted some slogans. He could have been controlled by [the police] overpowering him. But that did not happen."
None of this should surprise us anymore. After all, Anurag Thakur isn’t the only Union Minister to make divisive statements about the protests. From Amit Shah to Ravi Shankar Prasad to JP Nadda, union ministers have been falling over themselves to blame Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi, making communally charged statements to appeal to the core voter base.
This despite the fact that Kejriwal has been so detached from the JNU student violence that he has infuriated some of his own online supporters but the Delhi CM seems to have learnt the virtue of staying out fights where he can’t beat Modi. He has given the ‘nationalist vs anti-nationalist’ plank a wide berth and instead focussed on development, something that has been conspicuous by its absence.
Whether it’s Anurag Thakur or Parvesh Verma (‘people from Shaheen Bagh will rape your sisters and daughters’), the juvenile’s actions are a reminder that constant vilification has consequences. They are not the only ones.
Even propaganda channels masquerading as news channels went insane. The one whose anchor loves privacy on planes first claimed that the shooter was an anti-CAA protester. The website Newslaundry quoted Aishwarya Kapoor, the channel’s political editor saying: “In the name of CAA...guns are being brandished in broad daylight on the streets of the national capital. Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal have supported it."
They ran tickers to that effect as well when a simple Google search would’ve told us about the shooter’s political inclinations.
Later on, the propagandist-in-chief, or to borrow a phrase from former SC judge Makandey Katju – Lord Bhow Bhow – actually ran a campaign speaking about the ‘provocation’ – with the hash tag #StopProvokingIndia.
Imagine running a campaign called ‘Stop Provoking’ after the Charlie Hebdo shooting and you get the current state of the debate.
Another popular ‘fact-checking website’, tried a host of other techniques including an article explaining why ‘Left, liberals and Opposition must take responsibility’.
To quote Joey Tribbiani: “The line is so far, that it’s a dot now.”
What makes the situation even worse is the fact that there seems to absolutely no checks and balances against this sort of hate-mongering. No one is pulled up, there are no consequences for these actions. There can be no doubt that the actions and utterances of the ministers are leading us here.
If we are to apply the Brandenburg Test – the gold standard for when a govt should prohibit hate speech – it fails on both counts. Named after a former KKK leader, the test states that the government may prohibit any speech that is ‘directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action’ and speech that is ‘likely to incite or produce such action’.
But what do you do when it’s the politicians making these statements?
At Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2020’s concluding debate Social Media Has Divided Society, Siddharth Vardarajan – the Founding Editor of The Wire – said it was churlish to blame social media.
Arguing against the motion he said: “Has social media divided society? Who is using social media? Just like a book and pamphlet is full of hate. I would argue than blaming the medium we need to be very clear in our minds. Who are the real villains here? I would say the man who says unko aap kapdo se pechnaan sakte hain. He’s dividing society.”
He adds: “The man who mocks Wayanad as a constituency of India, where the minority is a majority. This the PM of India using a platform - which is meant to be guided by the Representations of People’s Act - meant to be policed by the Election Commission of India dividing people."
How do you expect a govt to move against hate speech when the PM is speaking in the same vein?
So, it’s hardly surprising that youngsters start picking up guns to attack protesters, they are after all taking the lead set by the men who rule this country.
On the black day Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, we’ve finally understood the chronology. The age of Gandhi is truly over. We are in the Godse era now.
Nirmalya Dutta is the Web Editor of The Free Press Journal. He tweets at @nirmalyadutta23.
The views expressed in this article are personal and are not necessarily endorsed by The Free Press Journal.