Dr Veda Pratap Vaidik
In the recent past there has been a surge in the number of cases relating to hate speeches and the serious debates have been happening in many such cases in the Supreme Court of India Supreme Court of India. The petitions demand the Apex Court direct the government in power to legislate stringent laws to punish those who try to spread hatred among the society. Punish the hate mongers, whether they are religious preachers, politicians or those trying to spew venom during TV debates and public speeches. Don’t spare those who try to spread hatred through their articles and writings.
In fact, India has over seven laws against hate speeches and writing that could create animosity within the society. But the pertinent point is how to discriminate against hate speech or writing! On what basis certain speeches or writings could be placed in the hate category? If someone does that, if there is a riot, murders, processions, arson flares up or there is a strike, then will that action be considered hateful? This parameter is very delicate and confusing.
Pendency of cases in the courts across the country is alarmingly high. Courts take decades to give verdicts even in trivial matters, so how will it decide such complex cases time-bound? If the speeches or writings incite commotion, unrest, violence and arson, then only it can come under the hate category? If someone says something very venomous and offensive against any caste, religion, individual or a faith and no violence erupted due to that speech or statement, then what will be the attitude of the court and the government? In the event of a stringent law against any kind of hate mongering in place, the possibility of covert or overt attempt to create unrest in the society could be minimized.
The opportunity for healthy and rational criticism of any leader, party, ideology, scripture or gods and goddesses should not be curtailed. Any such restrictions or curb will amount to not only an infringement on the freedom of expression of the citizens, but will help those promoting hypocrisy and superstition. In such a situation there is a chance for demand from certain corners to ban scholars like Maharishi Dayanand, Ambedkar, and Bertrand Russell. That is why the open tradition of debate has been going on in India for thousands of years, and unfortunately Europe and the Arab world are deprived of such freedom.
In the last couple of centuries, the Christian world has become very liberal, but why should we imitate the Arabs? One should be tolerant to reasonable and constructive criticism- let that be against the religion, caste, political party or anything else. Tolerance is the symbol of civilization and intolerance the sign of barbarism. Better not to silence critics by bullets.
Those who dare to silence the critics through gun shots need to be punished. The right to freedom of expression is the beauty of India. Bereft of that freedom of expression India will never be the same gorgeous India.
Unless the citizens violently protest with bullets why should the government respond with gunfire? The guns of the administrations should be aimed at those rioters firing bullets and those hate mongers making venomous speeches and writing toxic articles.
*Dr. Vaidik is a widely travelled scholar-journalist. He has visited more than 80 countries on diplomatic and educational missions. Dr. Vaidik has won more than a dozen National and International awards for academic and journalistic excellence. He has been a member of several Advisory Committees of Government of India.