02/07/2023, 19.19
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Indian Supreme Court tells state it cannot ignore those who preach hate

by Nirmala Carvalho

India’s highest court ruled in a case involving a Muslim man attacked for his religion in Uttar Pradesh in which police failed to act. On Sunday, at a gathering of Hindutva groups at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, a Hindu cleric called for the killing of Christians and Muslims. Fr Mathew wonders whether right-wing governments will listen.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Supreme Court of India yesterday ruled that the state cannot remain indifferent to crimes fuelled by religious hatred. “[I]f it is a hate crime, we have to face it frontally and take swift action,” the court said. “Action of every state officer augments respect for the law”.

The court’s ruling came as a result of a case filed by a 62-year-old Muslim man who said that he was assaulted and mistreated because of his religion in Noida in 2021. In his complaint, he noted that the Uttar Pradesh police did not intervene.

The latter made its First Information Report (FIR) only on 15 January 2023, almost a year and a half after the incident (4 July 2021), and only after the Supreme Court directed the State of Uttar Pradesh to present a case diary for the upcoming hearing on 3 March.

“Hate speech is a very serious issue in India,” said Fr Anand Mathew, coordinator of Sajha Sanskriti Manch, a Uttar Pradesh-based social advocacy alliance, speaking to AsiaNews.

“Politicians and religious leaders are openly making hate speeches full of venom and these are pushing people to indulge in violence,” he explained. “But the pertinent question is, will right-wing governments heed the honourable justices and take serious steps to curb hate speeches?”

Hate crimes in India have increased in frequency and intensity and touch Christians as well. In a recent case, a Hindu cleric spoke at the Jantar Mantar complex in New Delhi to groups linked to Hindutva, urging the crowd to kill Christians and Muslims

Similarly, fanatics armed with sticks and iron bars recently vandalised the Church of the Sacred Heart in Narayanpur, a district in Chhattisgarh State. More than a thousand tribal Christians were also driven from their homes in villages near Narayanpur.

“The state's apathy in dealing with these dangerous incidents is a sad comment on its negligence in bringing equity and justice to society. In a decent society, legal action is brought against anyone who flouts the law,” Babu Joseph told AsiaNews.

For the Verbite clergyman, who is a former spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, “in India in too many cases, lawbreakers are let go and even honoured for a variety of reasons. Hate speech is such, regardless of who utters it.”

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