There is an interesting section in the Representation of People Act of 1951, Section123 (a) that is meant to hold up the gold standard against corruption of the electoral process. Iterating that this gold standard has been tarnished time and again would amount to a tautology given the deep incursion of hate speech and writing in the electoral arena, election after election. Especially after the ascendancy and domination of a majoritarian worldview, in Indian politics.
“The promotion of, or attempt to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language, by a candidate or his agent or any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate,]” outlines section 123 (a).
The dazzling campaign for the 2022 Gujarat state assembly elections, underway for the past several weeks has been severely tarnished by repeated shards of hate; many of these highly publicized statements have come from elected officials of the ruling party at the Centre and in many states (the Bharatiya Janata Party-BJP), in fact from two chief ministers, both outdoing each other, Assam and Uttar Pradesh. The tone of course was set by none less than India’s powerful politician and union home minister Amit Shah and was rounded up by actor turned politician, Paresh Rawal.
Under statutory boundaries of Indian election law, the Election Commission of India (ECI), purportedly autonomous and independent is meant to monitor and prosecute instances of such deviations during political campaigns. That is, if deviant speeches that amount to a “corrupt practice” defined as “an attempt to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion ete etc, the ECI is bound to take action. In the unforgettable 1980s, when this phenomenon –of misusing religion for political ends—first peaked, that too in Maharashtra – parties and candidates of errant parties tried often to wriggle out of responsibility by claiming that a campaigner for the same party, was not in law, the candidate who is bound under the law to bar herself/himself from recourse to such corrupt practices. In 2022, Shah, Adityanath, Himanta Biswas Sarma, Paresh Rawal are the “star” campaigners for the party that is seeking to romp back to power in the state.
The HM, Shah set the tone on November 16. During an election rally, the man congratulated Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel for having demolished illegal mazars or Muslim shrines that had “mushroomed” in Beyt Dwarka which a small island off Dwarka coast. As reported by Rediff.com Shah said “I want to congratulate CM Bhupendra Patel for demolishing illegal mazars (a Muslim shrine or enshrined tomb) and other illegal constructions which mushroomed in Beyt Dwarka (a small island off the coast of Dwarka) over years. There were more mazars than the population”.
Not content with this deliberately targeted allegory, Shah also said, “All the Latifs and Ijju Shaikhs (two criminals from Gujarat) were already eliminated. Today, 20-year-old youths do not even know what curfew is like. We eliminated the appeasement-based politics and established the rule of law in Gujarat”.
Will this amount to a corrupt electoral practice in the sense that it promotes feeling of enmity, hatred read exclusion between different classes of citizens?
Experts worldwide accept that “slurs” reflect and spread discrimination by illustrating how they work in everyday conversations, public and private. Slurs always target a category and the fact that the derogatory content that they convey is presented as not open to discussion but reviled statement of “fact”, make slurs particularly dangerous tools.
This story was originally published in newsclick.in . Read the full story here