When Lenin’s statue was razed to the ground in Tripura nobody would have imagined that it will set off a chain of events forcing the BJP high command to condemn it, which in itself is unprecedented. The top RSS ideologues publicly celebrated the razing of the statue. The incident when questioned by the media had the BJP spokespersons offer some bizarre explanations, while questioning the relevance of Lenin to India. The razing was, in fact, justified.
The entire narrative changed when H Raja, the National Secretary of the BJP from Tamil Nadu, buoyed by the support for the razing of Lenin’s statue, warned that the statues of Periyar in Tamil Nadu would be next. He made this ‘hate speech’ through his Facebook post. This invited a strong condemnation from across the political spectrum, DMK’s Working President MK Stalin condemned it strongly and demanded the arrest of H Raja and his detention under preventive detention laws (Goondas Act), so that he would not be able to continue his hate mongering diatribe. This set the cat among the pigeons. After this H Raja was forced to delete the offending Facebook post.
The issue did not stop there, on Tuesday night a Periyar statue at Vellore was desecrated by a BJP party worker and another man who was in the CPI. Hardly a day has passed after the offending post by H Raja and what he wanted in his post was attempted by a BJP worker. Only a criminal investigation can bring out if there was any direct link between the desecration and the Facebook post of H Raja. But we can have no doubts that the statue desecration is a result of the hate mongering indulged in by H Raja. This is neither the first time he has indulged in such hate speeches nor it is going to be the last.
H Raja has also claimed that the hate filled post was not posted by him, but by one of the admins of his Facebook page, without his knowledge. The law is clear, he has to either own up or point out the admin who had access to his Facebook page and he himself should seek action against that person for such hateful posts. If not, then H Raja is liable for what happens from his Facebook page.
Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code which is extracted herein below is clearly attracted in the case of H Raja.
153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.—
(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
It is surprising that no FIR has so far has been registered against H Raja for his Facebook post, which is clearly violating 153A. Why is H Raja being given a preferential treatment, and is regret enough for someone to escape criminal liability? By that argument, we don’t need prisons or courts of law and every criminal can express regret and be exonerated.
The Tamil Nadu government has failed to uphold the rule of law and is painting a picture of a despotic regime which cherry picks offenders to prosecute. The irony is not lost here when activists like Thirumurugan Gandhi, Valarmathi and Prof Jayaraman were detained under the draconian preventive detention laws (Goondas Act) for merely protesting, while in the case of Raja not even an FIR has been filed. Employing the ruse of regret, H Raja should not be allowed to escape criminal prosecution, which will be an indelible dent on the capabilities of the law enforcement agencies.
Unless the Tamil Nadu government acts against the likes of H Raja, the threat of hate speeches aimed at disturbing the syncretic society of the state will always loom large. Of course, the religious and social harmony practiced in Tamil Nadu cannot be thwarted easily, but why should we take chances?
(A Saravanan is a Madras High Court advocate and a spokesperson of the DMK)
Views expressed are the author’s owns