Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi created a strange paradox in Parliament when he admitted that his minister of state Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti had indulged in hate speech, and that he had even chastised her strongly for the same, but refused to take action against her for what the Opposition insisted was a clear violation of the tenets of the Constitution of India.

After two days of mayhem during which Opposition MPs in both Houses of Parliament, cutting across party lines, united to target PM Modi for his silence on the issue, he made a short statement in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. He said that he has “criticised in the strongest terms” the language used by her. He said that he had told his MPs that people’s ‘maryada’ should not be hurt; that his minister had apologised, and “the House should gracefully accept this and continue to function in the national interest.”

This time the Modi magic did not work, as the Opposition rejected his statement demanding action against the minister for violating the Indian Constitution. CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yechury pointed out that now that even the Prime Minister has admitted to the ‘crime’ punishment should follow, and the Minister be sacked. “Apologising means that the crime is recognised,” Yechury said, “and this means that she admits that she has violated the Constitution and for this she has to be punished.”

Congress MP Anand Sharma responded to the PM’s intervention by pointing out that it was necessary for the government to uphold the Constitution, to respect it, and for this it was essential to take action against Jyoti and remove her from the Council of Ministers. MPs have also been asking for criminal action against her for the past three days.

The government has been steadfastly opposing the demand to sack the minister, making it clear that the apology in its view was sufficient.

A categorical decision has been taken by the BJP not to yield to the demand, more so as it could open a Pandora’s box for the party as many of its leaders are guilty of the same. This is the first time that a hate speech has coincided with the Parliament session with Jyoti’s “ramzada aur haramzada” remark at an election rally creating ripples in both Houses. “The people of Delhi have to decide if they want a government of Ramzaadon (descendants of Ram) or haramzaadon (those who are illegitimately born),” she had said.

All opposition parties have joined hands to demand her resignation. They have gone on record insisting that if she does not resign, the Prime Minister should sack her. Parliament has seen several walk outs and adjournments on this over the past three days.

In the Lok Sabha the entire opposition walked out again on Thursday alleging that their mics had been switched off.

Jyoti’s remarks, as the opposition MPs have been pointing outside Parliament as well, are merely one in a series of “hate” statements by BJP leaders. In fact the hate speech reached new lows during the Lok Sabha elections with even the Election Commission of india going on the record to state, “it has never been so bad.”

In fact PM Modi had helped set the trend at the time as well with his remark on the “Three AK’s”: AK-47, AK Antony and AK-49 (a reference to Kejriwal and AK Antony) that led to the floodgates of hate being opened across the country.

“There are three people who are being praised in Pakistan – they are three AKs. The first one is AK-47 that is used to spill the blood of innocents, the second is Defence Minister of India, AK Antony, who had said that those who beheaded the Indian soldiers were terrorists in Pakistan Army uniforms and the third is AK-49. This AK-49 just gave birth to a new party and on his party’s official website, the map shows Kashmir is given to Pakistan and one his most trusted aides has favoured plebiscite in Kashmir….Pakistan’s papers are full of praise for them. They are enemies of the country. They speak in favour of Pakistan,” Modi said at a rally in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir.

A spate of leaders had given vent to communal and anti-constitutional speech since then. Shiv Sena MLC Ramdas Kadam threatened revenge against the Muslims and insisted that Modi would destroy Pakistan within six months of assuming power. Kadam said that “Muslims” who vandalised police vehicles, damaged public property and attacked women police personnel during the Azad Maidan violence in August 2012 “will not be spared.”

Senior BJP leader Giriraj Singh, said that all those opposed to Narendra Modi should be sent to Pakistan. “Those opposing Narendra Modi are looking at Pakistan, and such people will have place in Pakistan and not in India,” Singh said at a poll meeting in Mohanpur Haat Maidan near the town of Deogarh in Orissa. He has subsequently been included in the Council of Ministers and was in fact at the same rally as Jyoti in Delhi. He was missing from Parliament when it erupted in uproar on the first day.

BJP’s Amit Shah had a ban placed on him by the Election Commission on campaigning in Uttar Pradesh for his remarks at a rally in Muzaffarpur. Some of Shah’s statements from the rally were as follows:

“This election is about voting out the government that protects and gives compensation to those who killed Jats; it is about revenge and honour.”

“The elections in Uttar Pradesh, especially in western Uttar Pradesh, is an election for honour, for seeking revenge for the insult, and for teaching a lesson to those who committed injustice.”

“This not just another election. This is the time to avenge the insult meted out to our community. This election will be a reply to those who have been ill treating our mothers and sisters.”

“People who were beggars, have become arabpatis running “butcherkhanas”. BJP is going to stop this. Please understand what it means.”

Shah further justified the Muzaffarnagar riots claiming they were for “security” and for protecting the “honour of our women.”

Shah was subsequently elevated to the post of BJP President, at the direct instance of PM Modi.

Samajwadi Party Azam Khan was also banned from campaigning by the Election Commission. Khan while addressing a rally at Ghaziabad had made divisive statements asking “Hindu brothers’ to embrace Muslims, said, “isliye mohabbat karo ki Kargil ki pahadiyo ko fateh karne wala koi Hindu nahi tha, balki Kargil ki pahadiyo ko nara-e-takbeer Allah-Hu-Akbar kehkar fathe karnewale Musalman fauji the… (love us, because the peaks of Kargil were not conquered by Hindus, but by Muslim soldiers raising the battlecry of God is the Greatest).”

Continuing the anti-Muslim rhetoric, the VHP’s Pravin Togadia pandered to communal loyalties; Togadia, caught on camera at a gathering in Bhavnagar Gujarat, was heard saying that Muslims should not be allowed to buy property in Hindu areas. We should have it in us to take the law in our own hands in an area where we are a majority and scare them,” Togadia said.

“Muslims have been buying Hindu properties at throwaway prices. How do you stop this?” Togadia, in addition to saying that properties owned by Muslims can be occupied by force and entangled in a long-drawn out legal case, says “You put pressure on the government to enforce the Disturbed Areas Act the way we have in cities like Ahmedabad.” A copy of the controversial video is with The Citizen.

The hate speeches, which have targeted specific leaders on personal accounts, had led election commissioner HS Brahma to claim, as quoted in the Hindustan Times, that “no election was as bad as this one.”

The BJP government’s refusal to act against Jyoti comes against this background.