As Delhi grapples with the after effects of mass violence spurred by hate speech in the last week of February, a breakthrough is giving many a ray of hope in the legal institutions, even though no FIRs have been registered against the likes of BJP leader Kapil Mishra who allegedly incited mobs against those protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 in North-East Delhi.
On February 23, the magistrate court in Delhi – the Tis Hazari Court – ordered the registration of an FIR against Alok Kumar, the International Working President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and one Swamiji from Kashi (as stated in the order)for inciting violence against members of the Muslims community. The complaint was filed by Harsh Mander, activist and civil society member associated with Karwan-e-Mohabbat. Close to nine months ago, communal tension gripped the Lal Kuan region of Old Delhi, as a minor squabble erupted over the parking of a two-wheeler. Following the incident, the conflict escalated as groups from both Hindu and Muslim communities gathered at different places and shouted slogans and tried to incite mobs.
It was later reported that a small Durga temple in the area was stoned. Some Hindu activists accused the Muslims of vandalising the temple. The next morning, incensed Hindu youth came out on the streets, shouting angry slogans and hurling abuses at Muslims. In an account for Scroll, Harsh Mander wrote: “On the morning of 9 July, police personnel and armed Central Reserve Police Force men were also deployed in large numbers. At the temple, a small crowd had gathered, among them local Muslim and Hindu leaders, with many onlookers from the houses, curious and apprehensive. There were also songs about how Kashmir is Hindu and bhagwa (saffron), and that India is a nation of the Hindus. At around 1 pm, after their march, the crowd gathered near the main temple. Even as local Muslims were serving food at the bhandara, troubling speeches were broadcast from the temple loudspeakers. In the first speech, a man in saffron robes said that Hindus had been quiet for too long. He asked Hindus to wake up, adding that Hindus in Gujarat were already awake and could avenge the plight of their dead relatives.”
Mander registered a complaint against the VHP’s Alok Kumar. The organisation had put together a rally on July 9 in the Lal Kuan area of Old Delhi. The other accused in the case is a Swami Ji from Kasi (as introduced by the moderator) who allegedly made a hostile speech which contributed to violence in the neighbouring area. The rally had been organised in response to the vandalisation of a temple in Lal Kuan on July 1, 2019.
Speaking to NewsClick, lawyer (representing Mander) Sarim Navid said: “We approached the magistrate court, the hearing finally happened on February 18 and the order by the court was issued on February 23. So far, we were unaware of this development and in times like these, the order by the court is a morale booster and stands as a testimony to the fight against hate speech.”
Also read: Delhi Violence: HC Asks Police to Consider Registering FIRs Against BJP Leaders for Hate Speech
Investigation is currently underway against perpetrators in the mob and those that vandalised the temple. The decision is being hailed as a crucial one given the ongoing hearing of the Supreme Court regarding the use of hate speech during the anti-CAA protests.
On March 6, the Supreme Court had asked the Delhi High Court to hear the plea asking for registration of FIRs against BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, Abhay Verma and Parvesh Verma for hate speeches, even as the Centre contended that “one or two speeches cannot cause riots”. The matter will now be heard on March 20.
In an ongoing matter, the apex court also asked activist Harsh Mander to file his response to the allegation of the Delhi Police that he had made hate speeches during anti-CAA protests in Delhi.
Appearing for Mander, senior advocate Dushyant Dave had said he had perused the statement attributed to the activist and found nothing contemptuous and objectionable in it.
“I’m a little concerned, a government who wants to shoot the messenger does not wish to take action against those whose speeches are actually causing unrest,” Dave was quoted by Bar and Bench. Mander had originally sought registration of FIRs against BJP leaders including Union minister Anurag Thakur, BJP MLA Abhay Verma, MP Parvesh Verma, and BJP leader Kapil Mishra for allegedly delivering hate speeches which resonated with people of the locality, spawning the communally targeted violence.
Also read: Yet Another Clipped Video Viral to Falsely Portray Harsh Mander as Instigating Violence