In the holy land of Haridwar, saffron-clad people pretending to be holy men staged a âDharam Sansadâ between December 17 and 20, 2021, where they allegedly spat venom against Muslims and called for genocide. They saw Muslims as a threat to the existence of Hindus and advocated arming Hindus with sophisticated weapons. They also reportedly said that Muslims should be driven out as the Rohingya were driven out of Myanmar, thus establishing a âHindu Rashtraâ. One of them allegedly said he shot a former prime minister for saying that minorities have the first right to India’s resources.
The aforementioned statements by the so-called “dharam gurus” have posed a frontal challenge to the unity and integrity of the country, and run counter to the “very idea of ââIndia” as it stands. is enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution of India which declares India to be a “secular democratic republic”. The preamble also resolves to ensure to all its citizens the freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. However, despite such incitement to violence and ethnic cleansing of a religious community, no one from the ruling political class at the Center or at the state level has seen fit to condemn such vile and scandalous statements, and again less than taking action within the strict provisions of the law against these hate gravediggers. If what they said is true then it has the potential to create social unrest. Incidentally, none of the “dharam gurus” denied what was attributed to them. It wasn’t until videos of their deliberations went viral on social media and healthier voices raised the issue that an IPC Section 153-A case was filed against them. . However, no arrests have been made to date.
Compare that with what happened to Munawar Faruqui, 30, a stand-up comedian who had to stay in jail for more than a month for allegedly hurting a community’s religious feelings for a show he starred in. was only preparing to happen. Likewise, Disha Ravi, 22, a climate change activist, had to remain in detention for 10 days for sharing a toolkit on farmer protests with environmental activist Greta Thunberg for sedition and enmity. Siddique Kappan, a Kerala-based journalist, has been in prison since October 2020 for only trying to expose the gang rape of Hathras. He too was accused of sedition and under the authority of the UAPA. These are just a few examples among many.
As if Haridwar was not enough, another “Dharam Sansad” was detained at Chhattisgarh where a Kalicharan allegedly abused Mahatma Gandhi and praised Nathuram Godse who killed him. It also elicited no response from key leaders of the waiver of power. They keep a deafening silence. Kalicharan has since been arrested by Chhattisgarh police, but voices are calling for his release.
In the above scenario, when the government turns a blind eye to this continuing disease, and due to its inaction, it is seen to collude with those who advocate tyranny and have no respect for the constitution and the law , 76 citizens have turned to the Supreme Court and asked the Chief Justice of India to take suo-motu knowledge of what happened in Haridwar and Chhattisgarh.
The role of the judiciary is not only to administer the laws of the land, but also to protect the rights of every citizen, and even every person, in accordance with the law and the Constitution. This is why we have seen a bench chaired by the Chief Justice of India appoint a commission headed by a distinguished retired Supreme Court justice on the Pegasus case. The Chief Justice’s Bench also took a pro-citizen approach in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident where four farmers were mowed down by an SUV, in which the indictment was just filed, and the son of a Union cabinet minister faces murder and attempted murder charges. Also in this case, the UP state was seen to be dragging its feet and attempting to give him a burial by forming an SIT made up of junior police officers operating under its control. This prompted the Supreme Court to reconstitute the SIT to include senior officers. He also appointed a retired High Court judge, not from the UP, to oversee the operation of the SIT.
The SIT’s findings in the Lakhimpur Kheri case make it clear how the state and law enforcement mechanisms can trample on the law of the land to protect the big and powerful. If an independent SIT had not been put in place, the truth would most likely have been kept under wraps. What happened in Haridwar is worse. Every word, every syllable spoken there was violent. Now that the Supreme Court has reopened its doors after the winter recess, it is hoped that the Chief Justice, in his wisdom, will take up the request made to him by 76 citizens. By the way, it is not that the burden rests solely on the shoulders of the Chief Justice.
Each judge of the Supreme Court enjoys equal constitutional power and authority and, therefore, each of them has an obligation to protect the constitutional and fundamental rights of the people. Therefore, any of them could become aware of the blatant incitement to violence against a particular community, albeit after knowing the appropriate bench.
If a judge can give unsolicited advice for postponing assembly elections, though the Supreme Court may be troubled by the alleged inconvenience faced by a commuter traveling from the UP border to Delhi due to protests by farmers , he should be troubled by what happened in Haridwar. If this fire of hate is not brought under control, the day is not far off when it will spread across India.
It is hoped that the Supreme Court will not only intervene, but also ensure that an independent and free from influence investigation is carried out and that the culprits are brought to justice.
The writer is a former judge of the High Court of Delhi