A plan by Right-wing groups to attempt another religious procession through the communally sensitive Nuh district later this month – mere weeks after the previous iteration sparked violent sectarian clashes – is troubling. At an event in Haryana’s Palwal district, thousands of people from such outfits gathered on Sunday and made hate speeches that targeted the Muslim community directly and indirectly, including by the use of Islamophobic pejoratives and calls to teach the community a lesson. The administration’s naivete – or complicity, depending on how one looks at the situation – in granting permission to the gathering even when the communal frenzy has barely ebbed was only matched by the police’s apparent reluctance in acting against anyone who made hate speeches, or book the organisers of the event. Clearly, few lessons appeared to have been learnt from the administrative gaps two weeks ago that let the situation get out of hand in Nuh.
By now, it is clear that repeated interventions by the Supreme Court, which has also laid down a set of guidelines on how the authorities should act against hate speech, are having only a marginal impact. The guidelines have been circulated to both the police and the administration, but to little apparent effect. It seems like no institution is keen to crack down on hate speech, and the guidelines are repeatedly and wilfully being flouted. Till now, the apex court has been content to weigh in on the substantive principles but avoided intervening in individual cases. But with elections approaching, fringe elements determined to keep society on the boil and the administration complicit in its inaction, how long can this situation hold? The window appears to be narrowing.
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