A Public interest litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court jointly by three retired members of the Indian Armed Forces seeking constitution of the Special Investigation Team(SIT) under the supervision of the Court to investigate the ‘Dharm Sansad‘ at Haridwar and Delhi last year where alleged hate speeches were made against the Muslim community.
Major General S.G. Vombatkere, Colonel P.K. Nair and Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury, the petitioners, have argued that the “seditious and divisive speeches made violate not only the criminal law of the land but also strike at the core of Article 19 of the Constitution of India”.
The petitioners state that these hate speeches call upon the police and the army to take up arms against minorities. “This is particularly disturbing to the Petitioners herein who have each served the country’s Armed Forces for decades. It is believed that such unchecked cries inciting violence against specific communities can have a serious impact on the morale and integration of the soldiers in the armed forces who come from diverse communities and religions. In fact, Petitioner No. 1 and Petitioner No. 2 have personal experience of service with and command of Muslim troops, and therefore have serious apprehensions that the events in Haridwar and Delhi will compromise the battle/operational efficiency of the Indian Army taken as a whole. This will impact national security irreversibly”, the petition reads.
Vombatkere has 33-years of commissioned service in the Indian Army, during which he fought in the 1965 war against Pakistan in the Sialkot Sector, and served in command and staff appointments with troops and in technical roles. He was awarded Visishta Seva Medal (VSM) by the President of India in 1993 for distinguished military service in the high-altitude region of Ladakh.
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Nair served in the Army Corps of Engineers for 30 years and participated in the 1971 war in Bangladesh. He has also served in Sri Lanka and Kashmir. He has commanded Muslim troops in his Regiment, Bombay Engineer Group. He was awarded the prestigious Visishta Seva Medal for his services.
Chowdhury was commissioned into The Sikh Regiment and was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for gallantry in hostage rescue and counter-terrorism operation in Punjab. He was also cited twice for counter-terror operations in J&K. He has had five tenures in Counter Insurgency Operations in Punjab and in J&K. “These speeches stain the secular fabric of the nation and also have serious potential to impact public order adversely.”, the petitioners say.
The petition brings to the notice of the Court the contents of the speech delivered by some of the speakers at the event. “Speaker A’ took to the stage and said that “we are ready to kill them (Muslims); we are ready to go to jail. She even warned that “If you want to finish off their (Muslim) population then we are ready to kill them. Even if 100 of us are ready to become soldiers, we can kill 20 lakh of them, then we will be victorious.”, the petition says.
Yet another speaker, the petition states, says “Either get ready to be killed yourself or be ready to kill. Just like Myanmar, our police, our politicians, our army and every Hindu must pick up arms and organise an ethnic cleansing” .
The petitioners have expressed concern that if such incidents go unchecked, it can have a serious impact on the morale and integration of the soldiers in the armed forces who come from diverse communities and religions.
“It is felt that such hate speeches can even affect the battle efficiency of our Armed Forces and in turn compromise national security”, the petition reads.
The petition has been filed even though the Supreme Court already issued a notice to the Uttarakhand and the Delhi police on January 15 on a petition filed by Qurban Ali, a senior tri-lingual (Hindi, Urdu, and English) journalist, and former Patna High Court judge Anjana Prakash, seeking action against the speakers who made hate speeches against the Muslim community.
The Uttarakhand police swung into action after the Supreme Court sent it the notice. Reportedly, it has arrested accused Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi, formerly known as Waseem Rizvi, and the main accused Yati Narsinghanand.
From December 17 to 19 last year, a religious conclave called ‘Dharam Sansad’ was organized in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, allegedly by Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, who practices as the head priest of a temple in Ghaziabad, UP. The conclave had been attended by hundreds/thousands of followers. At this event, several self-proclaimed seers/sages delivered inflammatory hate speeches ostensibly targeting the minorities in India. Several videos of these speeches have surfaced and have been widely circulated.
In another such instance, an event was organized in Delhi on December 19, last year by the Hindu Yuva Vahini. Much like the divisive hate speeches delivered in Haridwar, the group that had gathered called for violence against minorities, particularly Muslims. In one of the videos circulating virally on social media from the event, a gentleman can be seen administering an oath to a group of people to “die for and kill” to make India a “Hindu rashtra”. He has been quoted to say, “We take an oath and make a resolution that till our last breath, we shall fight, die for and if need be, kill, to make this country a Hindu rashtra”.
The outrightly unlawful speeches, the petitioners say, have been circulated virally and are freely available for anybody to access, both in India and abroad.
“Not only have these events threatened the constitutional values within our democracy, but they have also cut a sorry figure for the nation internationally”, the petitioners contend.
In addition, the petitioners argue that such incitement to violence together with public expressions of hate constitutes a serious breach of internal security and could also tear apart the social character of our nation.