Hate speech


During every election season, amidst the electioneering heat, the level of discourse plunges to dirty levels with allegations, counter-allegations, mud-slinging, hate rhetoric or abuses coming to the fore. 2019 is exceptional. Not only is the flavour of the season full of hate, abuse and shamefully nonsensical remarks, the lead has been taken by none other than the sitting prime minister of the country and bringing political discourse to an all-time low. Unhindered and unchecked, ever since the election season started Narendra Modi and his trusted lieutenant Amit Shah have set the tone for the election rhetoric which brings disrepute to the country and lowers the image of the post he heads. It is then no surprise that in this trend of filth being publicly hurled at election rallies, the BJP has taken the lead, though several other politicians from different parties too have been found crossing limits of decency. The head of the country is supposed to be a role model for the others but Modi in his fit of desperation has chosen to set a terrible example for the rest. Aided by the bias of the Election Commission of India, which refuses to take complaints against the duo seriously, Modi is like an unstoppable machine spewing venom, hatred, mouthing platitudes or mocking his opponents on a daily basis. More than a week back while speaking at a rally in Uttar Pradesh, Modi crossed all limits of propriety by addressing Congress president Rahul Gandhi with the shocking and despicable remarks, “Your father was termed ‘Mr Clean’ by his courtiers, but his life ended as ‘Bhrashtachari No 1.” While Rajiv Gandhi’s conduct as politician and former prime minister is open to criticism, the rules of debate need to be civilized. It is shameful to link the death of a former prime minister assassinated by terrorists with allegations of corruption against him. Is this the kind of language one would want to hear from any political personality, leave alone the prime minister. By degenerating the discourse to such levels, Modi betrays his own desperation and his discomfort at the feedback he is getting from the ground about his losing base and his poor prospects in this election. But a vital question is whether nasty language and hate discourse, spoken in an aggressive theatrical tone has an appeal among masses. In any B-grade Bollywood film it would. In politics, however, only a very small section of masses would be mesmerized by such oratory. Modi is more likely to lose many of his supporters by indulging in pathetically vicious and uncultured rhetoric. While his words are less likely to improve his fortunes, they herald a major danger. When the head of the state begins to speak in a language that is outrageously indecent and improper, such rhetoric will be embedded as the norm and will impact the level of discourse in both political and social spheres immensely. This vitriolic style of electioneering needs to be stopped. If the head of the state does not understand his responsibility in setting high standards of debate and decency, it is for the Election Commission to come out of its prejudiced shell. It must reflect on the immense role played by the men who headed the Commission in recent decades and brought dignity and credibility in the institution. Erosion of that is against interests of democracy and those of the country as much as hate rhetoric and poisonous remarks hamper the national interest in many ways. The EC needs to act swiftly and strongly against any hate speech and abusive language without shying away from coming down hard even on powerful politicians like Modi.