Stop hate speeches



While the election campaign is gaining momentum all over the country, the atmosphere is getting vitiated by indecent speeches and vile remarks that have no place in public discourse.

They also become inflammatory and detrimental to peace like the recent public statement of a Congress candidate from Saharanpur in UP that he would “chop Narendra Modi into pieces.” The offender has rightly been arrested for his incendiary words. But undignified and provocative comments touching on personal, communal, racial and other matters have been made by politicians of all parties. There was a threat to strip Sonia Gandhi and send her away to Italy. There have also been distasteful references to the marital status of Modi and BSP leader Mayawati. All these are signs of declining standards of public and electoral conduct.

The damage that can be done to society by hate speech and all forms of unwholesome words should be clear to everyone. Elections are a time when passions are easily excited. Offensive words and insults can lead to bad consequences. Political parties have to ensure that candidates, leaders and workers do not cross the legal and decent limits of conduct and comment. A code of regulatory conduct discussed and framed by parties themselves and implemented sincerely would help much better than the legal provisions and the model code of conduct prescribed by the Election Commission.

Such self-regulation is particularly important because the law and the code of words and conduct come into play after an offence is committed. It is always better to avoid defamatory, insulting and provocative remarks than to seek action after they are made. Such action might not always undo the damage and restore the atmosphere which gets vitiated.

The law and the Election Commission’s efforts have their limitations also and are not always up to the task of bringing offenders to book. This has been seen in the past as in the case of Varun Gandhi who had been accused of making provocatively communal remarks during the 2009 Lok Sabha election campaign. The Supreme Court itself admitted to such limitations when it asked the Law Commission to frame more effective guidelines on hate speech. Parties and leaders should realise that pushing the bench marks of tolerance and decency lower and lower would only hurt themselves and the cause of fair elections.

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