Saturday, December 9, 2023

Calls for violence must be condemned regardless of religious, ideological origins: Ex-IFS officers

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An open letter signed by 32 former Indian Foreign Service officials, including ex-foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal and former ambassadors Veena Sikri and Lakshmi Puri, calls for the rejection of hate speech in all forms, regardless of its’ religious, racial, ideological, or regional origin.’ The previous envoys expressed worry that critics have made it a habit to attack the current Narendra Modi administration over hate comments by any fringe organisation or element, noting that “double standards and selective condemnation raise doubts about intentions and morals.”

A group of activists, many of whom are known Leftists with Maoist sympathies, have been conducting a sustained smear campaign against the current government, alleging that it has violated the country’s secular ethos. They have been joined by some former civil servants and armed forces veterans who have held high positions in their careers, as well as some sections of the media.

Five former heads of the military services, as well as a number of other notable persons, including bureaucrats, had addressed a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging them to take necessary action in the wake of recent incidences of hate speech.

The ex-envoys stated in the letter that such “anti-minority sentiments” should be opposed by all right-thinking people, referring to the recent Dharma Sansad in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, where anti-minority hate speeches were purportedly delivered. Provocative statements from a conference of Hindu religious leaders went viral earlier this week, causing major controversy.

The letter also called out journalists for their “political bias” in using phrases like “genocide” to emphasise the impact of hate speech on a certain group. According to the former envoys, skeptics did not simply criticise the administration for such hate statements, but also labelled them “an all-around failure of the police, the judiciary, and other constitutional organizations.” They also pointed out that, although such statements are branded “a peril for all Indians,” government opponents “amazingly” reject claims of past wrongdoing against the Hindu minority as “flimsy.”

The signatories went on to say that communal strife and religious violence did not appear overnight when the Modi administration took office in 2014. In conclusion, the former envoys noted that as responsible citizens, critics should adopt more balanced viewpoints and not choose the “easy option” of attacking out-of-line Hindu groups “because there is no fear of retaliation or blowback,” which they call “political and moral cowardice.”

“India’s national security is not as much threatened, in the eyes of the signatories to the appeal, by Pakistan and China as by a handful of sundry Hindu activists saying some nasty things about the minorities in some forum of little importance and aggressively asserting their Hindu identity,” they said. 

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