The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to hear a petition filed by social activist Harsh Manderseeking action against leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party for their hate speeches leading up to communal riots in Delhi until the matter of the activist’s allegedly derogatory comments about the judiciary are sorted out.
“You made statements against the Supreme Court,” said Chief Justice of India SA Bobde. “We will not hear you now… If this is what Harsh Mander feels about the Supreme Court, then we will have to decide on that first.”
Akhilesh Mishra, former director of the BJP government’s MyGov India online citizen engagement initiative had also referred to these alleged comments in a tweet. Mishra shared an affidavit filed by DCP Delhi police (legal cell) against Harsh Mander in the Supreme Court.
The plea, apart from alleging that Mander made derogatory remarks against the top court, claimed that he instigated violence. “The wheels of justice have started turning,” Mishra tweeted. “All those who plotted to unleash violence on the “streets” and subvert India’s democracy will have to face justice.”
The controversy had been sparked by an article in the Hindutva site OpIndia. “Watch: ‘Supreme Court did not save secularism in Ayodhya, so now time has come to hit the streets’ Harsh Mander inciting mob violence,” said the headline.
A Twitter user named Rahul Kaushik, who describes himself as “swayamsevak” on the social media site, shared a part of the speech in question with the question, “Any doubt who’s vitiating atmosphere & creating anarchy in the country?”
In the video, Mander can be heard saying, “This fight will not be won in the Supreme Court. We have been observing the Supreme Court since some time now in the cases of NRC, Ayodhya and Kashmir. Supreme Court has failed to uphold humanism, equality and secularism. We will keep trying in the Supreme Court, it is our Supreme Court, but the decision will neither happen in the Parliament nor in the Supreme Court. What will be the future of this country – you all are the youth – what sort of country do you want to leave for your kids – where will this decision happen? One, it will happen on the streets, we have come out on the streets…” The video is stopped mid-way.
Several others also claimed that Mander had instigated violence during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya tweeted the clip and attributed the following words to Mander: “Now the decision will not be taken in the Parliament or the Supreme Court. Supreme Court did not protect secularism at the time of Ayodhya and Kashmir which is why the decision will now be taken on the streets.”
Based on Malviya’s tweet the Free Press Journal wrote an article titled, “SC didn’t defend secularism, we have to take decisions on the streets: Activist Harsh Mander stirs controversy.” The BJP IT cell chief’s tweet was also featured in a Hindi report by Zee News and a Marathi report by Lokmat. Others associated with the BJP who shared the video were Haryana IT cell head Arun Yadav and Karnataka tourism minister CT Ravi.
The speech had been made on December 16 at Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi. The speech focused on how every Indian has equal rights in the country. It was made after students were beaten by Delhi police inside the university campus.
At 3:40 minutes into the speech, Mander said, “Those who claim to take your rights away from you, in response to them, a wave of protests have started in the country, and these protests are to save our constitution, and the soul of the constitution which is love and friendship, and which is why we all are out on the streets and will continue to do so. This fight will not be won in the Parliament because political parties which call themselves secular have no moral courage left in them to fight. This fight will also not be won in the Supreme Court…”
He said this right before the section of the speech that has been excerpted in the viral video clip.
What will be the future of this country – you all are the youth – what sort of country do you want to leave for your kids – where will this decision happen?” Mander’s said, starting at 5:25 minutes, after his address was abruptly stopped in the viral clip. “One, it will happen on the streets, we have come out on the streets, but even beyond the streets, there’s another place where this decision will take place. Which is the place in which this fight will eventually be decided? That is in our hearts, in my heart, in your heart, we have to give a response – if they want to fill our hearts with hate, if we respond with hate, hatred will become deeper.”
He continued: “If someone is attempting to bring darkness to the country, and we also do the same in order to fight, then the darkness will only become more severe. If there’s darkness, then the only way that can be fought is by lighting a lamp. And if there’s a huge storm, we will light a lamp against the darkness. The only answer we have to their hate is love. They will resort to violence, they will instigate us to indulge in violence but we will never carry out any violence. You must understand that it is their plan to instigate you towards violence so that when we commit 2% violence, they respond with 100%. We have learnt from Gandhi ji how to respond to violence and injustice. We will fight with non-violence. Anyone who instigates you toward violence or hatred, they are not your friends.”
It is evident that Mander was not instigating violence but advocating for a non-violent approach to fight injustice. His Karwan e Mohabbat organisationalso tweeted the relevant portion of his speech.