Opposition Leaders Unite Against Communal Violence and Hate Speech

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Leaders of 13 opposition parties, including three chief ministers, united on Saturday to denounce recent incidents of communal violence and hate speech.

They argued that the Prime Minister and his government’s “silence” in the face of those “who propagated bigotry and incited and provoked society through words and actions was evidence that such private armed mobs enjoyed official patronage.”

The joint statement was issued by Congress president, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief, her Tamil Nadu counterpart and DMK chief MK Stalin, Jharkhand Chief Minister and JMM chief, RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav and NC chief. Other signatories included CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, his CPI counterpart D Raja, Forward Bloc’s Debabrata Biswas, RSP’s Manoj Bhattacharya, Muslim League’s P K Kunhalikutty and CPI(ML) Liberation’s Dipanker Bhattacharya.

The statement was released on a day against the politics of polarization.

“There is much talk from the Prime Minister of acknowledging India’s multiple diversities. But the harsh reality is that under his ruling dispensation, the rich diversity that has defined and enriched our society for centuries is being manipulated to divide us and, worse, to harden and get more firmly entrenched,” she said in the article.

In the statement urging people to maintain peace and harmony and demanding stringent punishment for perpetrators of communal violence, the opposition leaders said: “We are extremely anguished at the manner in which issues related to food, dress, faith, festivals and language are being deliberately used by sections of the ruling establishment to polarize our society.”

“We are extremely concerned with the growing incidents of hate speech in the country by people who appear to have official patronage and against whom no meaningful and strong action is being taken. We strongly condemn the recent outburst of communal violence witnessed across several states. We are deeply concerned, as reports indicate that there is a sinister pattern in the areas where these incidents have occurred. Incendiary hate speeches preceded the aggressive armed religious processions unleashing communal violence,” the statement said.

The leaders pointed out that “social media and the audio-visual platforms are being misused with official patronage to spread hatred and prejudice,” and questioned the silence of the Prime Minister.

The leaders vowed to “work together to strengthen the bonds of social harmony that have defined and enriched India for centuries” and “combat and confront the poisonous ideologies which are attempting to entrench divisiveness in society”.

“We reiterate our firm conviction that our country will prosper only if it respects, accommodates and celebrates its many diversities in full measure. We appeal to all sections to maintain peace and foil the sinister objective of those who wish to sharpen communal polarisation. We call upon all our party units to independently and jointly work for peace and harmony,” the statement added.

While Mamata’s decision to be part of the joint statement is interesting, given her party’s strained ties with the Congress, the absence of leaders of four parties — SP, BSP, AAP and — stood out.

Ever since its Punjab victory, the AAP has been projecting itself as the natural replacement for the Congress. BSP chief Mayawati, on the other hand, had been seething with anger after &s statement that her party had not campaigned much in the just-concluded UP Assembly polls under pressure from the Centre.

The SP, despite having a major Muslim vote base, also chose not to align with other opposition parties on an issue that concerns the Muslim community. It is not clear why Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was not part of the statement.

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