Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
International Day for Countering Hate Speech falls on June 18. Hate speech is on the rise worldwide with the potential to incite violence, undermine social cohesion and tolerance, and cause psychological, emotional, and physical harm to those affected. Hate speech incites violence and undermines social cohesion and tolerance. Debates around the regulation of hate speech are highly contested globally. Hate crime is on a rise ever since awareness regarding Freedom of speech have increased.
It is rightly said that the world must not trample on freedom of speech and expression, but when that speech is weaponized to violate the rights of others-including inciting atrocity crimes and acts of terrorism, it must not be met with deafening silence that implies apathy or acceptance. In the 267th Report of the Law Commission of India, hate speech is stated as an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like.Hate speech includes aggressive words, incitement to violence, true threat, libel or slander, and hostile environment. Hate Speech is any form of expression that intends to attack a person or a group by inciting violence or prejudice on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnicity, sex, disability, sexual orientation, and others.In hate speech words are calculated to result in an actual attack in the future such as genocides, physical bullying, and other forms of hate crime. In a civil society like ours, man is regarded as a doer of rational things but when it comes to his expressions, he has to be controlled, modulated, monitored and balanced with the expression and thoughts of another man who inculcates the similar desires. Hate speech has been a problem in India for decades. In 1990, some mosques in Kashmir broadcast inflammatory speeches to whip up hate against Hindus, triggering their exodus from the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley. With our changed media landscape, politicians have realised that something offensive said in one state could be magnified for direct political benefit in another state immediately.
India doesn’t have a legal definition for hate speech. But a number of provisions across laws prohibit certain forms of speech, writing and actions as exceptions to free speech. Individuals believe in stereotypes that are ingrained in their minds and these stereotypes lead them to believe that a class or group of persons are inferior to them and as such cannot have the same rights as them.
In its report submitted to the government in 2017, the commission recommended adding separate provisions to the Indian Penal Code to specifically criminalise hate speech. Sections 153A and 153B of the IPC punishes acts that cause enmity and hatred between two groups. Section 295A of the IPC deals with punishing acts which deliberately or with malicious intention outrage the religious feelings of a class of persons. For a country like India with a massive population of diverse backgrounds and culture, subjects like hate speech become a complex issue to deal with as it is difficult to differentiate between free and hate speech.
Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit