04/03/2020 6:50 PM IST

Govt Is Accusing Harsh Mander Of Hate Speech—Here's Why That's So Hard To Believe

For years, the IAS officer-turned-activist has taken the lead in helping victims of communal violence and hate crimes.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
A file photo of Harsh Mander addressing a press conference in New Delhi.

BJP leaders who made hate-filled speeches against Muslims, both in the run-up to the Delhi elections and just before the riots, have still not been pulled up by either the government or the Supreme Court, but ironically, activist Harsh Mander has been asked to reply to allegations made against him of hate speech.

The development occurred on Wednesday morning as the Supreme Court heard Mander’s plea for registration of FIRs against BJP leaders for hate speech ahead of the elections. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta claimed that hate speeches were made on “both sides”, adding that Mander made one at Jamia when he said there was no trust left in courts. 

In his speech on 16 December, a day after the Delhi Police attacked Jamia students, Mander had said, “This fight is for our country and our Constitution.” He went on to say that the fight against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was also against the government’s targeting of “Muslim brothers and sisters of the country”. You can listen to the entire speech here:

While both the central and state governments have been accused of being missing from relief operations on the ground, Mander and his team have been coordinating operations and present at relief camps. He was also at the forefront in December, when panic was in the air after the crackdown on Jamia students, as well as during subsequent attacks on anti-CAA protesters. 

Mander resigned from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 2002, immediately after the Gujarat riots, after 22 years of service. In an article in Outlook in April 2002, he wrote, “A humane and responsive democratic government must apply in all such situations—of communal riots, or violence against minorities or Dalits—the principle not of minimum necessary application of force, but instead the responsible but maximum possible use of force the state can muster in the shortest possible time.”

In his book Looking Away, published in 2015, Mander wrote that after his stance on the Gujarat riots, he lost “close to three quarters of my friends and associates of my life before 2002”, including people he knew from childhood.

In the years since 2002, Mander and his team have worked extensively with survivors of communal riots, as well as on issues of poverty and hunger. A former member of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council, Mander is currently the director of Delhi-based research organisation Centre for Equity Studies, which works on issues of social justice. 

Most famously, Mander also runs an initiative called the Karwan-e-Mohabbat (Caravan of Love) which works with victims of lynchings and other hate crimes. 

In his address at Jamia, which some people on Twitter called a “love speech”, Mander said the fight against communalism couldn’t be fought in Parliament or courts any longer. 

“This fight cannot be fought in the Parliament. Because the parties who call themselves secular, they don’t have the morals in them anymore. We cannot fight this fight in the Supreme Court because we have seen that in case of Ayodhya, NRC and Kashmir, the Supreme Court did not protect humanity, equality or secularism,” Mander had said in his speech. 

If it was this speech that the government would have people believe incited hate, it would be interesting to see what its position is on Union ministers encouraging slogans to “shoot traitors”. 

The irony of putting the onus of hate speech on Mander was not lost on many of his supporters on Twitter, especially in the context of the riots in Delhi

Many also tweeted with the hashtag #IStandWithHarshMander.