CCG OPEN LETTER – DEMAND FOR ACTION ON HATE SPEECH BY LOK SABHA MP PRAGYA THAKUR

7 January 2023

We are a group of former officers of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. As members of the Constitutional Conduct Group, we believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Indian Constitution and in safeguarding its values.

It has been reported in the media that, on 25 December, 2022, while addressing a gathering of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike’s South Region annual convention in Shivamogga, Karnataka, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Pragya Thakur, also known as Sadhvi Pragya, exhorted the crowd to guard their women against men of other communities. She urged them to keep their vegetable knives sharp so these could be used as weapons against those who allegedly kill Hindus; these knives could also be used to cut off the heads of those indulging in ‘love jihad’, if such an opportunity presented itself. Such action would be construed to be in self-defence, she said, a right which every individual has. She was clearly telling her Hindu audience that they had to be afraid of attacks from non-Hindus, and though the word ‘Muslim’ does not seem to have been specifically used, the context and the use of the term ‘love jihad’ leaves no doubt that it was the Muslim community that she was targeting. It is also possible that she was sending out a warning against Christians and other non-Hindu communities as well. Though Sadhvi Pragya Thakur appears to have cleverly chosen her words to avoid criminal charges being made against her, the disguise is only a thin one. She is obviously fomenting hate against non-Hindu communities, and advocating violence against them.

By her incendiary words,  Pragya Thakur has not only  committed several offences under the Indian Penal Code, she has also violated the oath taken by her as Member of Parliament to uphold the Constitution of India, which is premised upon the rights to life and liberty, secularism, equality and fraternity. A group of civil society organizations (the Campaign Against Hate Speech, Bahutva Karnataka, All India Lawyers Association for Justice and People’s Union for Civil Liberties – Karnataka) has recently circulated a petition addressed to the Honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha to disqualify Pragya Thakur from being a Member of Parliament because of her recent communal utterances at Shivamogga. We, in the Constitutional Conduct Group, also strongly believe that stern action should be taken against her as per the rules of the Lok Sabha. By her incendiary hate speech and her repeated acts of propagating hate, she has forfeited the ethical right to be a Member of Parliament.

As a society, we seem to have become inured to hate speech against minorities.  A daily dose of venom is spewed, in the print, visual and social media against different non-Hindu communities, primarily against Muslims, and more lately against Christians as well. Often, these verbal attacks are accompanied by physical violence, assaults on their places of worship, anti-conversion legislation, hurdles placed in the way of inter-faith marriages, denial of livelihoods and a myriad other actions to lower their status in society. A compliant media and systematic distortion of history by people in positions of authority feed this frenzy of communal hate. Regulatory institutions are compromised through inducement or intimidation  and oversight institutions of democracy have been suborned.

In this very charged environment, it is the judiciary that has from time to time passed orders which have helped to partly stymie the flood of hate and reclaim the republic. We would like to quote extracts from two Supreme Court pronouncements in particular, Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan vs Union of India, 2014 and the more recent statements of October 2022 by Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy:

Hate speech is an effort to marginalise individuals based on their membership in a group. Using expression that exposes the group to hatred, hate speech seeks to delegitimise group members in the eyes of the majority, reducing their social standing and acceptance within society. Hate speech, therefore, rises beyond causing distress to individual group members. It can have a societal impact. Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on vulnerable people that can range from discrimination, to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide. (2014)

The Constitution envisages Bharat as a secular nation, and fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and unity and the integrity of the country is the guiding principle enshrined in the Preamble. . . We feel that this court is charged with the duty to protect these fundamental rights and also protect and preserve the constitutional values and the secular, democratic character of the nation and in particular the rule of law. (2022)

This latter order goes on to direct some of the respondents, viz. the governments of the NCT of Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh that

whenever any speech or any action takes place which attracts offences such as those under Sections 153A  153B , 295A   and 505  of the IPC suo motu action will be taken even if no complaint is forthcoming and proceed against offenders in accordance with law. . . . any hesitation to act in accordance with this direction will be viewed as contempt.

(All the sections of the IPC mentioned above have to do with offences in places of worship and against people belonging to religious and other groups.)

It is commendable that the police in Shivamogga have not been taken in by Sadhvi Pragya’s attempt to disguise her speech as being about self-defence and have registered one or more FIRs against her under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. We hope they will speedily move to file a charge sheet in the court.

As a group committed to the rule of law, democracy and the checks and balances inherent in the Constitution, we are heartened by such action and by the judiciary’s efforts to protect the India envisaged in the Constitution. We believe that not merely the judiciary, but every other relevant institution, should take action to protect the Constitution. A particular responsibility devolves on the Houses of Parliament which make laws for the country. Surely its members cannot be permitted to violate the principles of the Constitution? We therefore urge the Honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha to take immediate action to refer the matter to the Committee of Ethics of the Lok Sabha for such action as may be deemed appropriate.  The very fact that an FIR has been registered by the police against the Member of Parliament for inciting hatred should be ground enough to take action.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

Constitutional Conduct Group (103 signatories at pages 3-6 below)

1. Anita Agnihotri IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
2. Salahuddin Ahmad IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
3. S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
4. Anand Arni RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
5. M.D. Asthana IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser, Planning Commission, GoI
6. Mohinderpal Aulakh IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Jails), Govt. of Punjab
7. G. Balachandhran IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
8. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
9. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
10. Chandrashekar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
11. Rana Banerji RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
12. T.K. Banerji IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
13. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
14. Aurobindo Behera IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
15. Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal
16. Pradip Bhattacharya IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Development & Planning and Administrative Training Institute, Govt. of West Bengal
17. Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
18. Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
19. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
20. R. Chandramohan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
21. Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
22. Gurjit Singh Cheema IAS (Retd.) Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
23. F.T.R. Colaso IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
24. Anna Dani IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
25. Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
26. P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
27. Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
28. Nitin Desai   Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
29. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
30. Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden
31. A.S. Dulat IPS (Retd.) Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
32. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
33. Prabhu Ghate IAS (Retd.) Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI
34. Gourisankar Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
35. Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
36. S. Gopal IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, GoI
37. S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
38. H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.) Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
39. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
40. Ravi Vira Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
41. Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner
42. Deepa Hari IRS (Resigned)  
43. Siraj Hussain IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
44. Najeeb Jung IAS (Retd.) Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
45. Vinod C. Khanna IFS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI
46. Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
47. Ish Kumar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission
48. Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
49. Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
50. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
51. Amitabh Mathur IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
52. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
53. Shivshankar Menon IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser
54. Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned) GoI
55. Malay Mishra IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Hungary
56. Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
57. Noor Mohammad IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, Govt. of India
58. Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
59. Satya Narayan Mohanty IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
60. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
61. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

 

 

62. Gautam Mukhopadhaya IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar
63. Nagalsamy IA&AS (Retd.) Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
64. T.K.A. Nair IAS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Prime Minister of India
65. Sobha Nambisan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka
66. P. Joy Oommen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
67. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
68. Maxwell Pereira IPS (Retd.) Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
69. Alok Perti IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
70. Gurnihal Singh Pirzada IAS (Resigned) Former MD, Punjab State Electronic Development & Production Corporation, Govt. of Punjab
71. R. Poornalingam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
72. Rajesh Prasad IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
73. R.M. Premkumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
74. Rajdeep Puri IRS (Resigned) Former Joint Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI
75. T.R. Raghunandan IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
76. N.K. Raghupathy IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI

 

77. V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
78. K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
79. M.Y. Rao IAS (Retd.)  
80. Satwant Reddy IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
81. Vijaya Latha Reddy IFS (Retd.) Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
82. Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
83. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)  
84. A.K. Samanta IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
85. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
86. G. Sankaran IC&CES (Retd.) Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
87. S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
88. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
89. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
90. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
91. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFoS (Retd.) Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
92. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia

 

 

93. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
94. Pravesh Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
95. Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
96. Rashmi Shukla Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
97. Tara Ajai Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
98. A.K. Srivastava IAS (Retd.) Former Administrative Member, Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal
99. Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
100. Anup Thakur IAS (Retd.) Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
101. P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
102. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
103. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

3 thoughts on “CCG OPEN LETTER – DEMAND FOR ACTION ON HATE SPEECH BY LOK SABHA MP PRAGYA THAKUR

  1. Shuvam

    When will this Constitutional Conduct Group realise that speaking truth to power is just hot air without action and meaningless? It make me wants to puke, pontificating and sending letters and adopting a holier than thou attitude. If you want to act as watch guards of the Constitution and the hoi polloi, take concrete action, apart from your letters with X number of signatories who probably don’t even know that the issue at hand.

    Like

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