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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Placard with “F**k Hindutva” and distorted Swastika symbol is not a religious insult: Abhinav Chandrachud

During the anti-CAA protests last December, some students in Bengaluru had held up a placard saying “F**k Hindutva” with a distorted Swastika symbol in between the two words. The intent was clear, to denigrate a sacred Hindu symbol in their placard and draw parallels with the notorious Nazi symbol which has a similar red background and a white circle containing the hooked cross (Hakenkreuz).

This happened during a protest at the Government Arts College, Bengaluru on 20 December 2019. The Principal of the college lodged two FIRs alleging that a few students had unlawfully assembled in the college premises to protest against the CAA and some had displayed a placard with the text “Fuck Hindutva”.

The FIR said that this message amounted to promoting enmity between communities and religious insult so as to invoke IPC Sections 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs) and Section 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).

A law student approached the Karnataka High Court seeking to quash the FIRs and her petition came up for hearing before Justice Suraj Govidaraj on Tuesday.

Arguing before the Court, advocate Dr. Abhinav Chandrachud, representing the law student, said ,”Hindutva is not a religion and insult to it cannot be regarded as a religious insult.” He went on to contend that when somebody insults or uses abusive language against ‘Hindutva’, it is not an insult to a religion but an insult to a political philosophy. Therefore, an offence under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code is not made out, he submitted. But Chandrachud had nothing to say about the horrific distortion of the sacred Hindu symbols.

With regard to to the alleged offence committed under Section 153-A, Chandrachud submitted that there must be two communities involved. In the instant case, there are no two communities involved; a mere insult to one community will not attract the offence under Section 153-A IPC, he argued.

The Court went on to post the matter for further hearing on December 21.

Anti-Hindu bigotry and Abhinav Chandrachud’s sophistry

The placard held up by the students might have cleverly directed their abuse at ‘Hindutva’, but the underlying anti-Hindu bigotry is plain to see in the way they distorted a sacred Hindu symbol to create imagery matching the Nazi logo. The same tactics were used by anti-Hindu groups during a protest against PM Modi’s UK visit in 2015. Many in the Western world are not aware that the Swastika is an ancient holy Hindu and Dharmic symbol, and they confuse it with the Nazi Hakenkreuz (hooked cross).

Distortion of Swastika and OM in anti-Modi message beamed on UK Parliament.

Moreover, the distortion when the Nazi logo is projected on Hindus has another clever twist. The Swastika is modified slightly so that it also resembles OM!

But students in Bharat would know exactly what the Swastika and OM stand for, and thus their misuse of these sacred symbols could not have been but inspired by anti-Hindu malice.

Another question that can be posed to Dr. Abhinav Chandrachud, son of Supreme Court Justice DY Chandrachud, is whether he would extend a similar argument if someone had held up a placard saying “F**k Islamism” or “F**k Evangelism”?

A twitter thread by @dikgaj lays out the sophistry and inconsistency of such legal arguments –

“Both the Chandrachud’s are brilliant contextualizers of the Constitution and law. They do so by walking the deliberately kept fuzzy boundaries of definition of what is religion and what is “political ideology”. The monopoly over context and nuance that destroys all legitimacy of law.

Somehow some practitioners of law, and interpreters of law appointed by state, unilaterally decide who alone can can define religion and ideology, and that too on a “case by case” basis: that is definitions will differ based on religion or ideology in context.

Where exactly was “Hinduism” and “essential quality of Hindu”, that is the framework Savarakar used to define “Hindutva”, devoid of “political ideology”? How was ever the practised faith of the Hindus devoid of their political ideology?

Can the same logic of separation be applied to Islam? Political ideology is inseparable from practised Islam, as claimed by their own “scholars”? Does it mean that insulting and abusing its inseparable political ideological component will not be “insulting religion”?

If such a case actually happens in the future, one can expect the sudden appearance of “nuance and context” and other articles of constitution and the ephemerally convenient “spirit and philosophy” of Constitution to make an exception for Islam.

However, we should applaud Chandrachud for providing the unique excuse that as long as an abuser does not bring in her/ his personal religious inclinations into the same statement of abuse, she/ he can claim that it was not between “two communities”.

If you can abuse any community without giving out your own faith in the same abuse or claim a null-community (I think he can even accept self-proclaimed “individual” abuse and hence not belonging to any community – community needs at least two persons), as per Chandrachud, it doesn’t trigger IPC.

But in case of deemed abuse of Islam, I don’t think these arguments will hold. In that case, the “intent to abuse” a religion will be the primary observation, be it from null, trishanku or individual status.

It might also suddenly be realized, that no person in society is an island, that they are a part of community by shared love or hatred of a belief, faith and ideology. But such arguments will only be valid if it helps grant absolute immunity to Islam from any critical analysis.

In fact, the one thing left for folks similar in mindset to the Chandrachud’s, is to push for, by legal precedence, the technique used to make laws be interpreted in certain ways perhaps not imagined when framed, formal IPC against Islamophobia.

Once a formal explicit exception is made in criminal law against Islamophobia, Hindus can be freely abused and nothing can be said in criticism on any aspect of Islam. This lack of specification in the Constitution is creating so much problems.”

(Featured Image Source: livelaw.in)

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