Later Violence broke out on the streets of Ranchi In a chokehold on June 10 in response to the former BJP Spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s statement about the Prophet, many protesters were jailed and their names were publicly displayed in an act of shaming. Two young protesters were killed. One was 15 years old.
As soon as the curfew was lifted and the internet was back on, I was introduced to the family of an arrested 19-year-old Muslim boy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A family of six sat with their faces bowed in their tiny two-bedroom house on one of the narrow lanes leading out of Ranchi’s famous Bada Talab. I listened to his anger, and his sense of humiliation, while I thought about the next steps in securing bail for the boy.
I asked a colleague, a Muslim lawyer practicing in the Civil Court of Ranchi, who also does clerical work, to apply for certified copies. FIR Necessary for a bail application He came back upset: “The staff of the court were not behaving well. You should ask a Hindu lawyer to do the same.”
This time I approached another lawyer, a Hindu. While discussing the details, I asked her to make sure that the filing didn’t cost too much, as the customer couldn’t pay. “If the client can’t pay, why did he pelt stones?” He asked.
Growing up in Ranchi and now practicing in the High Court, I felt I was well prepared for the onslaught of hateful comments following the recent violence. But the revolt against the Muslims that I witnessed during this period reached a new level. There were calls for violence loudly and publicly, not just on WhatsApp. Many people demanded arrest, citing the UP government as a role model.
In all of these Islamophobic statements, I saw that the justification for violent speech came from arguments of self-defense. Indeed, scholars have noted how hate speech has begun to take the form of “fear speech”. Dutch legal scholar Antoine Buis, who coined the term, argues that “…speech directed to stigmatize another group may give way to violence (hate speech), but it is fear speech that leads to imminent violence.” This is especially true when speech takes the form of creating fear that another group is out to attack their own group with violence, possibly even with the aim of destruction (existential fear).
Scholar Kiran Garimella corroborated Busey’s theory in the Indian context with a critical analysis of nearly 27,000 WhatsApp messages across political groups. About 8,000 of these posts expressed some form of fear speech, which had a wider reach and longer lifespan than non-fear speech messages. “Fear speech messages use a variety of events and symbols to create an illusion of fear among the reader about a target community … Fear speech messages explicitly deal with aggression, crime, and violence across a set of themes. fit, portray Muslims as criminals and use inhuman representations of them.”
The same justification for fear and self-defense was missing when, at least a week later, the government announced Agnipath The plan sparked nationwide protests, with extensive damage to public property. In fact, violent speech against the protesters was completely absent. When I listened to the people around me, timing provided a great deal of engagement. A few days back those who were pleading for “bulldozer action” to import imports into Jharkhand were strangely calm. The anger and hatred went away.
On June 22, when I went to meet a 19-year-old Muslim boy who had been arrested earlier in the protest, I listened to him talk about how his commute to and from work at a bike showroom turned into a normal day.
I wondered who was afraid of him, who hated him, and who mattered.
The author is an advocate based in Ranchi.