The Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi (translated as the Deprived Majority Front or VBA) is taking initiative to tackle hate being spread in the name of the religion by certain right-wing forces in the country. The Front has promulgated a bill that is being publicised as the Prophet Muhammad Bill, or Blasphemy of Prophet Muhammad and other Religious Chiefs Act, 2021 or Abusive Languages (Prevention) Act, 2021. The bill has been presented to the Maharashtra Assembly and is likely to be discussed in the upcoming Budget Session in Feb-March.
The TimesHadline has the copy of the draft bill.
The Bill, according to the president of the Front, Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, has been necessitated by the growing hate speeches against religious and social figures by certain right-wing groups. “It’s a concrete effort to counter hate-mongers. We have drafted the bill carefully to call for penalising insults hurled at all prominent figures revered across caste, creed and other identities. We have already launched a boisterous campaign to make people aware of such hate and the need for a law to curb it,” Mr Ambedkar told TimesHeadline.
Elaborating further on the need for such a law and the background to drafting it, he said that several incidents of hatred against a religious group or religious figure have led to communal flare-ups. “You can note several such incidents that took place recently, not only in Maharashtra, but all across India. Such communal tension is not limited to targeting one community, but the whole society, especially the poor sections, that we also call vanchit samaj, bears its brunt. We have been calling for a counter to such communal elements for a long time,” he said.
He informed that the draft bill was presented in the Maharashtra Assembly in July by independent MLA Kapil Patil (he was backed by the VBA in the election).
“Now, we are meeting secular leaders across all party lines, including ruling Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress to gather support for the bill. Many leaders have shown interest in the passage of the bill,” he said.
Interestingly, the VBA, which seems to steer clear of religious lines in its political and social campaigns, and is devoted to Ambedkarite ideals, claims the backing of around 100 Muslim organisations for the bill. These organisations include Raza Academy, Jamaat e Islami, Jamiat Ulema e Hind, Bareilly Sharif Dargah, Deoband Madrasa and even some Shia outfits.
Mr Ambedkar explains this saying that the Muslim community has suffered the most because of the hate campaigns against it and unfortunately their political leadership don’t show any courage to come forward beyond the stand of the political parties they are associated with. “Muslims are largely represented by their clergy for advocacy on most of their issues, especially religious ones. So, when some of the organisations approached us and we saw that we share the common concern, we welcomed their support,” said Mr Ambedkar.
When this correspondent asked Mr Ambedkar’s colleague, Rekha Tai Thakur, Maharashtra president of VBA, that why do people from vanchit samaj who are overwhelmingly represented in the state machinery like police forces, bureaucracy, etc, help peddle hate against minorities, she said, “If you will examine carefully, they are used by the system and their lives are destroyed in the end. They themselves end up being framed in one case or the other. Our campaign to create social awareness in the vanchit samaj is making such people aware of threats to their future. We communicate with many such officials and some of them show courage to remain upright,” she said.
Meanwhile, Raza Academy, a Mumbai-based organisation, has decided to open branches across the country under the banner of “Tahaffuz e Namoos e Risalat” to take legal course against such insults and educate Muslim youth not to agitate on such issues.
When TimesHeadline inquired Saeed Noori, the founder of Raza Academy, that there could be violence potential in the Tahaffuz initiative because of the Academy’s alleged role in violent protests in the past, he said, “Our effort is exactly to mitigate any such possibility. We will prevent Muslim youth from hitting roads on the issue of insult to our beloved Prophet and other sensitive issues of the community. Our branches will teach them that the community has to take legal courses on such issues and not let divisive forces take advantage of our emotionalism. We will file FIRs against mischief makers throughout the country and pursue the court case till the accused are punished,” said Noorie.