Haryana BJP spokesperson Suraj Pal Amu's speech at an event has raised a big controversy
Despite the presence of close to 100 police personnel, a violence-inciting speech by a BJP official has gone unpunished so far. Videos of hate-filled comments by Suraj Pal Amu, appointed recently as one of the spokespersons of the BJP's Haryana unit, have been shared widely on social media since Sunday. He made the comments at a mahapanchayat in Pataudi, a town in BJP-ruled Haryana.
The police are yet to act against him or the event organisers.
"They (Muslims) cut their moustaches, we can cut throats... We will pick them (Muslims) off one by one (chun chun ke thokenge)," Mr Amu is heard saying in the videos as the crowd cheered him on.
Legal experts say his comments clearly violate hate speech laws, including Sections 153 A and B of the Indian Penal Code, which punishes anyone who "promotes disharmony, feelings of enmity, or hatred between religious groups or anyone who makes assertions harmful to national integration". The punishment ranges from three-year jail, or a fine, or both.
Varun Singla, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Manesar - the venue of the mahapanchayat falls under his remit - said he was aware of the videos, but that no action had been taken since no complaint has been filed over the comments.
The law, however, categorises hate speech as a cognisable offence for which the police do not need a formal complaint or a court warrant to make arrests. The police are empowered to act if they become aware of the crime independently.
Some 100 police personnel were present at the event, according to Mr Singla, to prevent any violence.
Mr Singla said the police could initiate action on their own. "Definitely, we can take cognisance of any cognisable offence, so we are seeking legal opinion on the matter," he said.
On allegations that the police are holding off on taking action because Mr Amu is a member of the state's ruling party, Mr Singla said, "No, there is nothing like that. It is just that we have not received any complaint and that is why there has been no action in this case."
It is also unclear how the event was allowed to be held in the first place, given its explicitly inflammatory agenda.
Promotional flyers for the event described it as a mahapanchayat against "recent increase in cases of love jihad, market jihad, land jihad and religious conversions in the villages surrounding Pataudi," with a focus on the subject of "love jihad", the allegations that Muslim men lure Hindu women away from their families and forcefully convert them to Islam.
The event was organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, local cattle vigilante groups and some village leaders.
One of the organisers, Satya Narayan, a local leader affiliated with BJP's ideological mentor RSS, said they had gone ahead with the event despite not getting formal permission from the administration.
"We told the administration that we want to hold this panchayat. They didn't respond in writing but we told them from our side. The administration didn't deny or allow holding of the panchayat; they thought only four-five people will come," he said.
The videos suggest that a much larger crowd eventually turned up.
Also present at the meeting and making speeches inciting violence against Muslims was a young man who had been arrested for shooting at protesters outside Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia University in January 2020, injuring a student, during the protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA.
Sanjay Sharma, media-in charge for BJP's Haryana unit, said Mr Amu was speaking in a personal capacity and not as a representative of the ruling party.
Mr Amu, however, told NDTV he is very much a spokesperson of the BJP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP were also tagged in a tweet on the Pataudi mahapanchayat by Amu's Twitter handle, in which he shared a photo of himself making the hate speech and captioned it, "They say that Hindus are tolerant, they tolerate everything, we say that tolerance has a limit, till how long do you blindly watch the incidents of conversion and love jihad, brother?"
Mr Amu, who has held several posts in the BJP till 2019, including chief media coordinator in Haryana, was re-inducted as spokesperson on June 11, just 12 days after he made similar hateful comments at a mahapanchayat in northern Haryana's Indri, where he called for violent attacks on Muslims.
Mr Amu was last in the news in 2017 for announcing a reward for beheading actor Deepika Padukone over a controversy surrounding the film Padmaavat. He resigned from the BJP in 2018 after being granted bail in the case, but his resignation was not accepted.
Mr Amu's speeches have set the town of Pataudi, with a Muslim population of around 30 per cent, on the edge.
"The thing is there has been no FIR. There are lots of videos, so surely it is real, so why is there no action? Our brotherhood with the Hindus is strong and will sustain but they need to stop speeches like this. What is the government doing? Why didn't they stop it? Pataudi has not always been like this, but since certain political leaders have got power, they want to break our brotherhood," Sarfaraz, a resident of Pataudi, told NDTV. He said there has always been a strong bond between Hindus and Muslims in the area, and he is shocked by the lack of action by the police over the hate speech.
DP Kaushik, another BJP Haryana unit spokesperson, acknowledged that Mr Amu's statements were objectionable. "Such topics should not have been raised... This matter is only a few days old. The party will think about this," Mr Kaushik said.