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Pushkar Singh Dhami, Nitish Kumar and the Media's Inability to Outrage When it Really Matters

At an event attended by the Uttarakhand CM, priest Dhirendra Shastri made incendiary comments against Muslims. These found no mention in the newspapers.
Pushkar Singh Dhami with Dhirendra Shastri (in garland) at Dehradun. Photo: X/@pushkardhami

A media outrage storm against the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, has been brewing in India for much of the past two days. Kumar has been accused of making misogynist remarks in the state assembly. Many prominent people including PM Modi have slammed Kumar and the INDIA alliance for “stooping to a new low.”  

A BJP MP even described his remarks as an assault on the spirit of Indian democracy. 

Writing on The Wire Abantika Ghosh noted that Nitish Kumar gave a rather graphic description of withdrawal as one of the means that an educated woman can make her husband practice in order to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Speaking informally in Hindi, Kumar had stressed on the need for educating women in order to bolster the government’s population control efforts. It’s not that Kumar’s remarks should not be the subject of scrutiny. Ghosh has already covered that in her piece.

I want to focus on another aspect of the story that has received little attention – the extreme bias of the Hindi media against prominent leaders of the opposition. While there is no dearth of examples to illustrate this bias, a recent incident explains this quite aptly.

 Two days before Kumar’s speech went viral, on November 4, a grand katha or Hindu religious sermon was organised for Dhirendra Shastri, the chief priest of the Bageshwar Dham, at the parade ground in Dehradun. At the event, Hindutva leaders including Shastri, made hateful remarks targeting the Muslim and Christian minorities in the chief minister’s presence. However, it has received little coverage and almost no outrage in the national media. Almost no Hindi channel reported on the contents of the speech and one channel reported it as the Godman’s advice to religious minorities. 

This is summary of the supposed ‘advice’ that Shastri gave:

If a person is O+, can he accept another blood group?…So, if the body can’t accept another blood group then how can we accept another religion?

When I was coming here, I was told that JCBs have been run over the lands of “those people”. I replied that’s very good…Right now Maharaj ji was also telling us how they capture land and cover it with a chadar…This is how the CM should be who takes away the homes of those who say that it’s Babur’s land.

I don’t want mosques to be made in Uttarakhand. Only Ram temples should be constructed. 

Shastri also compared Muslims and Christians to ghosts and ghouls who can be shooed away by chanting the names of Hindu Gods

Shastri was received by CM Pushkar Singh Dhami and even escorted to the stage. After Shastri’s address, Dhami described him as the “guardian of the Hindu culture,” and as one conveying the true identity of India to the future generations.

Apart from Shastri, Swami Darshan Bharti was also mentioned by Dhami in his address.

Bharti, who was also present on the stage, had hit the headlines earlier this year when Muslims were driven out of the Purola town and their businesses were targeted after being marked with the ‘X’ sign. Later, it was revealed that the whole ‘love jihad’ charge was false. ‘Love jihad’ is a bogey claiming a conspiracy by Muslims to convert Hindu brides.

Bharti is one of the Hindutva leaders from the state whose name regularly features in anti-Muslim hate videos. In a recent interview to a local online portal, he was asked if his speeches can incite people, to which he lamented that people do not get provoked enough. “If they were actually getting provoked then the limbs of so many Muslims would have been chopped off till now,” he is heard saying.

Bharti was a prominent speaker at the infamous Haridwar Dharam Sansad where calls for mass killings of Muslims were made. 

The Wire had reported that at the Haridwar Dharma Sansad, Bharti spoke about “Islamic activities in the devbhoomi.” He said that even Aurangzeb had not managed to conquer the devbhoomi and claimed that its people have not allowed any mosque to be built there since 2015.

“No mazar was allowed to be built.. No madrasa was allowed to be built…Remember this too…Learn this from these poor…I definitely wish to put to you people that only after saving that shrine of Hindu religion can we talk of a Hindu nation…If India follows the path shown by Shankaracharya ji, then surely this saint will give you this knowledge,” he said.

This time around, in the presence of the chief minister, he said that Uttarakhand is suffering because of “jihadis who’ve invaded” the state.

“If the wave of Hindutva doesn’t start from Uttarakhand then the nation won’t become a Hindu state…This country has to be made a Hindu rashtra and all the people of the Devbhoomi need to take this vow.”

Almost all Hindi newspapers had great things to say about the event.

Meanwhile, the adjectives being used for Nitish Kumar’s speech in the media are: vulgar, incendiary, misogynist, sexist, controversial, and bizarre. 

The Supreme Court and Uttarakhand high court have repeatedly questioned the state government for their inaction against hate speech, something that seems to have become so routine in the state that no media has even bothered to report about it, despite it happening in the CM’s presence.

The Supreme Court had warned that any delay in registering hate speech cases would be considered contempt of court, and described hate speech as a severe crime that can damage the secular fabric of the society.

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