Ex-IFS officers say outrage on Haridwar hate speech a ‘smear campaign’
A group of former ambassadors and senior diplomats has criticised activists, retired bureaucrats, military officers and journalists for conducting what it claimed was a “sustained smear campaign” against the government over controversial statements made at the Dharam Sansad in Haridwar in December last year.
The group of 32 diplomats, which included former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, contended in a statement issued on Wednesday that all calls for violence “must be unequivocally condemned regardless of their religious, ethnic, ideological or regional origin”.
The group claimed a “motley group of activists”, some former civil servants and military figures were involved in the “smear campaign against the present government on its presumed violations of the secular ethos of the country”.
“This has taken effectively an increasingly anti-Hindu tenor under the guise of anti-Hindutva. The latter has become a convenient peg for ‘secular’ posturing, adopting virtue-signaling ‘constitutional’ positions, relying on bloated vocabulary of ‘Nazism’ and ‘genocide’ to gather international attraction and leverage it to bring odium to the Modi government,” the statement said.
The group specifically referred to the activists and former bureaucrats and military officers raising the issue of “some objectionable anti-minority statements made at a religious gathering at Haridwar”.
The former diplomats contended these statements should be “condemned by all right thinking people”, but added that “when the import of these is exaggerated out of all proportion and the ranting by fringe elements are seen as representative of the sentiments prevailing in ruling circles, and as laying the agenda of what lies ahead at the national level, then the political leanings and moral integrity of the critics can be rightly questioned”.
After several videos of leaders at the religious congregation emerged on social media, Uttarakhand Police registered an FIR that named several Hindu leaders for allegedly making hate speeches. Five former chiefs of staff of the armed forces and more than 100 prominent citizens wrote a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice NV Ramana on December 31, condemning speeches made at the meeting in Haridwar.
However, the group of former diplomats contended that a “tirade of accusations and calumny has been let loose in an effort to falsely portray the Haridwar speeches as a force very much larger than the fringe groups they represent”.
“Overwrought fears are expressed about an irreversible fragmentation and disintegration of the country by what is described as brazen and violent attacks against minorities throughout the North Indian heartland by supposedly not fringe elements but ones dangerously close to mainstream, and holding that the instruments of state are being bent to advance this communal agenda,” the statement said.
The group claimed that under the current government, welfare schemes for minorities had seen increases in expenditure, including on rural housing, scholarships for students, priority sector lending by banks and the rural and urban livelihoods mission.