Acting tough against growing incidences of inflammatory speeches, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided to write to all State governments to take strict action against all those fanning communal passions and trying to disturb peace and harmony.

Significantly, acting on the MHA’s advice, the Maharashtra government has already begun its probe into the alleged inflammatory speech made by Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia in Nanded last month. The MHA has asked the State government to book him if he is found to have violated any law.

The move comes amid growing demands for Mr. Togadia’s arrest on the lines of the recent police action taken against Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi for a hate speech delivered in Andhra Pradesh’s Adilabad district last month. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday called for action against “rabble-rousers” who were trying to fan disharmony in society.

“Action must be taken”

“The Home Ministry’s advice is clear… Once they [Maharashtra government] have confirmed evidence, appropriate action as per the law must be taken against [Mr.] Togadia,” a senior MHA official said.

The official said the government had to watch this issue cautiously as incidents of hate speeches would grow as the general election approached. “We will see more inflammatory speeches being delivered by religious and political leaders to create tension and polarise voters… We are asking the State governments to immediately take strict action in such cases so that the situation does not get aggravated,” the official added.

The MHA has been repeatedly expressing concern over growing incidents of communal clashes across the country, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. At the State police chiefs’ conference in September, 2012, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde flagged the issue of “increase in communal incidents in the country.”

Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh, while talking to journalists, said the State government must act against Mr. Togadia if his speech was found to be inflammatory. “Law and order is a State subject... All State governments have free choice to take action and are bound to take action if anybody raises inflammatory speeches. And I am sure the State governments will take appropriate action in any case because everybody is equal in the eyes of law,” he noted.

Civil society groups and political parties have also been demanding action against Mr. Togadia. While senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said no religious leader should be allowed to play with communal harmony in the country, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury also sought stringent action against Mr. Togadia.

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