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Hate Speech Beda to KKSV: Meet The Warriors Preventing K’Taka From Turning Into A Hate Factory

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We The Women

On January 15, 2020, We The People, a collective coordinating anti-CAA demonstrations throughout India at the time, held a protest consisting  largely of men, assembled in Mangalore’s Adyar Kannur for a massive anti-CAA and anti-NRC rally. Moiuddin Bawa, a former Mangalore (North) MLA, remarked on the lack of women at the rally, claiming that ladies were not welcome due to security concerns.

This started a wave of activism which ultimately birthed We The Women. “Some of us attended the event despite such statements,” says social activist Vidya Dinker. “We thought we must make this space for ourselves.”

Vidya and other concerned Mangalore women decided to unite together, coordinate themselves via WhatsApp, and stage their own rallies.

‘I felt like a lot of women were concerned about the issues men were protesting about. We were wondering where this was headed for our children, and how it would impact us long-term,” she explains.

After the lockdown was eased, the group stayed in touch via WhatsApp and held events, including one in honour of murdered journalist Gauri Lankesh. “The divide is still there. How many people will speak up for issues of social justice and for the concerns of Muslims? Only some who’re politically inclined and even that number is diminishing,” Vidya says.

Hate Speech Beda

During heated anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests, as well as a violent incident in Mangalore on December 19, 2019, when police opened fire on a gathering of protestors, killing two daily wage labourers, a flurry of sedition allegations arose. The incident drew widespread attention, and a curfew was implemented in the wake of the shooting, as well as the shutdown of mobile internet services in the city.

“The sequence of events was worrying and we as a group of concerned citizens decided to come together to highlight how prevalent hate speech had become in society now,” says Hate Speech Beda campaign’s Swathi Shivanand.

The initiative aims to identify and expose hate speech that is routinely covered by regional newspapers and television stations when covering controversial situations in the state.

Hate Speech Beda has identified trends in the media coverage that show due process was not followed. The group is also educating people on how to report hate speech and how to file a hate speech complaint.

“We came together as a group of citizens concerned about the reportage on the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests. There were a series of incidents where young people like Amulya, Ardra and Nalini Balakumar were charged with sedition and the incidents were reported with opinion rather than with facts,” says Swathi. 

She adds, “Kannada media has a lot of influence in forming public opinion and there was an anti-Muslim sentiment that pervaded its coverage on some incidents this year, like the demolition of the migrant settlement in Bellandur.”

Komu Souharda Vedike

Chidananda, a 43-year-old Dalit man from Chikkamagaluru’s Belavadi, was attacked in 2012 on his way home from the fields, where he worked 13 hours a day. The mob was primarily made up of upper caste youngsters who humiliated him and his family for eating the meat of an ox that had died in a nearby field, which had supplied  Chidananda and his family with eight meals over 3 days. The gang also came to his house later that day and assaulted his son, wife, and sister-in-law. 

A rally took place in Chikkamagaluru town more than a week after the incident, demanding that the attackers be caught and punished, as well as those who condone and enable them.

The Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike (KKSV), or Karnataka Forum for Communal Harmony, organised this demonstration. For the past 21 years, this organisation has fought diligently to provide a voice for individuals who, socially and economically, are unable to speak for themselves.

When Baba Budangiri, a syncretic shrine visited by Hindus and Muslims, became a hub of communal agitation and conflict in 1999, the organisation formed with just 40 members. “We shall convert Baba Budangiri into another Ayodhya,” claimed then-VHP leader Pravin Togadia.

Mahesha, one of the first to moot the idea of KKSV explained that “We were very unorganized at the time but despite that when we saw that in street corners, at barber shops people were speaking a language of hate, we realised we needed to fight the ‘us vs them’ conspiracy”.

KKSV is currently leveraging technology to reach out to more individuals, in accordance with the internet age. KKSV’s Convenor KL Ashoka says they hope to reach at least three times their present network in the next two years, using social media channels like Facebook to post updates on their work and WhatsApp to promote awareness and expose fake news that might stir communal hatred. He goes on to say that they are also forming a large network of grassroots reporters who work for hyper-local news organisations to ensure that they, too, become their ambassadors in the fight against prejudice and hate.


Source- The News Minute 

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