Hate speeches at poll rallies: Citizens challenge ECI to ‘grow a spine or resign’ | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Hate speeches at poll rallies: Citizens challenge ECI to ‘grow a spine or resign’

May 12, 2024 07:20 AM IST

The concerned citizens, who stood in the scorching heat with placards with Grow a Spine or Resign slogans, had mainly three grouses with the ECI: to release the number of votes polled in the three past voting phases instead of only percentages; to take punitive action against hate speech by politicians, particularly those from the BJP; and, to take action against the coercion to withdraw candidates

Mumbai: “Grow a spine or resign,” was the common mantra maintained by around 400 people urging the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take action against politicians delivering hate speeches during election rallies. The protesters, including intellectuals, thinkers, and civil rights activists, gathered on Saturday at the post office on Linking Road in Santacruz and dropped in postcards stamped with a spine and addressed to the chief election commissioner of India, Delhi.

Mumbai, India - May 11, 2024: Khar residence raise voice against election commission for a free and fair election at Santacruz in Mumbai, India, on Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
Mumbai, India - May 11, 2024: Khar residence raise voice against election commission for a free and fair election at Santacruz in Mumbai, India, on Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)

The concerned citizens, who stood in the scorching heat with placards with Grow a Spine or Resign slogans, had mainly three grouses with the ECI: to release the number of votes polled in the three past voting phases instead of only percentages; to take punitive action against hate speech by politicians, particularly those from the BJP; and, to take action against the coercion to withdraw candidates.

“The ECI has not been taking action against leaders of the BJP, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for seeking votes by invoking the issues of caste, class, places of worship and religion, which is against the electoral code of conduct, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. The PM has openly used anti-Muslim slurs and attempted to create a communally volatile environment,” said Teesta Setalvaad, a civil rights activist.

The second demand was linked to the publishing of voter turnouts of the first three phases only in percentages, which were updated days later. Absolute numbers of voters in each constituency are needed for transparency, they posited, and such data was released in the previous elections of 2014 and 2019.

The third main demand had to do with the threats allegedly received by candidates from the BJP in Gandhinagar asking them to drop out of the race. Surat and Indore held no elections, as only single candidates ran.

Separately in the day, a seven-member delegation met S Chockalingam, chief electoral officer, Maharashtra at Mantralaya, with their letter. The letter was signed by over 222 people from across the country.

“The week upon is very important as it is preceding the fourth phase of voting, and many star campaigners will fly down,” said Lara Jesani, general secretary of PUCL Maharashtra. Accompanying her was Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s great grandson. “We went to submit our letter, which was also submitted in other states, and ask about the precautions taken. He said his team was cognizant of the happenings and they would release a warning regarding hate speech.”

“An important point the CEO told us was that the ECI, Maharashtra is not in a position to take action on campaigns against hate speeches. All they can do is file FIRs on the ground, and he said his team has filed 211 on MCC violations. Action taken, like banning campaigners for a short period, can only be by the ECI, Delhi.”

HT reached out to ECI but they did not respond till the time of going to press.

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