A group of civil servants on Saturday sought action against Bharatiya Janata Party MP Pragya Thakur for urging Hindus to stock weapons at home to give “befitting reply” to those who try to attack their homes.

Addressing an event organised by the Hindu Jagarana Vedike in Karnataka’s Shivamogga city on December 25, the Bhopal MP had said that Hindus have the right to respond to those who attack them and their dignity.

“Keep weapons in your homes, if nothing else, at least keep knives used to cut vegetables sharp,” she had told the gathering. “If someone infiltrates our house and attacks us, giving them a befitting reply is our right.”

She had also urged Hindus to protect their girls from “love jihad” – a Hindutva conspiracy theory that Muslim men romantically lure Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam.

On Saturday, the former civil servants in a statement issued under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Group said that the context and the use of the term “love jihad” leaves no doubt that Thakur was targeting Muslims with her remarks.

“It is also possible that she was sending out a warning against Christians and other non-Hindu communities as well,” they added. “Though Pragya Thakur appears to have cleverly chosen her words to avoid criminal charges being made against her, the disguise is only a thin one. She is obviously fomenting hate against non-Hindu communities and advocating violence against them.”

The statement was signed by 103 retired civil servants, including Former Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Indian Administrative Services officers Harsh Mander, Julio Ribeiro and Aruna Roy.

The former bureaucrats strict action should be taken against Thakur as she has not only committed several offences under the Indian Penal Code but violated the oath taken by her as a Member of Parliament to uphold the Constitution of India. “By her incendiary hate speech and her repeated acts of propagating hate, she has forfeited the ethical right to be a Member of Parliament,” the statement added.

The signatories urged Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to refer the matter to the Committee of Ethics of the Lower House for action. “The very fact that an FIR [first information report] has been registered by the police against the Member of Parliament for inciting hatred should be ground enough to take action,” the statement said.

On December 28, the FIR was filed against Thakur under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, and race) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code.

The former civil servants noted in their statement that the Indian society has “become inured to hate speech against minorities”. They said “a daily dose of venom” is spewed on social media and other platforms against non-Hindu communities, especially Muslims.

“Often, these verbal attacks are accompanied by physical violence, assaults on their places of worship, anti-conversion legislation, hurdles placed in the way of inter-faith marriages, denial of livelihoods and a myriad other actions to lower their status in society,” the statement said. “A compliant media and systematic distortion of history by people in positions of authority feed this frenzy of communal hate.”

In such a charged environment, the signatories said that the judiciary has passed verdicts to “stymie the flood of hate and reclaim the republic”.

In October, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy had directed the police to immediately lodge cases against hate speech makers without waiting for a complaint to be filed.

The signatories in their statement highlighted the observations made by the bench:

“The Constitution envisages Bharat as a secular nation, and fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and unity and the integrity of the country is the guiding principle enshrined in the Preamble...We feel that this court is charged with the duty to protect these fundamental rights and also protect and preserve the constitutional values and the secular, democratic character of the nation and in particular the rule of law.”

— Supreme Court

The former civil servants hailed the Shivamogga Police for filing the FIR against the BJP leader and hoped the authorities would speedily move to file a chargesheet in the court.

This is not the first time the parliamentarian has caused an uproar with her remarks. In May 2019, Thakur had called Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse a patriot. She issued an apology following a barrage of criticism from her own party as well as the Opposition. Prime Minister Narendra Modi later said he would never be able to forgive Thakur for her comments.

She is also one of the accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast that killed six people.