National News

Anti-Muslim Hate Speech In India Jumps 62%

Anti-Muslim hate speech incidents in India rose sharply by 62% in the latter half of 2023 compared to the first six months, according to a new report by India Hate Lab, a Washington-based research group.

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The organization documented 668 cases of hate speech targeting Muslims last year. While 255 incidents occurred in the first half, the number swelled to 413 cases between July to December 2023.

The significant escalation coincides with the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza last October. Between October 7 and December 31, India Hate Lab recorded 41 hate speech episodes directly mentioning the Israel-Gaza conflict, accounting for nearly 20% of anti-Muslim hatred in the period.

Overall, in 2023, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-governed states saw 498 hate speech cases, representing 75% of the nationwide total. The states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were the leading locations of such incidents.

Image Source: The Wire

India Hate Lab defines hate speech based on the United Nations, covering language towards groups or individuals based on religion, race, gender or other attributes that are prejudiced or discriminatory.

The uptick has heightened existing concerns over the mistreatment of Muslims under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government in power since 2014. Critics point to several policies, including a 2019 citizenship law called “fundamentally discriminatory” by the UN as it excludes Muslims.

There is also an anti-conversion law infringing on constitutional religious freedom protections, the removal of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status in 2019, demolition of Muslim properties to clear alleged illegal construction and hijab bans in schools.

Tracking Online Activity of Hindu Nationalists

To compile the hate speech data, India Hate Lab tracked the online activity of Hindu nationalist organizations, verified hate speech videos on social media and isolated incidents covered in Indian media.

The report comes after another study by the group Hindutva Watch found over 250 cases of anti-Muslim hate speech in the first half of 2023, averaging more than one incident daily. About 70% of these gatherings occurred in states holding 2023-2024 elections.

Around 80% of the locations were under BJP governance. The gatherings frequently peddled conspiracy theories and calls for violence and socio-economic boycotts of Muslims.

Government Denies Allegations of Minority Abuse

Modi’s administration has repeatedly dismissed accusations of minority abuse in India as well as calls for accountability over hate speech and mob attacks on Muslims. The Indian embassy in Washington did not respond to the research group’s request for comment.

With the BJP widely predicted to retain power after the 2024 polls, rights groups warn that without course correction, anti-Muslim sentiments and violence could worsen. They urged authorities to halt discriminatory rhetoric and policies violating constitutional principles of secularism and religious freedom.

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