Disturbing surge in anti-Muslim hate speech in BJP-ruled India: Research group

Disturbing surge

WASHINGTON, Feb 27 (APP): Instances of anti-Muslim hate speech more than doubled across India last year, a Washington-based research group said Monday, amid accusations of Islamophobic tendencies against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The proliferation of hate speech in India is particularly concerning given its clear connection to the upsurge in communal violence against minorities,” the group ‘India Hate Lab’ said in a report.

It said that the devastating Israeli war against Gaza played a key role in in the escalation of anti-Muslim hate speech over the last three months.

‘India Hate Lab’ documented 668 hate speech incidents targeting Muslims in 2023, 255 of which occurred in the first half of the year while 413 took place in the last six months of 2023, the research group said in a report released Monday.

About 75%, or 498, of those incidents took place in states governed by the Hindu nationalist BJP of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to the report. The states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh accounted for the most hate speech.

Between Oct. 7 and Dec. 31, there were 41 incidents of hate speech against Indian Muslims that mentioned the the Gaza situation, the report added. It accounted for about 20% of hate speech in the last three months of 2023.

The research group said it used the United Nations’ definition of hate speech – prejudiced or discriminatory language towards an individual or group based on attributes including religion, ethnicity, nationality, race or gender.

Rights groups have alleged mistreatment of Muslims under Modi, who became prime minister in 2014 and is widely expected to retain power after the 2024 elections.

They point to a 2019 citizenship law that the U.N. human rights office called “fundamentally discriminatory;” an anti-conversion legislation that challenges the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief; and the 2019 revoking of Muslim majority Kashmir’s special status.

There has also been demolition of Muslim properties in the name of removing illegal construction and a ban on wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka when the BJP was in power in that state.

The Indian embassy in Washington and India’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

India Hate Lab said it tracked online activity of Hindu nationalist groups, verified videos of hate speech posted on social media and compiled data of isolated incidents reported by Indian media.

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