Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party and affiliated groups were behind most hate speech events against Muslims in the first half of the year, according to a report which flagged the “escalating trend” since Modi rose to power in 2014.
Around 80 percent of the 255 recorded incidents of hate speech against Muslims took place in the first half of 2023 in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a report released on Monday by Hindutva Watch, a DC-based research group that tracks hate speech and crime against minorities in India. There was no comparative data for prior years.
It used the United Nations’ definition of hate speech as “any form of communication… that employs prejudiced or discriminatory language towards an individual or group based on attributes such as religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender, or other identity factors.”
Anti-Muslim hate speech incidents in India averaged more than one a day in the first half of 2023 and were seen most in states with upcoming elections.
Under the BJP, India’s Muslim population has faced bias and religious persecution, which critics say is aiming to marginalise Muslims and transform India into a Hindu-dominated nation.
This report is the first of its kind to record instances of anti-Muslim speech after India’s crime bureau discontinued collecting hate crime data in 2017.
Hindutva Watch relied on online open-source information to accumulate data and then used the data scrapping techniques to locate verified videos of hate crimes. The team then conducted in-depth investigations with the help of journalists and researchers, as outlined in their methodology explanation.
The report saw more than half of the documented incidents this year were conducted by the ruling BJP and affiliates including the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Sakal Hindu Samaj.
About 70% of the incidents took place in states scheduled to hold elections in 2023 and 2024, according to the report.
Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat witnessed the highest number of hate speech gatherings, with Maharashtra accounting for 29% of such incidents, the report found. The majority of the hate speech events mentioned conspiracy theories and calls for violence and socio-economic boycotts against Muslims.
Hindutva Watch said it tracked online activity of Hindu nationalist groups, verified videos of hate speeches posted on social media and compiled data of isolated incidents reported by media.
Rights groups allege mistreatment of Muslims under Modi, who became prime minister in 2014. They point to a 2019 citizenship law described as “fundamentally discriminatory” by the United Nations human rights office for excluding Muslim migrants; an anti-conversion legislation challenging the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief, and the 2019 revoking of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status.