A recent report by Hindutva Watch, a Washington-based organization monitoring attacks on minority groups, has raised concerns over the increasing incidents of anti-Muslims hate speech in India. The report, which covers the first half of 2023, sheds light on a disturbing trend, with 255 documented incidents reported, averaging more than one incident per day. Most of these incidents were concentrated in states with upcoming elections.
Hindutva Watch’s report highlights that there is no comparative data for prior years, making it difficult to ascertain whether this is an escalating issue or part of an ongoing problem. The organization employed the United Nations’ definition of hate speech, which includes any form of communication employing prejudiced or discriminatory language towards individuals or groups based on attributes such as religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender, or other identity factors.
The data in the report reveals that a significant 70% of hate speech incidents occurred in states slated for elections in 2023 and 2024. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat were the most affected states, where the majority of incidents involved the propagation of conspiracy theories, violence, and socio-economic boycotts against Muslims.
Perhaps the most concerning revelation in the report is that approximately 80% of these incidents were reported in regions where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, holds power. The BJP is widely predicted to maintain its dominance in the upcoming general elections in 2024.
Hindutva Watch conducted its research by tracking online activities of Hindu nationalist groups, verifying hate speech videos posted on social media, and collecting data on isolated incidents reported by various media sources.
Prime Minister Modi’s government has consistently denied allegations of minority abuse. The Indian embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comments, according to Reuters.
Human rights organizations have long accused Modi’s administration of mistreating Muslims during his tenure. These allegations include the controversial 2019 citizenship law, criticized by the UN human rights office as “fundamentally discriminatory” for excluding Muslim migrants, anti-conversion legislation that challenges freedom of belief, the 2019 revocation of Kashmir’s special status, as well as actions such as demolishing Muslim properties for illegal construction and imposing a ban on wearing the hijab in Karnataka classrooms during BJP’s rule.
The Hindutva Watch report serves as a stark reminder of the challenges India faces in addressing hate speech and protecting the rights and dignity of its diverse population. As India moves closer to the 2024 general elections, it remains to be seen how these findings will impact the political discourse and actions taken to combat hate speech and promote inclusivity and tolerance in the country.