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Surge in Anti-Muslim Hate Speech in India, New Report Shows

Published February 27, 2024
4 months ago

Recent research reveals a concerning spike in anti-Muslim sentiment in India, as instances of hate speech have increased significantly in the latter half of 2023. The Washington-based India Hate Lab has reported a 62% rise in such incidents compared to the first six months of the year. This data signals a worrying trend in the world's largest democracy, where the minority Muslim population is facing increasing hostility.


The report by India Hate Lab, which focuses on tracking and documenting incidents of hate speech, suggests that hate-driven rhetoric has become alarmingly prevalent. The group tallied 668 incidents in 2023, escalating notably from 255 in the first half to 413 in the final six months. What stands out is that around 75% of these incidents occurred in states under the administration of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


Notably, the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh are highlighted as the regions with the highest occurrence of such hate speech. This raises questions about the potential relationship between political leadership and the propagation of communal divisiveness.


The influence of international events, such as the Israel-Gaza conflict, on domestic strife is also concerning. The report cites that approximately 20% of the hate speech against Indian Muslims in the last three months of 2023 made reference to the war. It is crucial to consider the seemingly disproportionate impact that global disputes are having on local communities.


India Hate Lab based its findings on the broad United Nations definition of hate speech, which encompasses all prejudiced or discriminatory language targeting individuals or groups based on characteristics such as religion, ethnicity, nationality, or gender.


Human rights organizations have repeatedly expressed concerns regarding the treatment of Muslims under Prime Minister Modi's reign, which began in 2014. Several government actions have come under fire, including the 2019 citizenship amendment law, seen by critics and the UN human rights office as discriminatory in nature.


Moreover, legislative measures such as anti-conversion laws and the rescinding of Kashmir's special status under Article 370, which largely affected the Muslim-majority region, have raised alarms regarding religious freedoms in India. The demolition of Muslim properties and the controversial bans on Islamic customs like the wearing of hijabs in schools have further fueled accusations of systemic bias within the BJP-led administration.


In response to these accusations, Modi's government has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing or presence of systemic minority abuse. Indian officials maintain that their policies are inclusive and designed to benefit all citizens of the country. However, the lack of a response to specific requests for comments on this issue by India's embassy in Washington and the country's foreign ministry leaves room for further speculation.


India Hate Lab's approach to assembling this report involved meticulous examination of online activities by Hindu nationalist groups, verification of videos depicting hate speech circulating on social media, and an analysis of individual incidents reported by Indian media outlets.


The rise of such hate speech is not a matter to be overlooked, as it poses a dire threat to the fabric of India's societal harmony. The findings of the India Hate Lab are a call to action for Indian society and the international community to address and mitigate hate-driven rhetoric to preserve pluralism and maintain peace.



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