WASHINGTON: 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, according to a report by Hindutva Watch, a Washington-based group monitoring attacks on minorities.
There were 255 documented incidents of hate speech gatherings targeting Muslims in the first half of 2023, the report found. There was no comparative data for prior years.
It used the UN’s 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, colour, descent, gender, or other identity factors.”
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.
About 80% of those events took place in areas governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is widely expected to win the general elections in 2024.
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.
Modi’s government denies the presence of minority abuse. The Indian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
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 UN 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.
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.