More anti-Muslim hate speeches across country as LS polls near

Nearly 43 percent of the total hate speech events recorded in 2023 came from BJP-ruled states - Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

On February 25, Goshamahal MLA, T Raja Singh, led a rally in Mira Road, Mumbai, which was organised by right-wing Sakal Hindu Samaj.

Surrounded by saffron crowd amid heavy police presence, Singh’s nearly hour-long speech had stressed on importance of Hindu unity for making ‘Akhand Bharat‘. He also spoke of fighting against the jihad, religious conversion, and recalled Chhatrapati Shivaji’s resistance against the Mughals.

He said, “As long as I live, I will protect my country. As long as I live, I will uphold my religion. If ‘love jihad’, attacks on our religion, or cow slaughter occurs, I will continue to fight.”

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Raja Singh was allowed entry into Mumbai following strict instruction from the Bombay High Court, which directed him to refrain from using any inflammatory language or derogatory remarks against any religion during his speech.

Meanwhile, a senior police officer told Indian Express that Singh’s speech would be reviewed and action will be initiated if any violation was found. “We will take legal opinion on this. It prima facie appears that at certain points he has used some words and phrases that could violate his undertaking but we will decide after going through the video again,” the officer said.

Recently, Mira Road was the epicenter of religious tension between Hindus and Muslims. On January 25, two groups clashed after a rally of Hindutva activists tried to enter a Muslim-dominated residential society chanting provocative genocidal slogans.

As many as 19 people including four minors were arrested. Interestingly, no Hindu name was found in the FIR.

Hate speech spiked in Aug-Nov 2023

A recent report released by Washington DC-based research group, India Hate Lab (IHL) made an insight documenting 668 hate speeches made between August and November 2023 across 18 states and 3 Union Territories.

According to the report, India witnessed two incidents of hate speech every day in 2023. And 75 percent of the hate speeches were reported in BJP-ruled states.

The report said that the trend peaked between August and November 2023, when four states – Telangana, Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh – went to Assembly elections.

BJP states top list

According to the report, Maharashtra witnessed 118 instances of hate speech, the highest in any state in 2023. This was followed by Uttar Pradesh (104) and Madhya Pradesh (65). All three states are ruled by the BJP. These stated accounted for 43 percent of the total hate speeches recorded in 2023. Over 77 percent of the speeches included a direct call to violence against Muslims and socio-economic boycotts.

The top ten states with the highest hate speech recorded are as follows:

  • Maharashtra (118) – ruled by BJP
  • Uttar Pradesh (104) – ruled by BJP
  • Madhya Pradesh (65) – ruled by BJP
  • Rajasthan (64) – ruled by BJP
  • Haryana (48) –ruled by BJP
  • Uttarakhand (41) –ruled by BJP
  • Karnataka (40) – formerly ruled by BJP. Congress took over after 2023 polls
  • Delhi (37) – Union territory
  • Gujarat (34) – ruled by BJP
  • Chhatisgarh (21) – BJP recently took over
  • Bihar (18) – Ruled by Janata Dal (Secular) in coalition with Congress, until last month.

The year 2023 saw Assembly elections in 9 states – Karnataka, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram (where elections were conducted in the first half of 2023), followed by Telangana, Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh (the latter half of 2023).

There was a shift of power between two major political parties – Congress and BJP.

While Congress won in the previously-ruled BJP state of Karnataka, the saffron party recorded major victories in formerly-ruled Congress states – Chhatisgarh and Rajasthan. Additionally, the BJP retained its power in Madhya Pradesh.

Smaller states now hotspots

The report also talks about smaller states, again ruled by the BJP, witnessing a rising Islamophobic atmosphere.

States like Uttarakhand and Haryana recently witnessed communal clashes leading to deaths and demolition of Muslim houses.

In August 2023, Haryana’s Nuh district witnessed communal violence resulting in the death of seven people and over 80 injured while Uttarakhand’s Haldwani district, which recently saw clashes between the Hindu and Muslim communities resulting in the death of five Muslims.

The aftermath often results in bulldozer action where the district administration razes down Muslim households alleging they were constructed on encroached land.

Hate speech in Parliament

On September 22, 2023, the Indian Parliament witnessed an Islamophobic attack on an elected legislator from the Muslim community by a member of the ruling BJP.

During a debate, BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri called Kunwar Danish Ali of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) a “terrorist” and a “pimp” among other offending remarks.  “Ye mulla aatankwadi hai, bahar pheko naa iss mulle ko” (This mullah is a terrorist. Throw him out),” he was heard saying while other Parliamentarians looked on.

Former Union health minister and BJP leader Harshvardhan was seen laughing and cheering at these highly objectionable slurs.

Though Union defence minister Rajnath Singh expressed regret, it looked like the ruling party easily forgot the incident and decided to ‘reward’ Bidhuri by putting him in-charge of Rajasthan’s Tonk constituency for the Assembly elections five days later.

Elements of hate speech

The report documented that 63 per cent of the total 668 hate speech events referenced Islamophobic conspiracy theories.

These conspiracy theories have been coined by Hindutva outfits like Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the RSS, the ideological mentor of the BJP.

  • Love Jihad – a belief where Muslim men lure Hindu women into marriage and then forcefully convert them to Islam.
  • Land Jihad – a belief that Muslims are taking over all public places by constructing homes, or places of worship.
  • Economic Jihad – a belief that Muslims are taking over the country’s economy by selling Halal-certified products.
  • Population Jihad – a belief that Muslims are reproducing more children to take over the world on the pretext of becoming the majority.

Then there are other elements such as ‘thook jihad‘, ‘UPSC jihad’ as well as ‘Corona Jihad’. All these conspiracy theories seek to demonise Muslims.

Hamas and hate speeches in India

Lately, a new trend is being witnessed in hate speeches – several politician have been using Hamas attack for political gain in India and to target Muslims.

With Lok Sabha elections just around the corner, the Modi government and BJP IT cell constantly brings the topic of Israel-Hamas conflicts in its posts, which are shared and retweeted by millions of Hindutva supporters.

Once an ally of Palestine, India, under the Modi’s leadership, has visibly grown closer to Israel. Israel and Modi’s India aversion to Muslims has brought the countries closer. On October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, the Indian Prime Minister promptly tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel.”

In a follow-up statement later that day, Modi added that “India strongly and unequivocally condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”

On November 20, 2023, the founder and current president of the Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad Pravin Togadia said, “Today it is Israel’s turn. That same Palestine is rising in our villages and our streets. Saving our prosperity and our women from them is a big challenge for us.”

In the same month, BJP leader Kapil Mishra said, “What Israel faced today is what we have been facing for 1,400 years.”

Since October 7, there has been a tsunami of misinformation and fake news generated by Hindutva support groups and BJP IT Cell, spreading rumours on how Muslims can be a danger to the country.

In an article by Al Jazeera, an account began circulating a video that claimed dozens of young girls being taken as sex slaves by a “Palestinian” fighter. However, the video was debunked and later came to know it was from a school trip to Jerusalem.

Despite this, the video received thousands of retweets and at least 6 million likes, mostly from India.

Telegram used for anti-Muslim propaganda

Telegram is fast becoming the brewing ground for Hindutva propaganda in the form of memes, images, and fake news.

An article by The Wire discusses how Telegram has been used constantly and extensively by Hindutva supporters as compared to other platforms such as X, Meta (formerly Facebook), WhatsApp and others.

Propaganda images of disturbing scenarios, such as Muslims locked inside a jail with ‘New Madarsa’ written on it and saffron ‘Pepe the frog’ ready to press a green button, locking them up in a concentration camp, similar to Hitler’s Germany during World War II, have surfaced.

Telegram is also used to spread vile, sexual violence, toxic masculinity, and misogynist comments against Muslim women.

BJP’s blocks hate crime/speech tracker

There have been instances where critics of the BJP-ruled Centre have faced the wrath of the party by blocking its access to Indians.

Journalists, fact-checkers, and hate crime trackers, who are considered against the Modi government are instantly blocked on social media platforms, mainly X. In some cases, they face IT, CBI raids, police investigations, or even serve jail terms.

The website of Hindutva Watch along with India Hate Lab, founded by Raqib Hameed Naik, faced blockage by the Indian Government on several occasions under the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.

“We received communication from MEITY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) under the IT Act last week regarding the potential blocking of India Hate Lab and Hindutva Watch,” Raqib Hameed Naik told Al Jazeera, referring to section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

BJP defends such actions

BJP’s national spokesperson Prem Shukla told Al Jazeera that the party has been opposing the “Islamic fundamentalist forces” and alleged that the IHL data represented a “biased picture of the situation”.

“The other so-called secular states are targeting the Hindu majority community by hate speeches, but no one will talk about it,” Shukla said in a phone interview. He also dismissed the IHL report, alleging that those behind it “have sworn to destroy the BJP”.

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