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Anti-Muslim hate speech at an all-time high in India

A report documented 668 hate speech incidents targeting Muslims in 2023 alone, 498, of those incidents took place in states governed by the BJP.
Last Updated 26 February 2024, 05:06 IST

Anti-Muslim hate speech in India rose by 62 per cent in the second half of 2023 compared to the first six months of the year, a Washington-based research group said on Monday, adding the Israel-Gaza war played a key role in the last three months.

India Hate Lab documented 668 hate speech incidents targeting Muslims in 2023, 255 of which occurred in the first half of the year while 413 took place in the last six months of 2023, the research group said in a report released Monday.

About 75 per cent, or 498, of those incidents took place in states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to the report. The states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh accounted for the most hate speech.

Between October 7 - when Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel, sparking the conflict in the Gaza Strip as Israel retaliated - and December 31, there were 41 incidents of hate speech against Indian Muslims that mentioned the war, the report added. It accounted for about 20 per cent of hate speech in the last three months of 2023.

The research group said it used the United Nations' definition of hate speech - prejudiced or discriminatory language towards an individual or group based on attributes including religion, ethnicity, nationality, race or gender.

Rights groups have alleged mistreatment of Muslims under Modi, who became prime minister in 2014 and is widely expected to retain power after the 2024 elections.

They point to a 2019 citizenship law that the UN human rights office called "fundamentally discriminatory;" an anti-conversion legislation that challenges 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.

Modi's government denies the presence of minority abuse and says its policies aim to benefit all Indians. The Indian embassy in Washington and India's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

India Hate Lab said it tracked online activity of Hindu nationalist groups, verified videos of hate speech posted on social media and compiled data of isolated incidents reported by Indian media.

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(Published 26 February 2024, 05:06 IST)

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