75% of hate speech events in BJP-ruled States: Report

While 36% (239) of the events ‘included a direct call of violence against Muslims’, about 25% (169) featured speeches calling for targeting Muslim places of worship

February 26, 2024 08:54 pm | Updated February 27, 2024 02:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Photo used for representation purpose only.

Photo used for representation purpose only.

In 2023, India recorded 668 documented hate speech events that targeted Muslims, according to a report released by India Hate Lab, a Washington DC-based group that documents hate speech against India’s religious minorities. The report, titled ‘Hate Speech Events in India’, noted that while 255 events took place in the first half of 2023, “the number rose to 413 in the second half of the year, a 62% increase”.

About 75% of the events (498) took place in BJP-ruled States, Union Territories (administered by the BJP-led Central government), and Delhi (police and public order comes under the Union government’s purview). While 36% (239) of the events “included a direct call of violence against Muslims”, 63% (420) included references to “conspiracy theories, primarily involving love jihad, land jihad, halal jihad and population jihad”. About 25% (169) featured speeches calling for targeting Muslim places of worship.

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Detailing the patterns and trends, the report noted that hate speech events peaked in the period from August to November, when Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Chhattisgarh were getting set for Assembly elections. Maharashtra (118), Uttar Pradesh (104), Madhya Pradesh (65), Rajasthan (64), Haryana (48), Uttarakhand (41), Karnataka (40), Gujarat (31), Chhattisgarh (21), and Bihar (18) were the top 10 for the highest number of hate speech events.

In addition to “significant quantitative differences” in hate speech events between BJP-ruled States and non-BJP ruled States, the report highlighted “stark differences in the content of hate speech” between BJP-ruled and non-BJP ruled states. Noting that “instances of dangerous speeches were more prevalent in BJP-ruled states”, the report observed that “78% of all events involving direct calls to violence” occurred in BJP-administered States and territories. Also, 78% of all hate speech events targeting places of worship were recorded in BJP-ruled States.

“Interestingly, hate speech events were more likely to involve BJP leaders in non-BJP-ruled states,” the report noted, observing that only 10.6% of events in BJP-ruled States included BJP leaders, whereas the figure rose to 27.6% in non-BJP ruled States, “suggesting that BJP is more likely to partake in hate speech when attempting to make inroads in non-BJP ruled states”.

Also read | Supreme Court wants authorities to act tough on incitement to violence, hate speech

As regards the organisations behind such hate speech events, 32% (126) of the documented events were organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal. “The BJP itself was responsible for organising about 50 hate speech events, often in the context of election rallies,” the report said. Overall, outfits associated with the Sangh Parivar “were responsible for 307 events, forming about 46% of all hate speech events in 2023”. The report also flagged a recent trend of “organisations explicitly dedicated to cow vigilantism, such as the Gau Raksha Dal, which regularly engage in hate speech”.

The report detailed how a “significant number of hate speech events (15%) prominently featured leaders affiliated with the BJP”, and flagged the “involvement of Hindu religious leaders in propagating hate speech”. Just five speakers were responsible for 146 hate speech events or 22% of all hate speech events documented. “BJP legislators T Raja Singh and Nitesh Rane, Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP) chief Pravin Togadia, far-right influencer Kajal Shingala, Sudarshanb News owner Suresh Chavhanke, Hindu religious leaders Yati Narsinghanand, Kalicharan Maharaj, Sadhvi Saraswati Mishra are the top eight speakers responsible for most hate speeches,” the report stated.

Also read |An organised counter to organised hate

The report also flagged the use of the Israel-Gaza war “to peddle anti-Muslim hate”. Of the 193 hate speech events held between October 7 and December 31, 41 (21%) used the war “to fuel fear and animosity towards Indian Muslims”, with “far-right leaders insinuating that Muslims were inherently violent and therefore posed a threat to Hindus”.

The report also documents the “symbiotic relationship between hate speech and violence” through case studies, notably the violence in Nuh in Haryana in July 2023, and in Kolhapur in Maharashtra in June 2023.

The report concluded with the observation that “within India’s increasingly polarised public sphere, new entrepreneurs of hate are emerging, collaborating with established and other new outfits, pushing the agenda of minority hate while also challenging the status quo, seeking to outbid one another and carve out new niche spaces by taking increasingly extreme positions”.

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