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In 2023, Over Two-Thirds of Hate Speech Against Muslims Was Made in BJP-Ruled States: Report

A report by the India Hate Lab organisation also found that the Vishva Hindu Parishad and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, organised the highest number of hate speech events targeting Muslims.
Photo: Flickr/John S. Quarterman. CC BY-2.0.

New Delhi: Over two-thirds of hate speech events in India that targeted Muslims in 2023 took place in BJP-ruled states, the research group India Hate Lab (IHL) has said.

IHL said it documented 668 such events during 2023 and that 453 of these (68%) took place in states ruled by the BJP.

Delhi – where police and law and order fall under the BJP-led Union government’s purview – and three Union territories accounted for 45 more hate speech events targeting Muslims. Thirty-seven of these occurred in the capital.

The two states that saw the largest number of such hate speech events were Maharashtra (118) and Uttar Pradesh (104). Madhya Pradesh (68) was at a more distant third.

These three states accounted for 43% of all hate speech events in question for 2023, IHL said.

As for those responsible for organising these hate speech events, IHL said the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, had organised the highest number of events at 216 (32% of the total).

The second-most frequent organiser(s) of hate speech events were identified as Praveen Togadia’s Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Bajrang Dal organisations.

IHL said the BJP came in at third place.

Organisations “directly associated” with the Sangh parivar – a constellation of organisations, including the BJP and VHP, for which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the ideological fountainhead – were behind 307 of the hate speech events in question, or about 46% of the total, IHL said.

IHL also said it identified the speakers responsible for delivering the highest number of hate speech events. It said the far-right Hindu nationalist influencer Kajal Hindustani delivered the highest number of events at 35, followed by Praveen Togadia (32) and the Maharashtra-based Dhananjay Desai (31).

Telangana BJP MLA T. Raja Singh was in fifth place having delivered 23 hate speech events, IHL’s report said.

According to its report, IHL has used the UN’s definition of hate speech to classify events it documented through 2023. The UN defines hate speech as

“Any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor.”

IHL highlighted that while hate speech is often characterised as extremists “venting” or “being crazy”, it “has historically been understood to be an important causal factor in driving severe atrocities towards communities, including massacres and genocides”.

Its report also distinguishes “dangerous speech” as a subcategory of hate speech that involves a definite call for violence against target groups.

It said 239 out of the 668 hate speech events under consideration (36%) involved a direct call for violence against Muslims.

Singh, the BJP MLA from Telangana, was identified as having delivered the highest number of dangerous speech events at 14, and was followed by Togadia (ten) and Hindustani (nine).

Singh made communal remarks as recently as Sunday (February 25), The Hindu reported, adding that he railed against ‘love jihad’ at a rally in Mira Road and that the event featured songs “targeting other religious groups”.

Love jihad is a conspiracy theory supported by some Hindu nationalists in which Muslim men supposedly dupe unsuspecting Hindu girls into marriage in order to convert them to Islam.

IHL’s report said that conspiracy theories such as love jihad were referred to in 420 (63%) of the hate speech events in consideration.

One-hundred-and-sixty-nine events (25%) referenced Muslim places of worship and alleged they were built atop Hindu temples, the report added. Eighty-seven (13%) called for a boycott of the Muslim community.

At least 41 events (21%) used the Israel-Hamas war to “fuel fear and animosity” towards Indian Muslims, the report also said.

Nuh violence ‘not spontaneous’

The report also included a case study of the Nuh riots that took place in July last year and said the incidents of violence “were not spontaneous or organic”.

It continued: “Instead, they were the result of a concerted effort by Hindu nationalist groups, over several months, to instigate violence in the region.”

The violence started in Haryana’s Nuh district on July 31 during a procession carried out by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. By that evening, violent incidents were also reported in adjoining areas of the state.

Six people died and several others were injured.

IHL said the July 31 procession involved “several instances” of hate speech. It also cited a Hindutva Watch report as saying that the VHP’s president, Surendra Jain, delivered an “an inflammatory speech against Muslims” at Nuh’s Nalhar Mahadev temple.

The Wire has also reported how provocative videos had preceded the violence in Nuh.

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