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How Global Media Covered Narendra Modi’s Hate Speech in Rajasthan

Elisha Vermani
Apr 24, 2024
Even as the Election Commission declined to comment on Modi’s openly communal remarks at an election rally, and a section of Indian media published verbatim accounts, global news organisations called his words out for what they are – hate speech.

New Delhi: Even as the Election Commission declined to comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s openly communal remarks at an election rally, and a section of the Indian media published verbatim accounts without context or comment, global news organisations called his words out for what they are – hate speech.

Modi on Sunday (April 21), while campaigning in Rajsthan’s Banswara stoked communal sentiments in his typical sing-song oration as he lied about former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 18-year-old speech on how the Indian Muslim community needs upliftment. 

“The Indian PM turned to old anti-Muslim tropes in an election rally, potentially signalling a shift in his campaign strategy,” Al Jazeera wrote.

“India’s election code bars parties and politicians from engaging in speeches and campaigns that aim to perpetuate religious or caste differences. But independent watchdogs and activists have long complained that election officials act too slowly, if at all, especially when cases involve powerful officials in the government,” it said.

Pointing to Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) past record of portraying Muslims as infiltrators and ‘sex-obsessed’, it wrote, “India’s Hindu-majoritarian right have long portrayed the country’s 200 million Muslims effectively as outsiders. Muslim asylum seekers and refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar are in particular targeted as “infiltrators”. 

The BJP and its partners have also long pushed a conspiracy theory that suggests that Indian Muslims produce more children intending to eventually outnumber Hindus in the country. In reality, government data shows that the Muslim fertility rate in India is dropping the fastest among all communities and has almost halved in the past three decades.”

“Those remarks have been seized on by the opposition, who have long accused Modi and the BJP of using divisive rhetoric to turbo-charge their increasingly popular brand of Hindu nationalism,” wrote CNN, adding that “Over the last decade, Modi and his BJP have been accused of driving religious polarization with their Hindu nationalist policies, giving rise to a wave of Islamophobia and deadly communal clashes in the world’s largest secular democracy.

The Washington Post in its on of its report, said, “Modi’s party has pushed for a more explicitly Hindu vision of India’s identity in contrast to post-independence leaders, who saw the country more as a secular, multicultural democracy,” adding that attacks on the community had become more “brazen under Modi”. 

It listed other hate crimes against Muslims like mob lynching, setting mosques on fire and bulldozing of their homes under the Modi regime and that there have been “open calls for their genocide”. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—the United States’ largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation—also condemned Modi’s speech in a statement shared with TIME on Monday. 

“It is unconscionable, but not surprising, that far-right Hindutva leader Narendra Modi would target Indian Muslims with a hateful and dangerous diatribe despite his role as the leader of a nation with such a diverse religious heritage,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad told TIME.

CAIR also called on U.S. President Joe Biden to declare India a “Country of Particular Concern” over its systematic treatment of Indian Muslims and other minority groups, it said in its report. 

“The direct language used against the country’s largest minority was a contrast to the image Prime Minister Narendra Modi presents on the world stage,” New York Times (NYT) wrote. 

NYT referred to the Rajput community in Rajasthan that has been antagonised by BJP MP Parshottam Rupala’s remarks and is demanding his withdrawal from the elections. 

“Campaigns that divide Hindus and Muslims can be useful in animating the hard-right Hindu base of Mr. Modi’s otherwise broad-based electorate, especially in places like Banswara, where Hindus outnumber Muslims by three to one.

With his remarks, Mr. Modi may have been trying to close a divide that has opened among Hindus in Rajasthan over whether to support the B.J.P., with one prominent group holding protests over comments made by a party official,” the paper wrote. 

Meanwhile, the prime minister, far from remorse, defended his statement at another rally in Rajasthan on Tuesday (April 23).

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