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Anti-Muslim Hate Speech Surges in India, Research Reveals

Surge in Anti-Muslim Hate Speech Grips India, Research Group Warns.

A Washington-based research group, India Hate Lab, has disclosed a stark escalation in anti-Muslim hate speech incidents across India, particularly in the latter half of 2023. According to their findings released on Monday, the prevalence of such incidents rose by 62 percent compared to the preceding six months, with a notable spike attributed to the Israel-Gaza conflict during the last quarter of the year.

Throughout 2023, India Hate Lab documented a total of 668 hate speech incidents specifically targeting Muslims. Of these, 255 occurred in the first half of the year, while a substantial increase was observed in the latter six months, tallying 413 incidents.

The report also sheds light on the geographical distribution of these incidents, indicating that approximately 75 percent of hate speech occurrences (498 incidents) transpired in states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist political entity led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. States such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh were identified as hotspots for hate speech targeting Muslims.

During the period between October 7 and December 31, coinciding with the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, 41 incidents of hate speech specifically referencing the conflict were recorded. This period accounted for around 20 percent of hate speech instances in the final quarter of 2023.

India Hate Lab adopted the United Nations’ definition of hate speech, categorizing it as prejudiced or discriminatory language directed at individuals or groups based on attributes such as religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, or gender.

Rights groups have persistently raised concerns over the treatment of Muslims under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership since he assumed office in 2014. They have highlighted controversial legislative measures, including the 2019 citizenship law criticized by the UN human rights office as “fundamentally discriminatory.” Additionally, anti-conversion legislation has been condemned for encroaching upon constitutionally protected freedoms, while the revocation of Kashmir’s special status in 2019 has been a point of contention.

Instances of demolishing Muslim properties under the pretext of removing illegal constructions, as well as prohibitions on wearing the hijab in classrooms in certain states, have further fueled accusations of minority discrimination.

Despite mounting allegations, Modi’s government vehemently denies the presence of systemic abuse against minorities, asserting that its policies are designed to benefit all Indians. Requests for comment from the Indian embassy in Washington and India’s foreign ministry remained unanswered at the time of reporting.

India Hate Lab’s methodology involved monitoring online activities of Hindu nationalist groups, verifying videos containing hate speech shared on social media platforms, and compiling data from isolated incidents reported by Indian media.

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