More than 250 gatherings targeting Muslims were held across 17 Indian states over the first half of the current year, according to a report which highlights a rising pattern of anti-Muslim sentiment in India from 2014 onwards.
The report, published by Hindutva Watch on Sunday, used real-time data to identify human rights abuses in India to document hate speech events organized by Hindu far-right groups targeting Muslims in the first half of 2023.
It suggested that on average more than one such event occurs every day in India, saying that since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – known for its Hindu-nationalist views – came to power in 2014 the anti-Muslim sentiments have seen a rise.
“Disturbingly, the majority of these hate speech events also propagated dangerous conspiracy theories targeting Muslims, along with explicit calls for violence, calls to arms, and demands for socio-economic boycotts of the Muslim community.”
It added that government representatives often take part in such rhetoric, instead of addressing the issue.
“Some of the purveyors of hate speech include chief ministers, legislators, and senior leaders from the ruling BJP,” the report said.
It also highlights that 80% of the hate speech events occurred in BJP-ruled states and union territories including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat.
Maharashtra, in particular, was responsible for nearly 29 percent of these incidents, it added.
After Narendra Modi took office as India’s prime minister in 2014, various human rights organizations have reported a rise in violations targeting minority groups, including Muslims and Christians.
Hindutva Watch also noted a surge in hate incidents during March in its report, which coincided with the Hindu festival of Ram Navami. The violations resulted in the death of an individual and the desecration of Muslim mosques and shops.
In one-third of hate speech incidents, Muslims were directly targeted with calls for violence, including ethnic cleansing, genocide, and destruction of their places of worship. This discourse often went unchallenged, resulting in physical confrontations, the report said.
It also revealed that derogatory and gender-biased rhetoric was specifically aimed at Muslim women in 4% of the gatherings.
Approximately 11% of the events called on Hindus to boycott Muslims, encompassing actions to isolate Muslims from their societies and urging Hindus to refrain from buying goods and services offered by Muslims.
“It is easy to think about hate speech abstractly: as an intellectual debate about the limits of free speech,” the report said.
“But… hate speech has consequences. It can disrupt daily life, destabilize and displace communities, wreck homes, and ignite deadly riots and pogroms against marginalized groups,” it warned.