668 hate speech events held in India in 2023, most of them in BJP states: Study

At least 239 of these events included a ‘direct call of violence against Muslims’.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Date:
Illustration of India's map with regions recording high incidents of hate speech events marked in red.
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India witnessed 668 documented hate speech events targeting Muslims in 2023, and at least 75 percent of these events were organised in BJP-governed states and UTs, and the national capital, as per a report by watchdog India Hate Lab.

India Hate Lab is a Washington, DC-based research group run by journalists, academicians and researchers. In its own words, its objective is to “document, study, and analyze hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories that target India’s religious minorities, both in the digital realm and in offline spaces”.

According to its latest report, titled Hate Speech Events in India, 255 of these “hate speech events” were organised in the first half of last year, while “the number rose to 413 in the second half of the year” – a 62 percent increase.

To classify any speech at an event or rally as hate speech, the group applied the United Nations framework.

At least 239 of these hate speech events “included a direct call of violence against Muslims”, 420 referred to “conspiracy theories, primarily involving love jihad, land jihad, halal jihad and population jihad”, and 169 speeches called for targeting Muslim places of worship, the report said.

The hate speech events peaked between August to November, around the elections in five states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. Among the states, Maharashtra was a hotspot of such events, with at least 118 of them held last year. Closely following, Uttar Pradesh saw 104 hate speech events, Madhya Pradesh witnessed 65, Rajasthan recorded 64 and Haryana saw 48 – making the top five states in the list. 

As many as 41 hate speech events were also organised in Uttarakhand, 40 in Karnataka, 31 in Gujarat, 21 in Chhattisgarh, 18 in Bihar. 

Role of the BJP

Seventy-five percent of the events took place in states and union territories governed by the BJP and in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, where the central government is in charge of the police and public order. 

“The Vishwa Hindu Parishad-Bajrang Dal, affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was responsible for 216 (32%) events, making it the top organizer of hate speech events. Overall, 307 (46%) of hate speech events were organized by entities that are part of the broader Sangh Parivar (RSS family),” the report said.

At 15 percent of the events, BJP leaders were “involved in delivering hate speeches”. Among these legislators, T Raja spoke at 23 events, “including 14 dangerous speeches with calls to violence against Muslims”.

“BJP legislators T Raja Singh and Nitesh Rane, Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad chief Pravin Togadia, far-right influencer Kajal Shingala, Sudarshan News owner Suresh Chavhanke, Hindu religious leaders Yati Narsinghanand, Kalicharan Maharaj, Sadhvi Saraswati Mishra are the top eight speakers responsible for most hate speeches,” said the report.

The report said there were both “quantitative differences” and “stark differences in the content of hate speech” between BJP and non-BJP states. It said the “instances of dangerous speeches were more prevalent in BJP-ruled states”, and that “78 percent of all events involving direct calls to violence” were held in the states and UTs governed by the BJP. 

Similarly, 78 percent of hate speech events targeting Muslim places of worship were also recorded in states with the BJP government, and the hate speech events in non-BJP states  were “more likely to involve BJP leaders”. The report said that the “BJP is more likely to partake in hate speech when attempting to make inroads in non-BJP ruled states”.

At least 41 hate speeches mentioned the ongoing Israel-Gaza war “to peddle anti-Muslim hate”, and to insinuating that “Muslims were inherently violent and therefore posed a threat to Hindus”, said the report.  

It also included case studies of violence in Haryana’s Nuh and Maharashtra’s Kolhapur to document the “symbiotic relationship between hate speech and violence”, 

Newslaundry earlier reported on how ‘Digital Hindu’ conclaves platform hate speech, and Sudarshan News’ Suresh Chavhanke, mentioned in the India Hate Lab report, is a repeat hate speech offender. Read here and here

Also, can regulation really curb hate speech in the media? Read here.

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