India witnessed 255 cases of hate speech against Muslims in gatherings in the first half of 2023, said a report by Hindutva Watch released on Monday.

Nearly 80% of these hate speech events took place in states and Union Territories governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, said the Washington DC-based research group that monitors attacks on members of minority communities by Hindutva outfits.

The group relied on social media and news reports to gather this data. It said that it deployed data-scraping techniques to identify verifiable videos of hate speech events and followed it with in-depth interviews by researchers and journalists, as part of its methodology.

Since India does not have an official definition of “hate speech”, the group used the United Nations framework for the categorisation.

The UN defines hate speech as “any form of communication, whether oral, written, or behavioural, that employs prejudiced or discriminatory language towards an individual or group based on attributes such as religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factors.”

Hindutva Watch stated that the most number of these events took place in Maharashtra, followed by Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. It also highlighted that despite Uttarakhand comprising less than 1% of India’s total population, nearly 5% of the hate events this year took place in the state.

“This disproportionate share of hate speech culminated in the widespread displacement of Muslims from Uttarakhand,” it said.

The report also underlined that incidents of hate speech saw a surge in March, coinciding with the Hindu festival of Ram Navami. Eighteen hate speech events took place across the country in the last week of the month, suggesting a possible coordinated effort to incite violence on the day.

The report also found that the most prominent groups involved in organising hate speech events were the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal. Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party were responsible for 19 anti-Muslim hate speech events.

The most employed method by these groups was propagating prominent anti-Muslim conspiracy theories like love jihad, land jihad and misinformation about the growth of the Muslim population in India.

In at least 83 events, they issued direct calls of violence against Muslims, including calls for ethnic cleansing and genocide and for the destruction of Muslim places of worship.

There were also at least 27 cases of calls for Hindus to stop purchasing goods and services from Muslims and attempts to exclude the community from the state, the report said.

At least 70% of such events took place in states scheduled for legislative elections in 2023 and 2024, it said.

“This trend suggests early indications of Hindutva mobilization through hate speech events and gatherings,” stated the report. “It raises the possibility of a strategic approach by Hindu far-right groups aimed at fomenting hatred and inciting violence, potentially with an eye on bolstering the BJP’s electoral prospects.”

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