Muslim perform prayers at the Jamia Masjid (Grand Mosque of Kashmir) in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, 22 September 2023. EFE-EPA FILES/FAROOQ KHAN

Hate-speech against Muslims on the rise in India ahead of elections, report warns

New Delhi, Sep 26 (EFE).- Hate-speech against Indian Muslims is on the rise, with the country registering at least one such incident every day on average during the first six months of 2023, according to a report released on Tuesday by nonprofit Hindutva Watch (HW).

Kashmiri Muslim women pray at the shrine of Sufi Saint Naqashband Sahib, in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, 20 September 2023. EFE-EPA FILES/FAROOQ KHAN

During the first half of the year, India reported 255 recorded instances of hate speech gatherings or rallies targeting Muslims across 17 states, HW said in its half-yearly report that tracks hatred against religious minorities in the country.

“This alarming statistic highlights an average of over one anti-Muslim hate speech event occurring daily,” the Washington-based organization said.

Around 80 percent of the cases took place in states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to the group.

The report suggests that hate-speech against the Muslims, who constitute nearly 14 percent of India’s over 1.4 billion people, has been growing since 2014, when the BJP came to power in the country.

The study further highlighted that around 70 percent of the incidents of hate-speech occurred in states “scheduled for legislative elections in 2023 and 2024,” suggesting the possible use of events in inciting anti-Muslim rhetoric to mobilize voters.

“Specifically, 33% incidents occurred in five states holding or slated to hold elections this year,” while 36 percent took place in states set to conduct elections in 2024, according to the report.

India is also set to hold its federal elections next year, in which the BJP is seeking to secure power for an unprecedented third term in a row.

The western state of Maharashtra accounted for the highest 29 percent of the incidents, followed by Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

According to HW, around 64 percent of the events held in BJP-led states included “references to popular Hindu far-right anti-Muslim conspiracy theories” propagated by Hindu far-right groups.

Around one-third of the meetings explicitly called for violence against Muslims,” while 11 percent appealed to Hindus – who account for around 80 percent of India’s population – to boycott Muslims.

“Disturbingly, 4% of all the events featured hate-filled and sexist speeches explicitly targeting Muslim women,” HW said.

“Rather than combating hate speech, government officials have frequently engaged in it themselves,” the organization alleged, citing the involvement of chief ministers, lawmakers and top leaders of the ruling BJP. EFE