Sunday, May 26, 2024

UK group releases “Portfolios of Hate” report listing BJP candidates’ hate speeches; PM Modi tops list

A report has exposed the alarming normalization of hate speech and divisive rhetoric by Hindu nationalist politicians in India, with instances more than doubling during the BJP-led government’s second term from 2019 to 2024. The comprehensive report, titled “Portfolios of Hate,” documents a curated selection of 70 hate speech incidents recorded by national media across various regions, illustrating a wider phenomenon of vitriolic speech used to target minority communities, especially Muslims.

The report by the United Kingdom Indian Muslim Council (UK-IMC) primarily examines the candidates from the BJP-led NDA alliance in the current general elections, who are campaigning based on Narendra Modi’s ten-year tenure. It highlights that during Modi’s first term from 2014 to 2019, the aforementioned candidates were cited in 23 cases of hate speech. Overall, the report mentions 70 such cases.

Rise in hate crimes and unchecked hate speech

The report’s revelations come amid growing concerns over the rise in hate crimes against minorities under the BJP government’s reign. Under Modi’s tenure, anti-Muslim hatred and violence have skyrocketed, with Muslims frequently being lynched by extremist Hindu mobs over rumors of cattle trading or inter-faith relationships. According to the Delhi-based United Christian Forum, there have been 525 attacks against Christians in India in just the first eight months of 2023, underscoring the threat posed by unchecked hate speech.

“The report underscores the complicity of elected representatives in perpetuating hate speech, with many offenders occupying positions of authority within the government,” said Mohammed Owaise, Director of UK-IMC. “It cautions that this institutionalized pattern not only undermines democratic principles but poses a threat to social cohesion.”

Provocative tropes mentioned in the report

The report scrutinizes hate speech by 36 BJP candidates for the ongoing 2024 elections, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi topping the list. Incidents range from justifying the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat to accusing Muslims of disrespecting Hindu sentiments by consuming non-vegetarian food during religious festivals. Other key figures include Home Minister Amit Shah, who described undocumented immigrants as “termites,” and BJP President JP Nadda, who vowed to remove religion-based reservations.

One striking instance involves Union Minister Giriraj Singh declaring that those opposed to Modi should move to Pakistan. BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj called for beheading Muslims, referring to them as “demons.”

While Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred are the primary focus, the report covers broader categories of hate speech, including Islamophobic misinformation campaigns, targeted campaigns against religious minorities, misogynistic speech, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and hate against protesters.

PM Modi’s recent incitements

There have been additional occurrences of dangerous incitements by Prime Minister Modi in recent weeks that were not covered in the report. In the latest instances of hate speech, Modi has repeatedly deployed divisive tropes portraying Muslims as “infiltrators” and “outsiders” plotting to undermine Hindu society through glorified conspiracy theories like “love jihad,” “land jihad” and now “vote jihad.” At rallies across multiple states, the Prime Minister has accused opposition parties of being hand-in-glove with Muslim groups to wage “vote jihad” by encouraging the community to unite against him.  

“You have to decide if vote jihad will hold sway or Ram rajya (Hindu rule),” Modi provocatively told a crowd in Madhya Pradesh this week, claiming the opposition Congress party was planning to “put a Babri lock” on the Ram temple in Ayodhya if it came to power.

In an Election rally in Rajasthan, Modi spoke of Muslims by equating the community with “infiltrators” and alleging the opposition would distribute wealth to “those who have more children” – a thinly veiled reference to Muslims.

Complicity of the Election Commission 

Modi’s remarks have drawn stinging criticism and official complaints accusing him of violating election laws that bar politicians and parties from indulging in “hate speech” and appealing to voters along religious lines. However, the Election Commission has yet to take any punitive action, prompting allegations of a double standard.

Independent watchdogs and activists have long criticized the Election Commission for acting too slowly, if at all when cases involve powerful government officials. This perceived inaction has emboldened perpetrators and undermined the integrity of the electoral process.

Owaise emphasized that the  “Portfolios of Hate” report serves as a wake-up call, “It further urges civil society organizations and citizens to hold perpetrators accountable and challenge this dangerous normalization of hate speech.”

Dr Amrit Wilson, a member of the South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG) based in the UK, emphasized the significance of these reports, stating, “Having such documentation is crucial as it substantiates what many of us have observed and been alarmed by the shift towards a Hindu Rashtra, evident in the rhetoric, the violence targeting Muslims, and the dehumanization of the community.”

Sumayya Razak is a media student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

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