BJP leaders played central role in hate campaign against minorities: Study

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The South Asia State of Minorities Report 2021 has blamed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, besides the media, for the hate campaigns against minorities, especially Muslims in India.

South Asia Collective, a joint group of South Asian human rights organizations and activists, have come up with a report on hate speeches made against minorities in several South Asian countries including India.

With regard to India, the report pointed to the role of BJP leaders and mainstream and social media in running hate campaigns against India’s minorities.

On the role of top BJP leaders, the report observed “Top BJP leaders have played a central role in post-2018 hate campaigns as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have repeatedly alluded to Muslims as being, among other things, violent rioters, mass breeders, and unfair beneficiaries of government handouts. Such speeches, which tend to peak around elections, may not meet the intent and imminence thresholds of the Rabat Test, and are hence protected under international law, but still have the effect of dehumanising minorities and perpetuating dangerous stereotypes about them. The use of such language by Modi, Shah and other top BJP leaders has also encouraged lower level perpetrators to engage in more open incitement to hostility, discrimination and violence”.

Citing studies on the hate speech cases against the parliamentarians, the report stated that BJP leaders are the worst offenders as “15 sitting parliamentarians at the time with hate speech-related cases pending against them, 10 belonged to the BJP”.

Citing a 2018-study done by NDTV, the report pointed out that there was a 490 per cent increase in hate speeches by top Indian politicians in the four years since the BJP came to power compared to the last five years of the previous government. Since then, the situation has only worsened as in UN’s hate speech chain, India came from “‘bottom’ level offensive or disturbing content to ‘top’ level incitement to hostility, discrimination and violence”.

The report also highlighted the role of media in spreading “a barrage of sensationalised, pro-BJP and often anti-minority content on the national airwaves, marked by hyperbole and, in many instances, outright misinformation”.

It also noted the failures and complicity of social media in curbing the spread of anti-minority content on its platforms.

“By varying degrees of severity, online media outlets also spread untrue, stereotypical, divisive, and, often, incendiary content targeted at minorities. Online social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, all of which have hundreds of millions of Indian users, have also become important channels through which anti-minority hate content is spread,” said the report.

The report also criticised the Election Commission of India (ECI) for failing to act against hate speeches during the election campaign.

“During the 2019 national elections, the Election Commission refused to impose any bar to Prime Minister Modi’s campaign speeches that violated their rules regarding political speech,” pointed out the report.

In its recommendation, the report urged the Indian government to comply with international laws on hate speech and incitement and adopt legislation against forms of hate speech, including prohibiting any advocacy of national, ethnic, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and criminalising incitement to genocide on social media.

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Disclaimer: BJP leaders played central role in hate campaign against minorities: Study - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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