By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Anti-Muslim hate speech in India increased 62% in the second half of 2023 compared to the first six months of the year, a Washington-based research group said on Monday, adding that the war between Israel and Gaza played a key role. paper in the last three months.

India Hate Lab documented 668 incidents of hate speech targeting Muslims in 2023, 255 of which occurred in the first half of the year, while 413 took place in the last six months of 2023, the research group said in a published report. on Monday.

About 75%, or 498, of those incidents took place in states governed by the Prime Minister’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Narendra Modi, according to the report. The states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh accounted for the highest number of hate speeches.

Between October 7, when the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel, triggering the conflict in the Gaza Strip as Israel retaliated, and December 31, there were 41 incidents of hate speech against Indian Muslims that mentioned the war, adds the report. It accounted for around 20% of hate speech in the last three months of 2023.

The research group said it used the United Nations definition of hate speech: prejudiced or discriminatory language towards an individual or group based on attributes including religion, ethnicity, nationality, race or gender.

Human rights groups have alleged mistreatment of Muslims under the government of Modi, who became prime minister in 2014 and is expected to retain power after the 2024 elections.

They point to a 2019 citizenship law that the UN human rights office called “fundamentally discriminatory”; anti-conversion legislation that challenges the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief; and the 2019 revocation of the special status of Muslim-majority Kashmir.

Muslim properties have also been demolished on the pretext of removing illegal constructions and banning the wearing of hijab in classrooms in Karnataka when the BJP was in power in that state.

Modi’s government denies abuses against minorities and says its policies aim to benefit all Indians. The Indian embassy in Washington and India’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

India Hate Lab said it tracked online activity by Hindu nationalist groups, verified videos of hate speech posted on social media and collected data from isolated incidents reported by Indian media.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; editing by Michelle Nichols and Stephen Coates)

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