Hate Speeches and the spiral of hatred in the build-up to the April 2024 General Elections

The month of April 2024, witnessed dramatic rise in communal discourse and targeting of Muslim minorities during election campaign for the 18th Lok Sabha. Even the Prime Minister of India delivered hate speeches in no less than ten occasions, according to the monthly monitoring of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism. This monitoring is based on the reports from Mumbai editions of five newspapers – The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Hindu, Sahafat and Inquilab. Out of the seventeen hate speeches reported in these newspapers, ten were by the Prime Minister alone. Along with the hate speeches in the month of April 2024, there were two communal riots – one in West Bengal and the other in Jharkhand. Both the communal riots stemmed from conflicts over religious processions. Furthermore, there was a persistent effort to erase Muslim presence and heritage from public spaces. In the lead-up to the Lok Sabha election, there was a concerted campaign of spreading unfounded narratives demonizing Muslims for electoral gain.

As mentioned above, the highlight of communal violence in April 2024, was a slew of hate speeches. Out of the seventeen total hate speeches reported in the above-mentioned newspapers, the maximum, ten, were by Prime Minister Modi, three were delivered by Yogi Adityanath, two by Amit Shah, one by Giriraj Singh and one by Mangal Prabhat Lodha – all BJP ministers. These hate speeches sought to demonize Muslims, whip up hysteria about them by portraying them as a threat to the Hindu community and spread falsehood against them.

The seventeen speeches listed below refer to and invoke religion or seek votes in the name of religion which is prohibited by sections of the 123 (3) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951. The section is as below:

  1. Corrupt practices.—The following shall be deemed to be corrupt practices for the purposes of this Act:—

(3) The appeal by a candidate or his agent or by any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent to vote or refrain from voting for any person on the ground of his religion, race, caste, community or language or the use of, or appeal to religious symbols or the use of, or appeal to, national symbols, such as the national flag or the national emblem, for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate:

Provided that no symbol allotted under this Act to a candidate shall be deemed to be a religious symbol or a national symbol for the purposes of this clause.

(3A) The promotion of, or attempt to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language, by a candidate or his agent or any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate.

The frequent invocation of religion by the Prime Minister and other BJP leaders, as described in the aforementioned context, constitutes hate speech under the law. These speeches aim to portray Muslims as a threat to other religious communities. They perpetuate stereotypes such as higher birth rates among Muslims, accusations of Muslims being “infiltration,” unsubstantiated claims of “love jihad,”- terming it as a conspiracy of Muslims and derogatory references to Muslims like “Rohingyas.” These narratives paint Muslims as a community intent on depriving others of national resources, fostering discord and enmity among religious groups.

Furthermore, the BJP uses the spectre of appeasement to target the Congress and other parties that do not align with an exclusivist Hindutva agenda. This rhetoric serves to marginalize Muslims within society. Additionally, issues like reservations are manipulated to create divisions between Muslims and OBCs, thus engineering further social cleavage.


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