Exploring the Multifaceted Roles of Hate Speech Impact on elections, violence, and beyond

16, Nov 2023 | CJP Team

According to a report, candidates with hate speeches have a higher chance of winning the election. Now, five states are witnessing upcoming assembly elections this month, namely Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Mizoram. The electoral process in Chhattisgarh is slated to occur in two phases, with the initial round of voting was scheduled for November 7 and the subsequent phase set for November 17. Madhya Pradesh will undergo legislative elections on November 17, while Mizoram was slated for voting on November 7. Rajasthan and Telangana will conduct their polls on November 25 and November 30, respectively.

In several of these states, hate speech has emerged as a concerning issue, particularly in the context of elections in poll-bound states. In the charged atmosphere leading up to elections, political speeches by several BJP leaders, including parliamentarians, often takes a polarising and even hateful turn. Just last month, as the assembly elections in Telangana line up, the BJP has reversed the suspension of T. Raja Singh who is a notorious hate speech offender, who the BJP itself had evicted from the party after he made incendiary comments about Muslims. Recently, the Election Commission (EC) also issued a show-cause notice to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma from the Bharatiya Janata Party for one of his speeches which the ECI has deemed “communal.” 

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It is important to note from these instances that hate speech becomes a tool for many of these leaders to further their agendas and this speech is reported to have serious consequences on the electoral process. Furthermore, according to the United Nations, hate unchecked can inflict irreparable harm on societies, putting peace and even development to a halt while it lays the groundwork for conflicts, heightened tensions, and widespread human rights violations, including atrocities. While elections are only one facet of examining the pattern of hate speech, hate speech has also occurred simultaneously in India in states that are not pollbound.

In Satara, we see how one BJP leader, Vikram Pawaskar, accused of orchestrating and fuelling violence against Muslims in Satara between August and September 2023, had a history of volatile hate speech against minorities, according to Sabrang India traced the actions of BJP’s.

In September 15 Satara became a region that was marked in the news for the communal tensions sparked by controversial social media posts in the western Maharashtra town, there was also extensive destruction of minority property, leading to the tragic death of a Muslim man and numerous others sustaining injuries. The report revealed that there was a seemingly implicit but evident connection between the hate speech, online and offline, and the violence. Thereby, one may say that hate speech is certainly not just used to rouse sentiments for electoral gains, but also to polarise sentiments and foment divides amongst communities on a ground level. 

In a harrowing video that emerged on social media, which dates the incident to have occurred on November 1st, from Betul, Madhya Pradesh captures alleged cow vigilantes which are alleged to be associated with the Rashtriya Hindu Sena, assault Muslim truck drivers for transporting cattle. On September 20, 2023 too, there emerged videos on social media from Betul, Madhya Pradesh, which saw cow vigilantes, reportedly from the same organisation, proudly harassing cow transporters. Going back a little farther, we can see that in January 2023, Pramod Muthalik, who is a leader of Sri Rama Sene whose parent organisation is the Rashtriya Hindu Sena, once again stirred hate and encouraged Hindus to have swords and keep them at display them in their homes as a means of safeguarding their women. Muthalik is also known for his reported involvement in the 2009 assault on women at a pub in Mangalore. 

While students from Muslim and Kashmiri backgrounds have often received hate and violence during matches between India and Pakistan, the Jammu Kashmir Students’ Association had to release an advisory for students from the state to not watch such matches in groups. In Rajasthan’s Tijara, on November 8, people witnessed BJP candidate Baba Balaknath rake up polarised sentiments on these lines, according to The Hindu. He asked the crowd if “Have you witnessed the Bharat-Pakistan match? Don’t we want to win a match against Pakistan?” Implicit in this claim is that Muslims in India continue to serve as emblems of the Pakistani state. Balaknath is fighting from Tijara, a constituency which has reportedly 37% Muslims. Tijara has seen hate speech and violence in the past, too. Just earlier this month, on November 1, in the presence of UP CM, Yogi Adityanath, and BJP’s Sandeep Dayma called for the removal of mosques and gurudwaras during an election rally. While Dayma has been expelled for his remarks after Sikh leaders in the BJP raised alarm over his comments, one can see the pattern of hate that follows. This region of Rajasthan has seen a variety of hate crimes. For instance, on September 8, 2023 Khairthal-Tijara witnessed a 20-year-old Muslim youth being assaulted by a group of seven men. The young man succumbed to his injuries during treatment at SMS Hospital in Jaipur. Wakeel, the victim, was reportedly abducted by Purshottam Saini, a BJP leader, and his associates, and taken to a nearby jungle, according to eyewitnesses and local residents, where he was later discovered covered in injuries before he was taken to the hospital. 


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