Skip to main content

Post-Pulwama anti-minority, Islamophobic WhatsApp messages "up" from 24% to 41%

By Our Representative
A new research has shown that if between November 14 to February 13, 2019, as many as 23.84 percent the percentage of messages on WhatsApp groups were allegedly “anti-Muslim, Islamophobic, and deeply inflammatory with an intent to create disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between Hindus and Muslims”, these sharply went up after the Pulwama attack on February 14.
Carried out by Soma Basu, who has researched on “Islamophobic hate speech on WhatsApp” as a fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University, the expert says that after Pulwama “that claimed the lives of 44 paramilitary personnel, 41.19 percent of the messages were inflammatory and instigated people against a community, religion, profession or others.”
According to Basu, “In this category, 23.64 percent of messages targeted Kashmiris, 32.72 percent of the messages were anti-Muslim, and 43.63 percent of the messages were targeted against journalists, civil society members and celebrities”, adding, “Such messages have the potential to incite violence.”
Claiming to have analyzed a whopping 60,000 WhatsApp messages in order to reach these conclusions, the scholar, identified as an investigative journalist based in India, says, quoting Lokniti-CSDS Mood of the Nation (MOTN) survey, WhatsApp may be an “encrypted messaging platform used by more than 230 million people in India”, yet “every sixth user is a member of a political WhatsApp group”, which makes it the “most important tool of propaganda used by political parties in India.”
Basu says, she went in for analyzing this phenomenon – which has already taken roots in Brazil, Spain, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Philippines –ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in order to “understand how the BJP was manufacturing hate and to measure the extent of Islamophobia and hate speech on WhatsApp and the sources of such messages.”
In all, she says, she “took a deep dive into more than 140 pro-BJP groups on the platform for a period of four months”, finding that “approximately a quarter of 60,000 messages that I analyzed quantitatively were Islamophobic and anti-Muslim.”
“These messages portray all Muslim citizen of India as either terrorists or a community that is plotting genocide against the Hindus”, Basu says, adding, “Most of these narratives on WhatsApp are supported by fake and concocted news stories, fudged data and incorrect, out of context translations of the Quran.”
According to her, “Some of the major narratives pushed through social media include the following: Hindus are under threat (#HinduKhatreMeinHain); Hindus are becoming a minority in India; Muslims will kill Hindus and rape Hindu women if they become a majority in India; all Muslims support Pakistan; all Muslims are terrorists (#TerrorismHasReligion); non-BJP parties support Muslims and hence are anti-Hindu; and non-BJP parties support terrorism.”
Basu underlines, “A large number of these messages are conspiratorial in nature and provoke the Hindu majority in India to not just deny or deprive Muslims of their rights as citizens of India, but also cause loss of their life and property. Some of the messages called for outright war, witch-hunting of Muslims and “teaching them lessons” by violent means. Old videos of beheadings from Syria and Iraq were shared to support the narratives.”
“The animosity against Muslims, cultivated over social media over a period of time, led to widespread attacks on Kashmiri traders in different parts of the country, trolling and abuse of Muslims and anybody who spoke against the culture of hate or stood against war, including the wife of one of the paramilitary troops killed at Pulwama”, Basu says.
“Videos of Kashmiris being beaten up or harassed were shared routinely in the WhatsApp with messages inciting others to participate in the harassment and violence to prove their nationalism”, she says.
Basu notes, “Phone numbers of activists, journalists, celebrities who were known to speak against human rights abuses in Kashmir, or India-Pakistan art and cultural exchange initiatives were shared widely and people were encouraged to call and harass them. Hit lists were circulated and also listed questions that could be asked of those called.”
What is worse, she says, is that the ministry of information and broadcasting “issued a circular to news outlets against disseminating ‘anti-national’ content just after the Pulwama attack”, adding, only after nine days of “widespread attacks on Kashmiris and Muslims across India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an active Twitter user, finally said that ‘our fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmiris’.”
Basu emphasises, a comparative analysis of groups run by supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal – two of whom she joined – as also dataset of 80 pro-Congress Party WhatsApp groups suggested that “propaganda and fake news are shared in all the political WhatsApp groups”, but “hate speech and Islamophobia were unique to the pro-BJP groups.”
Referring to the non-BJP WhatsApp groups, Basu says, “None of the groups observed shared anti-Hindu messages.”

Comments

TRENDING

Impact of state repression? Kashmir's 65% people prefer independence: Cambridge study

By Rajiv Shah 
Even as the Government of India’s controversial move to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two union territories is not only refusing to down die but has acquired international dimensions, a recent study, published by the Cambridge University Press, has claimed “pro-independence attitudes” among that 65% of Kashmiris, warning, this sentiment worsens when the state machinery resorts “repressive violence”.

Hindus to be 'sent' to Kashmir? Despite Israeli settlements, peace eludes the region

By Anand K Sahay*
Curfew, news and communications blackout, transportation shut-down... News reports from Kashmir are worrying. So are the views relayed through the media, especially television. Old-fashioned repression seems to be consorting comfortably with expressions of concern “for our Kashmiri brethren”. We are looking at Orwell’s 1984 in the making.

Dholera 'inundated': Gujarat govt tries selling low lying area as top smart city site

Counterview Desk
Even as the Dholera Special Investment Region Regional Development Authority (DSIRDA) of the Gujarat government was busy organising a junket for Gujarat-based journalists for the area sought to be sold as an ideal special investment region (SIR) for industrialists, well-known farmers' activist Sagar Rabari has wondered why no investor has so far agreed to put in money in an area situated in Ahmedabad district along the Gulf of Khambhat.

Congress' anti-democratic laws led to Modi govt's 'Constitutional' changes: Scholars

Counterview Desk
A large number of academics* said to be belonging to several Indian and international institutions, even as taking strong exception to the Narendra Modi government's alleged move to amend the Constitution through "illegitimate" means, have taken strong exception to their colleagues in academia who we have become "all too accustomed to adopting a calculated silence in the face of such indignities."

Kashmir normal? Schoolboys, teenagers being arbitrarily picked up, detained: Report

Counterview Desk
A four-person team, consisting of Jean Dr├Ęze, well-known development economist; Kavita Krishnan, who is with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist); Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA); and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), back from a five-day fact-finding mission (August 9-13) from Kashmir, has said that people they spoke to “expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India.”
In a report, “Kashmir Caged”, released along with a short eight-minute film, they said, the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, dissolution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and bifurcating it into two Union Territories, is not being supported by anyone they met, except for BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo, who claimed 46% vote share in J&K.
Excerpts from the report: When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passeng…

Modi's Gujarati mind? Why govt move to 'sell-off' defence PSUs isn't in national interest

By Sandeep Pandey*
The Standing Committee on Defence, 2017-18, of the 16th Lok Sabha highlights the idea of Buy Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured). The Committee expressed concern over the import content of equipments produced and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories (OFs) and defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) because of the dependence it creates for military hardware on foreign suppliers.

Central Gujarat effluent channel 'releasing' highly polluted industrial wastewater: PM told

Counterview Desk
Senior environmentalists of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Vadodara, Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant, in an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Gujarat chief minister, the Gujarat chief secretary, and senior Government of India and Gujarat government officials dealing with environment, pollution and climate change have said that the authorities’ response their pleas to take action against the leakages and flow of polluted wastewater from the effluent channels of Central Gujarat industrial areas has met with complete inertia.

Can't go to court with RTI information, rule Ahmedabad authorities: Kankaria accident

By Pankti Jog*
In a shocking reply to an application filed by me, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) authorities have said that the information provided under the Right to Information (RT) Act should be used in court or in a judicial process. The Act is known to be a major tool that enables citizens to seek certified copies of documents, records from any public authority of state and Central government within 30 days, as per provisions of the Act.

Quit India Movement 'betrayal' and dubious role of Hindu Mahasabha, RSS leaders

By Shamsul Islam*
After the recent guillotine of Article 370, Hindutva ideologue Ram Madhav, while celebrating the occasion stated that it was honouring of the sacrifices of Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee and thousands others who laid down their lives for its removal. It is to be noted that Dr Mukherjee was a cadre of RSS and was groomed into a Hindutva leader by another Hindutva icon, VD Savarkar.

Strategy for united struggle against Hindutva 'fascism': Ideological silence is 'no option'

By Dr Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
Electoral alliance and opportunism of national and regional political parties, neoliberal economic marginalisation and soft secular Hindutva line pandering to Hindu majoritarianism laid the foundation of Hindutva fascism in post-colonial India.