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

Sanjiv Bhatt paying price for deposing on Modi role in Gujarat riots: Wife Shweta

Counterview Desk
Following the Jamnagar sessions court ordering life imprisonment to former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt for his alleged involvement in three decades old custodial death case, his wife Shweta Bhatt has said that he has been sentenced for a “for a crime he did not commit”, even as criticizing the Indian Police Service (IPS) Association, Gujarat, for not standing up for him.

US research: 40% of India's casteist Facebook posts are anti-reservation, anti-Dalit

By Rajiv Shah
A recent American civil society research has found that 40% of India's casteist posts on Facebook (FB) have anti-reservation slant. Asserting that the reservation policy in India is similar to affirmative action in the United States, the research study, titled "Facebook India: Towards The Tipping Point of Violence Caste and Religious Hate Speech", says, this type of hate content on FB is mainly directed against Dalits and Adivasis.

Senior advocates targeted because they took up cases against Amit Shah: Lawyers' NGO

Counterview Desk
The Lawyers Collective (LC), an NGO claiming to promote human rights issues, has expressed surprise at the latest move by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to register an FIR against the Lawyers Collective (LC), its president Anand Grover and unknown office bearers for alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).

Demand for Bharat Ratna to Dalai Lama as top RSS leader warns China of 'strong' action

Nava Thakuria*
Dharamshala: Indian supporters for a free Tibet have urged the Government of India to confer Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, on the Tibetan spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, for his “immense contributions” in creating goodwill for India in the last six decades. A declaration, adopted at the 6th All-India Tibet Support Groups’ Conference held on June 15 and 16 in Dharamshala township of Himachal Pradesh, said that the Nobel laureate continues to be a holy ambassador of Indian culture enriched with non-violence, compassion and religious harmony.

One of the least peaceful countries, India's global peace ranking deteriorates: Report

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report has asserted that India's ranking in the Global Peace Index (GPI) is 141st among 163 countries, deteriorating by four ranks in a year. Ranking 163 countries by providing a score to each, the report, prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), headquartered in Sydney, Australia, has found India to be one of the least peaceful nations in the region.

How Gujarat govt imposed curbs on livestock export for 'fear' of losing BJP vote share

By RK Misra*
Insidious are the ways authorities function, preaching one thing, practicing quite another. Administrative muscle-flexing to suit political goals was on display when the BJP-led Vijay Rupani government in Gujarat banned the export of livestock days ahead of Eid. Even the Narendra Modi-led government expressed its intent to confirm it countrywide, but stopped short of doing so.

Ex-CEA is 'right': India's new GDP growth data didn't pass the smell test. They still don't

Counterview Desk
In a hard-hitting defence of former chief economic adviser (CEA), Government of India (GoI), Arvind Subramanian, who created a major flutter by arguing in a recent paper that India's growth rate has been inflated by 2.5%, prominent academic Dr V Anantha Nageswaran wonders why is GoI not making available the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) data and methodology to independent statisticians for verification.

Gujarat govt 'considers' temples, charitable institutions as shops and establishment

By Pankti Jog*
The Gujarat state assembly recently passed a new law which would "govern" the working condition of shops and establishments. One of the most talked about provisions of the Act is, it allow shops and establishments across Gujarat to function 24 hours.

There is no 'separate' Kashmir story, as there is for Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet, Palestine

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of South Asia. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. The name Kashmir derives from the Sanskrit Kashyapmeru. The Greeks knew it as Kaspeiria. Herodotus called it Kaspatyros.

FIR against Lawyers’ Collective a ‘witch-hunt’ of outspoken human rights defenders

Counterview Desk
In a statement, Ravi Kiran Jain* and Dr V Suresh** of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have said the CBI’s FIR against the Lawyers’ Collective and senior advocate Anand Grover is an undisguised attempt to silence not just the top human rights organization but is also meant to “serve as a lesson to all others who dare to challenge the Central Government.”
Calling the FIR “motivated, vengeful and vituperative act”, PUCL said the Lawyers’ Collective, which has for 38 years of its existence has taken up cases related with domestic violence, human rights, labour and womens’ rights, adding, among the important ones are the “Naz case on rights of the LGBTQ community, the Novartis case, the Sabarimala case, the triple talaaq case and the Sohrabuddin case, in which current Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah was involved.”
Demanding immediate withdrawal of the FIR, PUCL said, “The case lodged against the organization smacks of vendetta for its exceptional …