Hate Crime Trackers Hindutva Watch and India Hate Lab Face Blocks Ahead of Indian Elections
New Delhi : Ahead of India’s election season, the Indian government has blocked access to Hindutva Watch and India Hate Lab throughout the country. Critics say the platforms were targetted for their coverage criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its brand of nationalism known as Hindutva. Indian Ministry of Information issued notices to block the websites under section 69A of the controversial IT Act. This act allows authorities to restrict public access to information under the pretext of India’s sovereignty, integrity and security.
Hindutva Watch is a U.S.-based research project that documents hate crimes against religious minorities in India and India Hate Lab (IHL) is a Washington DC based research organisation team comprised of journalists, academics and researchers dedicated to documenting, tracking, studying and analysing hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy theories targetting religious minorities in India.
Raqib Hameed Naik, a Kashmiri journalist living in the US since 2020, launched the “Hindutva Watch” website in April 2021. Since launching, Hindutva Watch has grown to an extensive database documenting hate speech and violence against religious minorities in India. Such incidents have increased across cities and towns, yet often receive little mainstream media coverage in the country. The project documents two to four hate events daily, nearly double from a year ago. India Hate Lab (IHL) also recently published a comprehensive half-yearly report on anti-Muslim hate speech in India.
“While shocking, it is not surprising, considering Prime Minister Modi regime’s history of suppressing free press & critical voices,” Naik wrote on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, on January 16, reacting to the ban. “The suppression of our account in India only fuels our determination to continue our work undeterred.” “Currently, I am exploring legal options,” Naik also added.
Last year, X, under its new owner Elon Musk, ceded to Modi government’s demands and withheld accounts of U.S. human rights groups- viz. Indian American Muslim Council and Hindus for Human Rights in India. This comes as India’s press freedom ranking continues to decline under Modi. According to Reporters sans frontiers (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, India fell to 161 out of 180 countries, down from 150 in 2022 and 140 in 2014 when Modi took power.