Hate Speech Beda collective empowers Indians against rising communal tensions

The rise of right-wing Hindu nationalism in India has led to an increase in hate speech and attacks against Muslims and other minorities. Karnataka, a southern Indian state that is an economic powerhouse and capital of India's information technology, biotech, and startup ecosystems, has witnessed a surge in hate speech and attacks since the BJP came to power there in 2007. Despite electing a Congress government in 2023, the state government's decision to ban female Muslim students from wearing the hijab inside classrooms remains in place.

In February, Hindu groups alleged that a nurse in a government hospital in Karnataka's Kalburgi district had forcefully converted a Hindu patient to Christianity. A mob barged into the woman's home, assaulted her, and hurled casteist slurs at her. Videos of the attack were run on a local channel, which also accused the nurse of religious conversion.

Hate Speech Beda is a collective founded in Karnataka in 2020 to track, identify, catalogue, and fight incidents of hate speech. The collective approaches authorities, urging them to act on their complaints. It also does advocacy and conducts workshops to train people in identifying and reporting hate speech.

Participants at a workshop in Bengaluru conducted by Hate Speech Beda. The collective has filed about a dozen complaints with the police and other regulatory bodies this year. Among them was a case involving Hindu right-wing groups and a local news channel alleging a Christian nurse had forcefully converted a patient.

Lawyer Manavi Atri, a member of Hate Speech Beda, said the collective's biggest struggle is getting police to file a formal report in cases involving hate speech. Hindu nationalist BJP denies allegations of supporting hate speech, calling it a "political narrative shaped by the Congress".

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