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  • Writer's pictureMohinder Gulati

Hinduphobia: A Case Study on Social Media by Rutgers University

Dear subscribers, volunteers, members,

Before you start wondering at our long silence, we wish to apologize for the inordinate delay in putting in place the building blocks for smooth functioning of the Network, our website and communication with you. Thanks a lot for your patience. We will try to engage with you more regularly as the Network overcomes its teething troubles.

Our family of volunteers is slowly growing. We are creating a database of temples and will soon start contacting them to become members of the Network. Please encourage your friends and family to volunteer. Minimum commitment is only two hours a week.

Please collect and send us information on your local temples at info@GHTN.IN and encourage them to become members. There is no financial obligation on the temples.

We would like to share with you a recent, a bit technical but well prepared, study on Hinduphobia by a group of researchers at Rutgers University, New York. [ Hinduphobia case study: Rutgers University and NCRI-2022] and Network Contagion Research Institute. Countering hate-speech is important because of proven correlation between hate-speech and hate-crime. Here is a summary of the report:

Hinduphobic metaphors— such as the portrayal of Hindus as fundamentally heretical evil, dirty, tyrannical, genocidal, irredeemable or disloyal — are prominent across the ideological spectrum and are being deployed by fringe web communities as well as state actors. The report used large scale quantitative methods, natural language processing, time series analysis, a data-driven approach, consisting of large-scale quantitative and machine learning analysis of a wide variety of social media data to examine the spread of Hinduphobia within a wide variety of social media platforms. The report found that Hinduphobia is exploding across millions of comments, interactions and impressions in both mainstream and extremist platforms.

The report collected anti-Hindu hashtags and comments from popular social networking and messaging platforms—Twitter, Tiktok, 4chan, Gab, and Telegram for the period 2019- June 2022. It also examined state sponsored trolls from Iran using the Twitter Information Operations Dataset.

Their analysis suggests the use of covert influence in the Anti-Hindu disinformation used by Iranian state sponsored trolls. Location analysis of Iranian trolls found that the self-reported location of such users tweeting about India or Hindus was highly clustered in Pakistan, with some anti-Hindu account locations in India as well. That they are Iranian state actors therefore indicates that these users were strategically falsifying their location. This suggests efforts by the Iranian regime to inflame ethnic tensions in both domestic and inter-state conflicts between Muslims and Hindus and showcases the use of Hinduphobic disinformation for geopolitical strategy. Iranian troll accounts masqueraded as human rights activists, journalists and “humanists” and tagged newspapers (@cnn, @msnbc), calling on them to condemn India for anti-Muslim violence. Iranian trolls deliberately suggested that Hindus were committing genocide against Muslims, and use covert influence and hijack social justice rhetoric to promote anti-Hindu disinformation.

Demeaning Hinduphobic themes were often depicted alongside elevated depictions of in-group supremacy among the memes of the extrmist groups disseminating them. Proliferating exponentially in the digital age, Hinduphobia appears to be reaching new audiences and fueling the group supremacy and feelings of ethnic superiority across the ideological and extremist religious spectrums. These large surges in ethnic antagonism online often presage violence against the targeted groups.”

Anecdotal evidence points to strong anti-Hindu bias even in Indian media, entertainment, institutions, and public discourse. It is important to carry out a systematic study of such bias to demand corrective action. Alpesh Patel, an investment banker in London said on Hinduphobia “We did not survive 5,000 years to be silenced now”.

United States. The State of Virginia declared October as Hindu Heritage Month, thanks to perseverance and persistent efforts by a volunteer Mr. Rajesh Gooty [ Hindu Heritage Month-Virginia, United States]. This very exciting development for the Hindus in America will give momentum to similar proclamations in other states and create awareness, and reduce disinformation, about Hindu religion in North America.

Bangladesh. Since the horrific riots of last year’s Durga Pujo, violence against Hindus in Bangladesh has not stopped. Often, on imagined and imaginary accusations of blasphemy, Hindu homes, lands, and businesses are targeted, women raped, and men murdered. There is a strong economic greed underpinning these riots, ignored and oftentimes quietly supported by the local administration to coerce Bangladesh Hindus to leave so that their lands, homes, and jobs can be grabbed by local Muslims. One of our volunteers Mrs. Priya Saha, Executive Director of Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities, has published a tragic account of Chuknagar Genocide-1971. Since 1971, Hindu population in Bangladesh has been steadily declining -- from 20% in 1971 to 8.5% in 2011 and 7.95% in 2021. With reference to 1971, it amounts to a reduction of 2 crore Hindus. Where have they gone? More about it later, as we get ground-level information from Bangladesh.

A strong nation, honest and unbiased institutions, quick response from the government and judiciary to supremacist fundamentalists, are critical for a healthy democracy. Absent these fundamentals, any society will face violence and conflict. In such situations, only those who are well organized to protect their rights will survive. On this 75th Independence Day, think about the unfortunate minorities who are suffering unspeakable atrocities in our neighborhood, research the facts, discuss among your temple communities, draw your own lessons and think how we can help them. We will revert to this topic very soon.

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