On July 13, a paper on the development of Hinduphobia on social media and messaging platforms was published by researchers from the Network Contagion Lab at Rutgers University-New Brunswick (NC Lab). The researchers discovered evidence of a sudden increase and changing trends in hate speech directed at Hindus on several platforms.
Several actors, including white supremacists, 4Chan, and other extremists, are widely disseminating genocidal Pepe memes against Hindus among Islamist web networks through messaging services like Telegram and other platforms, according to the paper titled “Anti-Hindu Disinformation: A Case Study of Hinduphobia on Social Media.”
The Rutgers researchers used artificial intelligence to go through more than 1 million tweets, and they discovered that Iranian trolls had been spreading misinformation about Hindus on many occasions. These actors claimed that Hindus were responsible for the genocide of Indian minorities. It’s interesting to note that identical misinformation about the Hindu population in India is being promoted in western nations, and a number of activists and so-called journalists, like Rana Ayyub, are heavily promoting the aforementioned narrative in their circles.
Student analyst Prasiddha Sudhakar stated of the ability to raise awareness of this underrepresented subject matter: “I welcome the opportunity to do so.” She has gathered and analysed data with high school students from the New Jersey Governors’ STEM Scholars programme.
Joel Finkelstein, the NCRI’s principal data scientist and a senior research fellow at the Miller Center, stated that teaching children to recognise open-source hate speech is an essential first step in assisting vulnerable groups in anticipating and addressing new threats.
At Rutgers University-New Brunswick, John J. Farmer Jr., director of the Miller Center and the Eagleton Institute of Politics, highlighted that intolerance and violence against the Hindu community were nothing new. The social media environment in which hateful words are disseminated is novel. Our earlier research has demonstrated a link between the volume of hate speech on social media and the emergence of violent crimes in the real world,” he continued.
Examining anti-Hindu sentiment on message services and social media
First and foremost, it is crucial to recognise that the Hindu community has long endured prejudice and hatred. In the article, John Farmer discussed the 1980s “dot-busters” anti-Hindu movement. He showed a letter from 1987 that had been printed in the Jersey Journal. The author of the letter discussed harming Indians—most of whom were Hindus—and forcing them to flee Jersey.
“I’m writing regarding your story about the mistreatment of Indian People from July,” he stated. I’m here to present the opposing view, though. I abhor them. We are the Dot Busters organisation.
We will take all measure necessary to evict Indians from Jersey City. I will strike a Hindu if I see one while I’m strolling down the street and the circumstances are appropriate. We prepare some of our most brutal assaults, such crashing family gatherings, smashing windows, and smashing car windows. They won’t ever take any action. They are a mentally and physically frail race. We will carry on moving forward. No one can ever stop us.
Following the letter, there were other attacks against Indians in the Jersey region. Even though some of the attackers were detained, they were found not guilty because the victims were unable to recognise them during the trial. In other words, anti-Hindu propaganda is nothing new, and the Hindu community has had to deal with it both in India and abroad.
What does the data imply for the present situation?
The researchers from Rutgers University claim that anti-Hindu slurs and chants are on the rise in an alarming way. The spread of anti-Hindu genocidal memes in memes on Islamist, white nationalist, and other extremist sub-networks online was another thing they saw. However, the researchers noted that the “particular content of these memes, hashtags and negative statements very clearly targets decisively Hindu symbols, practises, and lifestyles.” It is interesting that such posts are generally perceived as being anti-Indian.
The research also highlighted the existence of both established and emerging entities disseminating anti-Hindu misinformation on social media and messaging platforms for political purposes. “[The] state actors within Iran frequently weaponize this discourse to spark conflict between India and Pakistan,” the Rutgers paper stated.
Such propaganda is also produced by non-state groups like ISIS-K. The researchers emphasised how ISIS-K connected the latest attack on a Gurudwara in Kabul to Nupur Sharma, a former BJP spokesperson, and her claimed insults of Prophet Mohammed.
The data was taken from many sources, and it covered the years 2019 through 2022. They discovered that the anti-Hindu misinformation is frequently concealed by the use of racial epithets, slurs, and code words like “pajeet.” It first appeared on 4 Chan. A disparaging copy of Indian names led to the creation of this “ethnic slur.” Pajeet is frequently used to refer to Indians and, by extension, Hindus on the Internet, the report suggested.
It is noteworthy that the phrase has appeared in extremist manifestos as well. “Pajeets” were mentioned in this manifesto by the white nationalist who opened fire on the Chabad Synagogue in San Diego, according to the article.
In their podcasts, white nationalists have also used this epithet to allude to their violent, deadly fantasies regarding Indians. It’s interesting to note that when Parag was chosen to lead Twitter as CEO in late November 2021, the lingo was widely used.
On 26/11, the Pepe the Frog meme promoted the idea that Hindus should be treated the same way that John Floyd was handled by a police officer, and other memes of a similar nature occasionally appeared on social media.
On social media, the concept of anti-Hindu hatred centres around calling Hindus filthy. Online, Hindus are frequently referred to as “shitskinned,” “sub-human,” and other derogatory terms. Users that commented on 4Chan about “Pajeets,” “Hindus,” and “India” self-reported their locations as being in the US, India, Canada, the UK, and Australia, with the US accounting for the vast bulk of those locations.
The relation to Iran
The researchers also noted that state actors employ anti-Hindu stereotypes as a component of media operations to impact geopolitics. They discovered that between 2010 and 2021, there were over 17 lakh tweets by state-sponsored Iranian trolls using the Twitter dataset.
According to their investigation, they connected Hindus with radicals who attacked minorities on social media. They attempted to stir up political turmoil in India as well. Additionally, the researchers’ examination of location revealed a highly concentrated presence of trolls in Pakistan. Some anti-Hindu accounts are also based in India.
During periods of geopolitical turmoil, they frequently discussed India and Hindus. For instance, Iranian trolls sponsored a disinformation campaign to claim that “Hindu Extremists” were responsible for the ISIS bombing of the Bhopal-Ujjain Passenger train. They used the hashtag #KashmirDeniesIndia in August 2017 in response to the upheaval brought on by the murder of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani.