Hate crime monitoring platform Hindutva Watch obstructed in India in the run-up to national elections

Hate crime monitoring platform Hindutva Watch obstructed in India in the run-up to national elections

New Delhi, India – The website of Hindutva Watch, an independent research project based in the United States that monitors hate crimes against religious minorities in India, has been blocked in India just days after the founder received a warning from government officials. The India Hate Lab website, dedicated to tracking hate speech in India, is also inaccessible within the country. Both platforms remain available outside of India.

The founder of Hindutva Watch and India Hate Lab, Raqib Hameed Naik, confirmed that he received communication from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) regarding the potential blocking of the websites. Naik is currently exploring legal options in response.

The Indian government issued notices to block the websites under section 69A of the controversial IT Act, which allows authorities to prevent public access to information in the interest of national sovereignty, integrity, and security. The Supreme Court of India had previously struck down another section of the IT Act that allowed the government to prosecute individuals for sending “offensive” messages online.

Hindutva Watch, launched in April 2021, has become a valuable database documenting hate speech and violence against religious minorities in India. The project has been documenting two to four hate events daily, highlighting the escalation of hate crimes across major cities and smaller towns. However, critics accuse Hindutva Watch of being biased against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its political ideology, Hindutva.

This move to block the websites follows Twitter’s decision to withhold Hindutva Watch’s account in India earlier this year. Critics of the government argue that there is a growing climate of censorship surrounding Twitter accounts in India since Elon Musk took over the platform in late 2022. Last year, Twitter also withheld the accounts of US-based human rights groups in response to legal demands from the Modi government.

Suchitra Vijayan, an author and founder of The Polis Project, described the blocking of Hindutva Watch as part of a larger pattern of suppressing free press and critical voices in India. In recent years, India’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has slipped, indicating a decline in press freedom within the country.



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