May 22, 2024 | WIRED

Hindutva narratives spreading anti-Muslim hate are being monetised across platforms

Ahead of the close of elections in India, ISD Analyst and Editorial Manager Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan spoke to WIRED about anti-Muslim narratives spreading online within the country through articles from a controversial site called OpIndia. The website is regularly name checked by lawmakers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

OpIndia has shared articles promoting the “love jihad” conspiracy theory, claiming that Muslim men are trying to marry, kidnap, and forcefully convert Hindu women to Islam in order to demographically shift India from a Hindu-majority to a Muslim-majority state. The website is partially funded by ads from the BJP, as well as ads via Google’s ad exchange platform placed next to its content, despite regularly posting fake or polarizing content directly violating Google’s own publisher policies. In 2019, OpIndia’s application to the Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network, which accredits publications as trustworthy sources, was rejected.

Siddharth tells WIRED that the narratives in these articles are then picked up and spread on other platforms such as X and Telegram, noting how “in some of these places there’s even more explicit calls for violence against Muslims or for the removal of Muslims.” Such narratives fall under the umbrella of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism, a political ideology which claims that India is a Hindu nation under threat from outside influences such as Islam and Christianity.

Siddharth is the author of a recent Dispatch examining Hindutva’s use of divisive rhetoric and conspiracy theories ahead of the elections in India.

ISD also has an Explainer covering the origins and key elements of the ideology.