In most of the countries of South Asia, hate speech is increasingly used by majority groups against minorities on the basis of religion, ethnicity or linguistic difference. Some of the groups under attack, in turn, are found to be victimising others at the same time. The common denominator driving hate speech in the region currently are the ubiquitous online platforms, primarily social media. Another common factor is the introduction of laws framed to restrict freedom of speech in the guise of protecting citizens against hate speech and violence. Taken together with the rise of hyper-nationalism promoted by majority groups, it has resulted instead in the shrinking of civic space and state-sanctioned hate speech through legislative enforcements.
South Asia State of Minorities Report 2021: Hate Speech against Minorities presents chapters from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to highlight how hate speech has been used in the various country contexts to advocate violence against minority groups and how it has led to their further suppression. This volume is planned as a tool for advocacy. It is hoped that these annual reports on outcomes for minorities and the quality of state provisioning will spur public debate in the region and create the conditions for state parties, and regional and international mechanisms to give serious consideration to issues of minorities. The purpose of the initiative is to promote equal citizenship and equal rights for all citizens, a central challenge of the ‘deepening democracy’ agenda in the region, and to highlight the alarmingly narrow civic space for minorities, including human rights defenders, journalists and activists.