Role of Public WhatsApp Groups Within the Hindutva Ecosystem of Hate and Narratives of “CoronaJihad”

This article uses the context of the widespread circulation of accounts about “CoronaJihad” in India during the COVID-19 pandemic to examine how public WhatsApp groups that participate in disseminating such accounts function within the ecosystem of hate around Hindutva majoritarianism in the country. The manner in which the WhatsApp platform operates within this ecosystem is mapped through a granular study of three public Hindutva WhatsApp groups; the messages within these groups during the first phase of the COVID-19 lock-down in India were examined during the course of this study. The pattern of messaging within the three groups that contribute to the narrative of “CoronaJihad,” which blames the minority Muslim community for the spread of the virus in India, were analyzed. The article focuses on factors including company policies and the specific sociopolitical situation in the country to understand the circumstances that make WhatsApp’s deep entanglement with the divisive politics of Hindutva majoritarianism in India possible.

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Tags: CoronaJihad, Covid-19, Extreme speech, Hindutva, India, WhatsApp groups