Islamophobia 365: Lynchings & Beyond | How Anti-Muslim Hate in India’s UP Has Grown Exponentially Since 2017
Entry type: Single project
Publishing organisation: The Quint
Organisation size: Big
Publication date: 2022-03-09
Authors: Zijah Sherwani – Producer
Meghnad Bose – Creative Director
Achintya De – UI/UX Developer
Aman Verma – UI/UX Designer
Arkopriya Pal – Multimedia Producer
Aroop Mishra – Graphic Designer
Kamran Akhter – Graphic Designer
Aditya Menon – Senior Editor
Ritu Kapur – Executive Producer
Zijah Sherwani and Meghnad Bose led the project.
Zijah Sherwani is a Creative Director at The Quint and worked as the producer and research lead on the project.
Meghnad Bose is Deputy Editor, The Quint Lab, and helms innovations in journalistic storytelling across the organisation.
They worked with a team that included two graphic designers, a multimedia producer, a UI/UX designer, and a UI/UX developer. They were guided by a senior editor and an executive producer.
‘Islamophobia 365: Lynchings and Beyond’ is a data-driven multimedia interactive that documents instances of anti-Muslim hate in Uttar Pradesh, providing details of as many as 418 such instances since September 2015.
The documentation and classification of these cases show how increasingly rampant and systemic communal prejudice has become in the state.
The data was presented in an interactive manner – to make it more engaging for readers to go through the details. We created interactive data visualisations based on crucial data points that emerged through our research.
The incidents covered a range of Islamophobic acts and instances of intimidation and violence.
By being driven entirely through a plethora of individual incidents, the project doesn’t rely on hyperbole but is instead based on facts, figures and the stories of individuals impacted by anti-Muslim hate crimes. The details, data and anecdotes spoke for themselves, and resonated with our readers more deeply than any kind of sweeping statements or grandiose claims could have.
The project was widely shared and amplified by our readers on social media and other platforms – and was credited for comprehensively demonstrating how the imbalance in the right to identity, dignity and equality of the citizens of Uttar Pradesh seems to only be deepening ever further.
For instance, horrified by the details of the hate crimes and how it affected the victims, a woman named Chandrika Nair wrote on Facebook, “Why don’t everyone put aside the religion and look at each individual as a human? (sic)”
Our project was the first major quantitative study that sought to measure the scale at which instances of anti-Muslim violence had increased in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most politically significant region.
It catalysed a conversation on the subject of anti-Muslim hate crimes in India on social media – across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with thousands of comments, shares and interactions.
The average read time on the story was 2 minutes 24 seconds, 533% of the average across the website (27 seconds).
We received messages from other journalists and editors in the Indian media thanking us for our painstaking work on this project. They also echoed what several of our readers had messaged or posted publicly about the story – that it is an important, timely and thorough documentation of the rapid rise in communally-charged human rights violations in Uttar Pradesh, and an effective warning sign for readers in India and across the world.
Our research consisted of a collection of verified media reports, government data, and records from the DOTO (Documentation of the Oppressed) database which were further corroborated by news reports.
We listed a range of Islamophobic acts, including instances of violence, policies targeting Muslims, attacks based on religious identity, hate speeches, false accusations, calls for economic and social boycotts, and instances of intimidation.
We created the project on Infogram, an interactive data visualisation tool. We made multiple pages on Infogram, and separate ones for each year that our research covered (from 2015 to 2021).
We used various features of Infogram very creatively – from making the best use of the timed element animations, to introducing interactivity in numerous visualisations (of both data and infographics). The data was presented in an interactive manner – to make it more engaging for readers to go through the details. We used pop-ups that allowed the reader to find out more about any case that they wished to delve into further, and presented additional audio-visual and multimedia elements for cases for which they were available.
Then, the UI/UX for the microsite navigation was created on Adobe XD.
And finally, our in-house developer put it all together and built the site incorporating all our different elements.
Context about the project:
Uttar Pradesh, the state which our project focused on, is one that has been ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since early 2017. That is also the year in which hate crimes against Muslims grew manifold in Uttar Pradesh. As per the instances documented in our database, there was a five-fold increase. The number of cases have stayed as high ever since.
As our reportage shows, a lot of the violence is executed by Hindutva outfits, which have the backing of certain ruling party leaders. Reporters covering such matters are routinely at the receiving end of abuse and trolling on social media, including threats of violence. Our team at The Quint is no exception to this, especially due to how persistently we have covered the worrying rise of Hindutva vigilantism and violence in places like Uttar Pradesh.
Another important context that we wish to draw your attention towards is how even the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be an opportunity for Hindutva hatemongers in Uttar Pradesh to spread disaffection against Muslims. As our project shows in detail, there were numerous instances of COVID-related misinformation and disinformation targeting Muslims, and attacks on Muslim street vendors and those looking ‘visibly Muslim’ during the pandemic – leading to many people losing their jobs.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
One key takeaway for journalists and editors from this project is that when the story merits it, the best way to prove a large-scale hypothesis might be to document a database of incidents as exhaustively as possible, and let the numbers and the cases tell their own story. It will definitely require more resources than picking and choosing any two or three case studies and hoping they do the job of capturing the reality on the ground effectively enough. That latter approach can have its advantages in a lot of situations, but when it comes to quantitatively and qualitatively demonstrating a trend and its impact, the database method is arguably more effective and closer to being beyond reproach.
In many other Indian newsrooms, a project as resource-intensive as this one would have likely been shot down. But the significantly higher engagement rates on a project as thorough as this one should also inspire other journalists and editors to back more such projects in their newsrooms.
Lastly, based on the feedback we have received from several Indian journalists, this project seems to have inspired others to focus more on innovating in designing interactive and immersive experiences which will engage readers more actively in the story, and also thereby appealing to more readers to stay in the story for longer. As Naomi Barton of the Heartland Hatewatch Project by the Indian news publication The Wire wrote on Twitter about our project, “This is incredible work – style and content both!”