In early May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to the podium at a political rally in Madhya Pradesh and launched an attack on the opposition party while campaigning in this year’s election, where a seven-phase voting period concluded on June 1. Observing that India was at a turning point in history, Modi told voters they would have to choose carefully between “Vote Jihad” —a term repeatedly used by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters to describe votes from Muslims—and “Ram Rajya,” which translates to “governance under Ram,” referring to the Hindu deity.

The term “Vote Jihad” first entered the Indian public sphere after a local opposition politician, Maria Alam, used it while campaigning in the state of Uttar Pradesh a month earlier, where she asked the minority community to “Vote Jihad” to defeat the BJP. The local police charged Alam with civil disobedience for trying to seek votes based on religion, but the ruling party nevertheless latched onto the term to criticize leaders from opposition parties like the Congress Party—who ran in the election by forming an alliance called “INDIA”—and to amplify divisive rhetoric between Hindus and Muslims through social media.

So frequent was the BJP’s use of the term that a new report published May 31 by The London Story (TLS), an Indian diaspora-led nonprofit foundation based in the Netherlands, documented at least 21 instances in March and 33 in April where the BJP’s Facebook page, which has 19 million followers, along with other affiliated accounts, posted claims that Muslims are waging “Vote Jihad” in this year’s election. In one example, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a militant Hindu nationalist organization with several verified accounts on Facebook and over 100,000 followers, posted a recorded press statement where the spokesperson referred to Indian Muslims as “Jihadis” and blamed them for allegedly committing “Vote Jihad.”

The group says these efforts are part of a sustained disinformation campaign designed to disenfranchise India’s 200 million Muslim voters. “We looked at how the BJP uses disinformation narratives around ‘jihad’ to rationalize policymaking,” Ritumbra Manuvie, the Executive Director of TLS, tells TIME. “This is an imminent danger because we have seen how similar instances have led to actual disenfranchisement in the past.”

But these instances are just the tip of the iceberg. India’s 970 million eligible voters include over 750 million active internet users, a sharp 43% increase in users since the last general elections in 2019, according to the Economic Times, which cites data from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and KANTAR. That includes 314 million users on Facebook, 362 million on Instagram, and 535 million on WhatsApp—all of which are owned by Meta.

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