How Meta, YouTube, Twitter & Instagram Ignored Their Own Hate-Speech Standards To Give Hindutva Its Latest Star

14 Apr 2023 20 min read  Share

On 9 April, the Gujarat police arrested Hindutva star Kajal Shingala, or Kajal Hindustani, for inciting riots at an anti-Muslim rally. Her metamorphosis—like others—from obscure Islamophobe to public speaker was enabled by years of virtually unchecked hate speech on social media against minorities and critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who follows her on Twitter. As her fame grew, social media platforms ignored their own rules on hate speech and abuse, and the police, Supreme Court orders, as they did little more than file cases against her.

In this undated photo, Kajal Shingala is seen addressing a VHP rally in Gujarat/ KAJAL SHINGALA'S FACEBOOK PAGE

Mumbai: “How do these love jihadis have the courage to pick my Hindu girls up and take them away? Where is our mahila shakti (female power)? Mahila shakti will be when an Abdul, Aftab tries to pick up our girls and we bury him right there, 10 feet under, and get our girls back.”

Impeccably dressed in a shiny green and pink saree, with dangly earrings, a long, bulky necklace, bangles, slicked hair and big bindi, Kajal Shingala delivered this speech in the Gujarat town of Una on 30 March 2023, when she called for the “Lanka of jihadis” to be “burnt down”, a reference to either Muslim safe havens or neighbourhoods.

More commonly known by her nom de guerre, Kajal Hindustani, Shingala’s keynote speech at a rally organised by Hindu fundamentalist groups in Una caused tensions in a town of about 60,000, 28% Muslim and 70% Hindu. Hindus and Muslims clashed, leaving at least two people injured. Three days later, on 2 April, the Una police filed a first information report (FIR) against Shingala and arrested her a week later.

Remanded to 14 days in judicial custody, it was the first arrest for Shingala, a prosperous businesswoman and mother of two sons, the older one having just appeared for his class 12 exams.

Shingala was booked for “intending to outrage religious feelings”, “promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race and language”, and for making statements “conducing to public mischief” under sections 295 A, 153A and  505 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. 

Four days after her arrest, on 13 April 2023, Shingala was let off on bail by the sessions court in Una on a bail bond of Rs 50,000. Outside the jail, supporters welcomed her with flowers, garlands and sweets. 

Over the past 14 months, she has travelled across the country, addressing crowded Hindu right-wing rallies as a star speaker. The rallies have invited protests, leading to tensions and violence, as in Una.  


‘Social Media Gave Her Oxygen’

With no roots in India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and no known history of involvement with the Hindu right, Shingala has risen to Hindutva stardom over seven years, with the stir she initially caused on social media attracting the prime minister herself. 

She has gone from obscure Internet Islamophobe in 2016 to spearheading rallies that abuse Muslims and incite Hindus to violence against them. In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi started following her on Twitter.  Minister of commerce Piyush Goyal’s office account also follows her. 

Shingala’s emergence from the furthest fringes of the Hindu right—to the chagrin of even far-right organisations, such as the Bajrang Dal—is the result of a carefully-cultivated persona as a Hindutva influencer for years on social media platforms, such as Meta, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, which did little about her abusive rhetoric, even though it violated their own rules and community standards on abuse, hate speech, violence and incitement.

“Social media platforms claim they have guidelines they adhere to very strictly,” said Maya Mirchandani, associate professor of Practice, Media Studies at Ashoka University,  former editor and a senior fellow at a New Delhi think tank, the Observer Research Foundation, where she researches radicalisation and violent extremism. “But this case is clear evidence that platforms have not stuck to their commitment.”

“Instead of cutting it off, social media platforms gave her (Shingala) more oxygen to amplify her messaging,” said Mirchandani.

On 19 April 2023, five days after Article 14 published this story, YouTube said in an email response that it would remove three videos uploaded by Shingala for violating its “violent or graphic content policies”, which includes a video of a speech Shingala made in Navi Mumbai in February 2023, asking her audience to impose an economic boycott on Muslims and not rent or sell flats to them. 

YouTube also said Shingala was penalised with a “strike” on her channel, which would “result in upload prohibitions for a week”, adding that it remained “committed to removing any content” that violated its policies.

However, her YouTube channel continues to contain many other videos of anti-Muslim speeches, including one where she alleges, without evidence, that Muslims were being trained in mosques and madrassas to lure Hindu girls. 

Ravi Iyer, a former product manager at Meta who led efforts to improve the societal impact of algorithms on hate speech and polarisation, said social-media companies could not be held solely responsible since “platforms did not create these divisions”.

“However, if they are recommending or incentivising such content, then I do think they have more responsibility,” said Iyer, now managing director at the Psychology of technology institute at the University of Southern California’s Neely Center. 

“A lot of people get video content as recommended auto play videos from sources they don’t actively follow,” said Iyer. “If platforms base these recommendations on engagement, and we know that  more divisive content gets more engagement, then it is likely these recommendations helped this influencer (Shingala) expand their audience, beyond the people who were seeking out such content.”

As Modi’s government has increased legal oversight on social-media companies and forced them to hew to its requirements, these companies have, said experts, become increasingly wary of implementing their guidelines when it concerns handles allied with the government or those that echo ruling party ideology.

This ceding of ground to the government and ignoring abuse and hate speech from those like Shingala, who sought help from the BJP when she faced bans in her early days, indicates how the trajectory of hate speech is changing in India.

A Change In ‘Direction Of Hate’

Shakuntala Banaji, a professor of media culture and social change at the London School of Economics (LSE), said that Shingala’s rise signalled a “change in the direction of hate” in India, from starting at rallies and moving online, to now beginning online and moving offline. 

Other Hindutva influencers appear to be following this trajectory, including Monu Manesar, a Hindutva cow vigilante who earned social media fame in the last few years by uploading videos of his vigilantism before being accused in the abduction of two Muslims later found dead in Haryana in February this year; and Updesh Rana, a popular Hindutva figure on social media who in 2019 had addressed rallies against Muslims protesting against the Citizenship amendment act and has attacked a Muslim imam. 

“This is an increasingly occurring phenomenon and it will only continue to grow,” said Banaji. “There are a number of routes into fame and popularity in the Indian far-right political sphere, “including by rousing Hindutva sympathisers into active support through communications and media”.

Shingala’s arrest may have been prompted because she does not yet appear to have official endorsement and may not have reached, said one political expert, a tipping point that keeps police away from other stars in the Hindutva firmament.  

A leading example is T Raja Singh, a BJP member of legislative assembly (MLA) from Andhra Pradesh, who over the past months has not been arrested despite at least 4 FIRs filed against him over hate speech at 4 different rallies in Maharashtra and clear Supreme Court orders in October 2022 and reiterated in March 2023 on what police must do in such cases,

Banaji said the rise of Hindutva speakers, such as Shingala, Manesar and Rana, was a sign that “the reach and efficacy of social media power and its attendant power to mobilise crowds” was now an accepted “electoral tool”. 

The evident lack of punitive action from not just social media companies but police forces empowered and enabled Shingala and others like her, who have used a combination of social media and rallies to incite Hindus against minorities, in particular Muslims, said experts.

This lack of action is a contrast to swift police action against protestors, journalists and opponents of the ruling party, as Article 14 has reported over three years, and the frequent suspension of social media accounts that track hate speech (here, here and here) on Indian government requests.


Police Ignored A Series Of Hate Speeches

Before the arrest in Una, police in Karnataka and Maharashtra monitored or filed criminal cases after Shingala’s rallies but did no more, despite Supreme Court orders.

On 2 October 2022, in Udupi, Karnataka, at a rally organised by a right-wing organisation called Hindu Jagrana Vedike, Shingala was one of the two principal speakers who called for an economic boycott of Muslims. 

“The money you give them, with the same money, they take away your daughters,” said Shingala. “With the same money, they buy arms and gunpowder, run training camps, and prepare boys to become jihadis so they can behead people.”

Ten days later, the Udupi police filed an FIR against Shingala, charging her and another speaker at the event with “promoting enmity” between different groups on grounds of religion. No further action was taken.

Article 14 sought comment from Udupi superintendent of police Hakay Akshay Machhindra but he did not respond to messages.

On 26 February 2023, in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, Shingala, was a headliner speaker at a rally against ‘love jihad’ and ‘land jihad’ organised by an amorphous umbrella group of Hindutva organisations called the Sakal Hindu Samaj. 

Both are imagined conspiracies created by Hindu right-wing groups against Muslims by alleging, without evidence, that Muslims are conspiring to lure Hindu girls and illegally acquire land belonging to Hindus.

Shingala led thousands at the rally in taking a “pledge” to impose a “100% boycott” of Muslim businesses, refusing them jobs and refusing to let out or sell flats to them. 

The Navi Mumbai police commissioner announced that the meeting would be videographed to check for hate speech. There was no further action evident as this story was being published. 

Article 14 sought comment to Milind Bharambe, the city’s police chief, but at the time of publication, he had not responded to messages.

Abusing Muslims & Modi Critics 

Article 14 has tracked Shingala's constantly expanding presence across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram for at least four years before she began to address hate speech rallies. 

Shingala constantly used the platforms to launch diatribes against Muslims, critics and rivals of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindi film industry. 

From equating Muslims with snakes, to dubbing themjihadis” to calling Modi’s rivals “cockroaches”, Shingala steadily built her online following—evading the checks and balances that social media companies have built in to counter such hate speech. 

Today, Shingal commands a prominent presence on these platforms: over 358,000 followers on Facebook, more than 91,000 on Twitter, over 44,000 on Instagram and about 34,200 on YouTube.

Even as she progressed to delivering hate speeches in rallies attended by thousands, Shingala continued to use these platforms to disseminate those speeches to even bigger audiences, without any action from the social media companies.

Article 14 sought comments from Meta and YouTube about why she was allowed to operate her accounts despite violating their community standards. Both, after promising to respond to our questionnaire, did not do so at the time this story was published.

Banaji, the LSE academic, said social-media companies were unlikely to crack down on the kind of hate speech propagated by Shingala. “Platforms have little or no incentive to risk their access to India’s market by acknowledging the hate flowing in vernacular languages,” she said. 

“Social media companies see India as one of their biggest markets and access to this market remains very important to them,” said Mirchandani. “That fact, combined with them having to deal with a state that is all-powerful and provides impunity to these people, means platforms can only shut down so much. But this doesn’t allow the platforms to get a free pass,” she said. 

“When an instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube profile is profitable and brings mass traffic, the urge to disavow, deny or ignore wrong-doing is already high,” said Banaji. “This is solidified by the Indian authorities’ pressure to allow Hindutva hate speech to stand, even in English.” 

Hindu Right’s Discomfort With ‘Lioness Of Gujarat’ 

Shingala, who refers to herself as a “lioness of Gujarat” on her website, started cultivating her persona online after a 2016 controversy in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, where student activists held a protest to commemorate the hanging of terror convict Afzal Guru. 

“Till then, I was a hardcore businesswoman, who was only focussed on growing her business and earning more money,” she said in a 2018 interview to a YouTube channel TVAsiaUSA, calling the incident a “turning point” of her life. 

“I was so shocked that our future generation was chanting such slogans, getting media support, and they were becoming youth icons,” said Shingala. “I was so hurt to see all this, and I felt someone had to step forward and oppose all this.”

On her website, Shingala positions herself as a social activist, “a young and dynamic nationalist by core who is working towards spreading the awareness about Bhartiya Culture and Religions,” as her description reads. 

The website claimed Shingala has “settled Pakistani Hindus in Gujarat state”, and that she “ensures that drinking & tap water reaches slum areas of Gujarat”. There is no evidence to back any of these claims.

In her speeches, she has repeatedly insists that she is not just a good orator, but someone who works “on ground zero”, and focuses on two issues: love jihad and “zameen (land) jihad”. 

Her claims are disputed within the Hindu right-wing ecosystem. 

A senior Bajrang Dal leader from Gujarat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Shingala had never been associated with any activities among the Hindutva ecosystem. 

He said there was resentment within groups like the Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) at the sudden visibility that Shingala had garnered.

“She has chosen to encash on her social media following, but many leaders who have emerged out of grassroots activities feel wronged that someone with no experience on the ground is walking away with such fame,” the Bajrang Dal leader said, calling Shingala a “micoholic” for her propensity to use her speeches to garner attention.

Vinod Bansal, the national spokesperson of the VHP, confirmed that she did not belong to the VHP either and said the organisation had no role in propping her up. 

“Kajal is a powerful orator and an excellent political analyst. Now, social media has allowed people to place their opinions directly before people,” said Bansal. “Hence, you don’t need any political body or any political force for people like Kajal to emerge.”

Shingala often uses her own example to inspire others to follow suit. In December 2022, delivering a speech in Gujarati at the Mota Ramji mandir in Gujarat’s Nagnesh village in the central district of Surendranagar, Shingala alluded to this.

“I am like a saint, who has left her house and her household duties, her family and children to protect our religion,” she told a primarily-female audience. “I don’t live an ordinary life, I come from a very good family. But I have left all the conveniences, happiness behind.” 

“Our women can’t even sit here for six hours, but look at those Muslim women who sat at Shaheen Bagh for six months,” she said. “This is the difference between us and them.”


Creating Enemies, Gaining Followers

Soon after she started off in 2016, Shingala started appearing frequently with her followers on Facebook Live sessions (here, here and here), where she would, typically, pick a recent topic and offer her opinion. 

Dressed then in western outfits—from a rose-gold shirt and a chunky golden necklace, to a black turtleneck top and a bunch of golden chains to wearing blazer jackets—and seated in front of a blue headboard, Shingala mostly offered her “analysis” to her audiences. 


Her loyalties were always clear—pro-Modi and pro-BJP, against his critics and imagined enemies, from Muslims and Christians to celebrities believed to have somehow acted against Hindu interests. 

In 2017, when the Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi on the eve of Diwali, cricketer Yuvraj Singh posted an appeal to his followers to avoid bursting them.

A day later, in a video, Shingala asked him to not comment on “hamara tyohar”, our festival. She asked him why he could not see the pollution caused by cricket matches or by vehicular traffic. 

“Each year, we (Hindus) wait and these leftists get scapegoats like you,” Sinhala said, addressing Singh. “They throw money and make you say all these things,” she said, going on to single out his Sikh identity.

In March 2018, when opposition parties moved an impeachment motion against then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Shingala took to Facebook and YouTube and insisted that this was being done by the Congress because Misra was all set to deliver the judgement on the Ayodhya Ram Mandir issue. The judgement was delivered 18 months later, in November 2019, 13 months after Misra retired. 

She attacked the judiciary, saying it had always been “filled with leftists” and criticised secular Hindus for backing the Congress. 

“These secular Hindus are a blot on Hinduism, you are a blot, you are a curse on Hinduism,” said Shingala. “These secular Hindus, they must be 5-8%, please do us a favour and get converted. We don’t need people like you. We don’t mind if you wash Rahul Gandhi’s feet and drink that water, but when it comes to our sentiments and RG is doing politics, you should speak up.”

The video lives on, on her YouTube channel. 

In The Early Days, Some Bans

Even as Shingala continued to build her presence, she encountered social media platform norms only infrequently. 

In August 2018, Shingala posted on Twitter a screenshot showing that Facebook had disallowed her from posting or commenting on the platform because her post had gone against the platform’s standards on hate speech. 


She said it was the fourth time that she had been blocked that month, with the ban period increasing from a day to three days to a week to a month. 

Tagging the BJP’s information technology cell chief Amit Malviya she said, “Bhai, can we get any support from BJP IT Cell? Bcoz my only mistake is that I am a rightwing Narendra Modi ji and BJP supporter.”

Malviya did not respond to the post, and it is not clear if he intervened. But the action against her did not stop her. 

When she was banned for 30 days, she had over 189,000 followers on Facebook. Since then, her follower count has nearly doubled, to over 369,000 followers in April 2022.

By the end of 2021, Shingala began the transition to public speaker, beyond the online world. Her appearance underwent a transformation—Shingala was now sporting only traditional Indian outfits, mostly sarees and, infrequently, a salwar kameez. 

An analysis of her YouTube channel revealed that through 2021, she only addressed two public gatherings.

One of these two gatherings paved the way for her to hit the big league within the Hindutva circuit. 

From Online To Offline Fame

In October 2021, Shingala was invited to an event in Morbi organised by Jay Ambe Seva Group and Rashtrawadi Prakhar Sanghathan. Dressed in a turquoise blue saree and a striking striped blouse and a necklace of pearls, Shingala started off by attacking her own audience, accusing Hindus of “sleeping.” 

She criticised them for not being a part of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the RSS and for ignoring the city’s “two big problems”: two mosques that Muslims had “illegally” built.

“Start a campaign from tomorrow and don’t rest till they are demolished. Make a strategy. I will make it, I will lead it. But I need your support,” said Shingala. “Since it is illegal, why do we need to demolish it legally? I will get a bulldozer, I will even pay for it. But will you all stand with me when we demolish it? When do you want to do it?”

The speech raised tensions in the town, with the Sunni Muslim Samaj writing a letter to the local police. The then collector of Morbi J B Patel told The Quint that her claims were false and that the Hazrat Ali Peer Shah Dargah, was “very old…and there is no issue of illegality”.

Yet, no action was taken against Shingala. Her speech, still on her YouTube, has garnered nearly 70,000 views.

The speech catapulted her to national attention. It was widely reported, and Shingala’s stature within the Hindu right-wing ecosystem has grown since then.

Her newfound fame was only burnished by news television channels, where Shingala started featuring as a ‘social worker’ commenting on political issues. 

Just weeks after her speech, she was invited by the national broadcaster Doordarshan News to talk about “uplifting moral values” and “family ties”.

Since then, Shingala’s public appearances as a speaker have only increased. Videos on YouTube and Facebook reveal how she has, since, travelled and addressed gatherings across states, from Karnataka to Telangana to Delhi to Rajasthan to Gujarat, Maharashtra among others. 

More Fame, Greater Conspiracy Theories


Her rhetoric sharpened, and her speeches became more strident and free of facts, as she gained larger audiences.

In December 2021, Shingala and Kalicharan ‘Maharaj’, who was previously arrested by the Raipur police for a hate speech against Mahatma Gandhi (whom he called “haraami”, b****** ), were the chief speakers at the Sakal Hindu Samaj’ rally in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district.

In the speech, Shingala, without offering evidence, said that Muslims were being trained and funded, through an Islamist conspiracy, to ‘lure’ Hindu girls. 

“There are prices on all our heads,” said Shingala. “[They are told] entrap a Brahmin’s daughter and get 7-8 lakh rupees. Get a bania’s daughter and take 6 lakh rupees. Get a Rajput’s daughter and take 5 lakh. Get a Dalit’s daughter and take 5-6 lakh,” Shingala said to the audience.

She went on to claim that “Islamic aggression” had been rising in the country, and urged mothers in the audience to make their children like Jijabai, Maratha King Shivajirao Bhonsle’s mother. 

“Only if she becomes Jijabai will Shivaji be born,” she told her audience, which responded with loud hooting and clapping. “But if you make her Kareena Khan, she will only produce Taimur and Jehangir (a reference to the names of the children of Hindi film star Kareena Kapoor who married compatriot Saif Ali Khan).”

In the same month, in a speech at the Mota Ramji Mandir in Nagnesh village in Surendranagar district of Gujarat, Shingala asked the female-majority audience to stand up and take a pledge with her. 

“I am now making a commitment,” Shingala started, before asking the audience to repeat after her, “that I will protect Hindu religion…that I will unite Hindus…that I will free Hindu temples from Muslim encroachers…to protect my religion, to protect my future generations, I will not buy anything from Muslims; not a single object. I will not buy fruits and vegetables, nor wear their clothes. I will give my business and money only to Hindus.”

Four months after the event, the speech is still available on YouTube. 

The rise of Shingala and others like her and the subsequent reluctance of police to crack down on make it difficult to curb hate speech, online or otherwise, and prevent violence linked to it.

“People like me who have been tracking online hate and radicalisation have been warning of this—that at some point, it is going to lead to offline violence,” Mirchandani, the ORF senior fellow said. “Once they move offline, it is a bit of a lost cause because you then can  only depend on law enforcement agencies to curb something they should have never allowed in the first place.”

Update: This story was updated on 20 April 2023 to reflect You Tube's reaction to Shingala's videos.

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(Kunal Purohit is an independent journalist tracking the rise of Hindu right-wing politics.)