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Sushma Swaraj continues to receive hateful, sexist abuse on Twitter, but the question we should also be asking is: Why are no party colleagues rushing to her support?
It has almost been a week since External affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was trolled on twitter, following her decision to transfer a Lucknow Passport Office official over his handling of an inter-faith couple’s application for passport renewal.
Swaraj retweeted around 50 tweets that were directed at her in relation to this incident containing allegations of ‘Muslim appeasement’. These tweets contained ugly abuse and threats, many with a communal tinge. After a few days of such trolling, the Minister created an online poll asking her followers if they believe such trolling was justified. While 57% answered no, a whopping 43% (that comes to 53000 people) said yes, approving Sushma Swaraj’s being trolled on twitter. Take a moment to digest that.
The fact that so many people approved of the abusive, sexist tweets directed at the Minister is frightening – it points to the dangerous trend of abusive online behaviour in India that has grown over the past few years.
This is not however the only noteworthy thing in this incident. Noteworthy is also the silence of Swaraj’s own party members, including her Cabinet colleagues and party president Amit Shah. The Minister’s husband Swaraj Kaushal supported her, tearing apart a troll who targeted her with an abusive tweet. The Congress party came out in support of the Minister, saying that violence, disrespect and abuse can never be justified or supported. PDP Chief and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister until recently, Mehbooba Mufti also voiced her concern about this rising trend.
However, it must be noted that this monster is no new face to the BJP for it is the party’s own creation – and just like the famous monster Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s novel, this monster also has come around to attack it’s own creators. In journalist Swati Chaturvedi’s book, I Am a Troll : Inside the secret digital army of the BJP almost entirely devoted to the testimony of Sadhavi Khosla, a former volunteer with the BJP, she exposed the organised trolling carried out by the BJP on various social media platforms by employing a bunch of men and women thriving on misogyny, communal hatred and bigotry.
Social media has been used by the party time and again to sway public opinion against their opponents with inflammatory arguments and remarks including sexual and religious trolling of the targets. The targets have included people from opposition parties, journalists and even actors who chose to voice an opinion that was not in accordance with the beliefs of the party or their ideas on nationalism. And just like any good parent , BJP has till date denied all allegations with leader Narendra Modi maintaining a stoic silence in this regard.
In fact Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been also accused of following people on Twitter who have been caught making hateful remarks and violent threats directed at various people. But it seems like the party has fallen into it’s own trap. The BJP no longer has a rein on its unruly online army who have now come up to attack them too. As a result, the party has fallen silent in the face of this uprising.
It is safe to assume then that if not checked now, this monster will soon start causing irreversible damage.
Image via External Affairs Ministry website.
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B.A English Honours at Jadavpur University.
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