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Rape Threats, Peddling Half Truths, & Trial By Social Media Seems To Have Become Its Own Industry

Posted: August 25, 2020

Why do we need hate? Why does the prospect of punishing someone without the judiciary click with so many people? Let’s look inside ourselves.

The times we live in today, sees an enormous amount of social media influence on a common person’s perceptions. There are also diverse ways in which people can choose to influence others. I mean, the term “social media influencers” has never before even existed. The influence could be good or bad, which we would discuss towards the end of the article. Right now, let’s leave it at that.

*Trigger alert: Contains discussion about mental health issues and violence against women, and may be triggering to survivors.

Below, I will be discuss some incidents which are right now the “in” topics of discussion on almost all social media platforms, and also news channels. It saddens me deeply that I have to include news agencies in the same sentence as social media platforms but, as a common person, I am left with no other choice.

Sushant Singh Rajput’s case

Sushant Singh Rajput left this world on 14th June 2020. It was a Sunday. I was in the kitchen baking something when I was told about the news. I saw the news, sat on the sofa and caught words like “depression” “suicide” “hung himself” flashing across the news channels.

SSR’s suicide

I wasn’t a diehard fan of Sushant’s. In fact, I have seen just one movie of his. I liked his work. He reminded me of what hard work looks like and how achieving recognition and earning a name looks like.

After his demise, came the wave of information about who Sushant was, as a person, as a human being. He was interested in the mysteries of space, he owned an expensive telescope that took him and his imagination to places. He was a regular guy. Curious, hardworking, young, with dreams and ambitions. I liked him more as a person when all this information about him poured out. This, I would call the first wave of information that came in in Sushant Singh Rajput’s case.

Revelations by the industry

This had left many of us in shock. A lot of Bollywood celebrities, directors, actors etc came forward by narrating the stories of their struggles and how the powerplay works in the B-Town.

Obviously, then a very heated discussion on nepotism started. These discussions in no time started on social media as well.

The debate on nepotism

What then unfolded on social media is what we might call a very crude delusional version of social media trial with actors like Alia Bhatt, Sonam Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha getting rape threats, trolls forcing some of them to shut down their social media accounts, targeting their mothers, sisters etc and basically, rape threats.

This era is what I call a meme age so obviously, a lot of memes also came like Sonam Kapoor standing with her husband and her husband being trolled by people for his grey hair and “not being as handsome as Sushant”.

Call to ‘boycott’ the Khans

Another section campaigned for petitions to boycott the Khans, Karan Johar, Yash Raj Banner and in the process called the Khans mafia and called KJo “chhakka” and gay (though I fail to understand how being a Chhakka or being a gay could be taken as a form of insult).

A lot of people from Bollywood also took this as a chance to push forward their own agenda and just talked about themselves instead of Sushant.

The ‘supernatural’ angle!!

The third and final wave was the one that left most of us braindead when the news channels took their inspiration from supernatural movies and on loop kept telecasting how a psychic spoke to Sushant(after his demise) and even managed to record his voice.

Agrima Joshua & Rohan Joshi

Many comedians now a days are facing a social media wrath. I’d take up here the case of two of them. Agrima Joshua and Rohan Joshi.

I am taking these two cases deliberately.

Agrima Joshua is a stand-up comedian and made some jokes about the Shivaji Statue. Yes, about Shivaji’s statue, and about how people wrote about the things they thought the statue would do on Quora. So here, the woman got rape threats by thousands of people for creating humorous content on the comments that people wrote on a yet to be built Shivaji’s statue. Let’s take a moment to soak in this logic.

Long story short, Agrima apologized, got a lot of hate on social media and a lot of support from the Indian Left and rightly so. Why did I introduce the Indian Left here? Read the next incident.

Rohan Joshi went off Twitter and Instagram after his personal number, address, family details etc. were leaked and his family started getting threats. For what?

For Tweets like these:

  • “Rapes are prevented because men and photos of Mamata Banerjee interact freely”
  • “Mamata Banerjee leaves for cock block. RT @NDTVProfit: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee leaves for North Block #Budget2012”
  • “The day Sharad Pawar dies will be our real Independence Day. Putrid evil fuck”
  • “Someone needs to wipe this entire Pawar clan off the face of the Earth, like the cumstains they are”
  • “I hope Srinivasan resigns, because I don’t really want to see him killed by the smoke monster that comes out of Sharad Pawar’s vagina”

Were his Tweets offensive and sexist? Yes. But should Rohan Joshi and his family be getting threats for these Tweets? No.

What Rohan Joshi Tweeted was neither comedy nor humor. What he Tweeted reeked of sexism and misogyny. Unlike Agrima, his apology should have come sooner or later without him or his family receiving threats. No one deserves threats from the so-called gorilla (in this case Right leaning) moral police of the society. Rohan issued a public apology and went off Instagram and Twitter.

A lot of people supported him, consoled him, spoke about how India has lost its democracy and freedom. (their anger here in context to the threats is justified)

None of these people in the same breath said anything about how his Tweets were sexist and hate filled, and how he made a mistake as a creator and has since grown as a person as well as a creator. (their blatant ignorance of this aspect was not justified especially because Rohan Joshi actually used the same democracy and freedom to tweet those one liners)

This is the double standard that almost every issue these days faces. It’s like there is a competition to “save our own” and in the process, ignore Justice.

Hindustani Bhau and rape threats

I came across this profile on Instagram after the Agrima Joshua case.

It was about 2 in the night (thanks to Covid-19 and the messed up sleep cycle). I read about Agrima Joshua’s case, how she got rape threats and a guy named Shubham Mishra who made an obscene video explicitly explaining about how exactly Agrima should be raped.

When I read the issue, police action against Shubham Mishra had not taken place. I then came across an Instagram post by Kusha Kapila where a few comments were of the nature “tujhe to ab bhau dekhaga”, “tujhe to ab hindustani bhau batayega”.

Out of curiosity, I searched for a profile by this name and came across a profile called Hindustani Bhau. What happened next was a 2 hour long shock that lead me to so many videos and comments that just spoke of rape, sodomization and more rape as a way to punish those who “disrespect India and Hinduism or any religion”.

I started taking screenshots of the comments and started saving videos but then, I got tired. So, anyone who wants to know the kind of content the Hindustani Bhau churns out, pick up ANY video if his and watch it. No video of his is complete without abuses, sexual things being said about the “accused’s” mothers, sisters, wives etc. and all in the name of country and religion. For more vile content, just casually scroll through his comments section and you would see how these videos feed the already violence and rape hungry public’s fantasy and give them some demonic strength and a delusional belief that they are “fighting for a cause”. And here, I am talking about both men and women. A lot of women support these videos, this man, his threats and they themselves also give threats to anyone expressing dissent.

Feeding the hate

I myself commented on one of the videos and just as I posted the comment, it was deleted. I again posted another one which too, was deleted. And that made me wonder.

Why are comments that talk of peace or democracy deleted but comments from specifically Muslims and people abusing the Hindustani Bhau kept? To deliberately create more hate? Hate fueled by hate? I then tried commenting under a comment so that the profile admins wouldn’t be able to delete my comment and after 10 minutes or so, I got something like “Arre koi iski bhi ma chodo re”. (someone rape her too!)

Such people, such hate spewing ideologies exist and we all know it. What surprises me in this particular case is, how is this man having a following of more than 3M people? On digging about him further, I figured out he was also an ex Big Boss contestant, is friends with a lot of people from the TV industry.

I also wonder had he been a person from a minority religion, would he be
~ having a whopping 3M plus followers on social media and
~ still be able to churn out the content that he churns out and
~ talk like he talks and
~still be on the safe side of the law?

Aren’t we netizens just as guilty of all this hate and violence?

Let’s take the above points into consideration now, and look at the bucket full of ironies here.

  • netizens calling for justice in Sushant’s case are also the ones giving rape threats to a lot of actor’s kids
  • there is very little or no conversation around mental health
  • a lot of the so called “influencers” took this chance (without any formal training or qualifications) to offer help to people with mental health issues for making some quick bucks.
  • A lot of netizens being hurt about Agrima’s statements are also the ones supporting her rape threats
  • the liberals are angered by the threats Rohan Joshi received and believe there isn’t any democracy left in the country
  • the not so liberals have royally ignored to acknowledge that the Tweets by Rohan Joshi were so wrong at so many levels and a proof of the “absent” democracy
  • people claiming to fight for India are actually acting against its constitution
  • people claiming to fight for their religion are the ones supporting and also giving out rape threats
  • people claiming to be devout Hindus are also the ones insulting Hinduism by their very behavior.

If we look at each of these issues individually, all these problems are too deep seeded and have become too complicated, and now cannot be simply segregated into Left and Right issues or Religious or Liberal issues. The people and sentiments have become too polarized.

It seems now that no one is interested in discussing an issue. All we as a society want to do is, pick sides and then just do anything to protect or save people in our ‘camps’. How is that any different from injustice, nepotism, casteism, misogyny, is something I don’t understand.

There are still people left in this society who are neither Left nor Right, neither religion driven nor anti religion and such people are being suffocated in this war that’s blazing that now has a life of its own simply based on “us and they”.

Questioning the influence of social media & ‘social media influencers’

So, coming back to our first question, are social media influencers good for people? Or, are they bad for the people?

In my opinion, it is the people who make someone an ‘influencer’. It is the people who follow their ideas, it is the people who form the ‘masses’, it is the people who put power in the hands of a few, giving them the power to lead.

So, when we as a society are becoming so polarized, it is no surprise that the so called ‘influencers’ would be the ones who understand this polarization and decide to cash on these very sentiments. After all, these people too, are a sample from the society itself.

Thus, the question here shifts from influencers being good or bad, to people being good or bad for the society that we strive to achieve based on our country’s ethics and constitution.

Finally, I don’t think with social media and everyone having an access to it (which is a good thing) we can do anything about what goes on on these platforms. For rape threats and vile comments and violence that people spew there, the cyber laws are too soft.

I tried reporting a few comments on Instagram and all I got was a response from Instagram stating the comment wasn’t a violation to their community standards. The comment was about rape threats given to a woman’s mother. How is that not against any community’s standards, I don’t understand. One step could be, to strengthen cyber laws so that they translate into reality and are actually helpful to people.

What could be done in the long run is, making sure that the news outlets and news channels are left unbiased so that at least the right fodder reaches the masses. Everyone these days is so equipped and so ready to Tweet that a lot of fake information, false numbers, wrong information gets viral. The recent example of the pregnant elephant being killed by fire crackers is one such issue where people made sketches, cartoons, wrote heart felt poems all based on false information, without knowing the truth simply based on what some other person said. Since I don’t see news channels and news outlets being unbiased any time in near future, not following any one source blindly is the best that can be done and this practice of cross checking and verifying alone can save a lot of confusion and hate.

I think I was in 8th or 9th standard when the English unit test in my school had a question on the influence of TV viewing on children and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. I still remember my answer. My answer is the same today as well.

It’s never the medium that’s right or wrong. Be it the TV or social media or ‘influencers’. It ultimately just boils down to how equipped a human being is, how equipped a society is, to look at things objectively. Till that aspect is not given importance, the medium wouldn’t matter.

Today the excuse for rape threats is someone’s death, tomorrow it’d be something else. Today the excuse for threats is religion, tomorrow it could be something else. Today the excuse for raping someone’s mom is the country, tomorrow it would be something else. Sushant, Agrima, Rohan, Hindustani Bhau are all just excuses. The society will need more hate and more violence with or without them and that’s what needs to be addressed.

Why do we need hate? Why does the prospect of punishing someone without the judiciary click with so many people? A major part could be because of the system’s failure and loopholes that are there everywhere. Another could be simply because maybe human beings intrinsically are nihilistic. Or, maybe with comfortable lives, a free country, easy accessibility in terms of communication, everyone is a rebel without a cause. Maybe we as a society aren’t able to channelize an enormous amount of energy into something productive leading to a vision.

Maybe that’s what we are lacking today. A clear unbiased vision of us as humans and this country.

Image source: YouTube

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