"Narendra Modi must end his support for communal, sexist, and abusive trolls"

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"Narendra Modi must end his support for communal, sexist, and abusive trolls"

Post by Rashmun on Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:54 pm

The Bharatiya Janata Party – the ruling Hindu nationalist party that Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs to – uses an online army of workers and volunteers, along with sophisticated social media bots, to attack anyone who criticizes the government, and to disseminate false images and facts to heighten communal tension.

These online trolls spout right-wing, nationalist, Islamophobic views. Some have very large social media followings. The BJP’s network of trolls is scattered across the country as well as in the party headquarters on Delhi’s Ashoka Road. Each troll has a contact point in the Ashoka Road central cell who sends them daily instructions via WhatsApp. For my recent book on the topic, I spoke to a number of these trolls working for Modi’s party – some of whom had attacked me online.

No current trolls were willing to come on record but a portrait emerged of a typical one. He is male, usually in his 30s, often with anxieties and bitterness about his lack of opportunities. Some believe the lies they peddle and are staunchly anti-Muslim, chauvinistic and resentful of liberal, elite, English-speaking journalists. Some are more pragmatic, treating it as a job like any other...

The BJP’s trolls are mostly anonymous, though some aren’t. They often have Hindu gods as their Twitter display pictures ― or pictures of beautiful women to increase their Twitter following. Those with real identities tend to lead the charge, and as soon as they abuse you, a swarm of anonymous trolls follow in their wake, either repeating the original abuse or adding more to it.

Take the case of dentist Pankaj Narang, who was brutally killed by an angry mob in Delhi in 2016. A Twitter user under the name @bhak_sala – with 77.9k followers, including Modi – tweeted that the doctor was murdered by Muslims and that the media was covering it up. An Islamophobic Twitter storm ensued. Before real riots might have broken out, the Delhi police issued a quick clarification that this was an outright lie. But they did not take action toward the man behind the incitement, who I tracked down. His name is Rahul Raj, and he is a manager based in Bangalore with the pharmaceutical company Novartis. He runs a right-wing propaganda website called Opindia.

Then there’s the notorious abuser @MahaveerM_, who says in his Twitter bio that he is “Blessed 2 Be Followed by PM @NarendraModi.” He was suspended by Twitter in late 2016 until government ministers campaigned to overturn his suspension. Here’s a sample of one of his tweets to Navendu Singh, a supporter of the rival Aam Aadmi Party, on Aug. 16 [WARNING: GRAPHIC]: “Haha moron @NavenduSingh_ don’t fret. I can understand ur Mother’s hole has become so Big, not worth opening too. Use some lotion.’’ In fact, Modi follows two accounts that have been suspended by Twitter for vile abuse.

The more high-profile the victims are, the worse the abuse gets, with women bearing the brunt. The anonymous swarm often sends rape threats and other sexually explicit messages, such as images of pubic hair, to women with vulgar messages attached to it. Well-known Indian TV journalists, such as Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai, are among some of the most targeted in this country. I, too, am a victim. Our mobile numbers are shared on WhatsApp to get more feral trolls to join in the blood sport. Slurs such as “sickular presstitute” are now par for the course.



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