India's most-read author, Chetan Bhagat, has this advice for abusive Internet trolls -- smarten up, learn English and get a girlfriend. But it has upset many social media users who have accused the author of being classist and having double standards, digging up some of his old tweets that have sexist undertones to prove their point.
"So who are these true bhakts? What drives them? And what can we – and more important, they – do to calm them down? For this, it is important to understand them. One, these true bhakts are not just Hindu fanatics. They are not all VHP members. Some of them don’t even identify with the Hindu cause, they call themselves nationalists instead. Their stated aim, if you are to believe them, is nation building and winning back for India its lost glory," Bhagat wrote in a column titled 'Anantomy Of A Troll' published in the Times of India on July 11.
He argued that these trolls are predominantly male, "have weak communication skills", are sexually frustrated and have a "sense of shame about being Hindu, Hindi speaking and/or Indian".
Bhagat called them 'bhakts' (worshippers), the word most commonly used to describe those who subscribe to the right wing ideology and are said to support Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Deep down they know that Hindi-speaking Hindus are among India’s poorest. They also know that India is a third world country with third rate infrastructure and few achievements on the world stage in science, sports, defence or creativity.
To hide this shame, they over-compensate in terms of chest-beating nationalism," he wrote.
He advised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to distance itself from what he described as "unrestrained testosterone".
Bhagat described abusive trolls as 'Frustrated And Complex-ridden Indian Males'. "FACIMs, pronounced fai-kims, not to be confused with the curse word you may want to use on them," he wrote.
Bhagat's column was met with a flood of online outrage.
Chetan Bhagat's depth of wisdom is reflected in his advice:"Smarten up-Learn English" Some ppl can't get over slave mentality-Despite IITs— someone somewhere (@ls2008) July 12, 2015
Chetan Bhagat misses the point tht large proportion of "Bhakts" come frm IITs/Engineers/educated NRIs,Entrepreneurs & many r Women— someone somewhere (@ls2008) July 12, 2015
@chetan_bhagat So you talked about yourself in Blog.. Comon bhakts get relaxed...— Nishesh Bajpai (@nisheshbajpai) July 12, 2015
A London-based IT strategy consultant even wrote a counter.
"Let me first begin with your blanket equation of Internet trolls with ‘bhakts’. Maybe you didn’t mean for it to be this way but your article certainly seems to suggest it. From my personal experience, I can assure you that internet trolls come in all shapes, sizes, ideologies and social statuses. There are numerous Congress, AAP and Left supporters on Twitter, who are extremely derogatory and abusive," wrote Praful Shankar wrote in the Swarajya magazine.
Shankar, who signed off as 'Half Bhakt', a play on the title of Bhagat's last book 'Half Girlfriend', said: "Human beings are usually much more complex. It would an extremely superficial exercise to equate or link political leanings, religious consciousness and patriotism to the same elements that sells Bollywood entertainers and non-fiction novels."
Bhagat, whose novels reflect some of his own experiences at IIT and IIM, decided to address some of the criticism directed at him for writing the column.
why, i should have had some experience to comment on it no? https://t.co/uTrkkoDYWf— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) July 11, 2015
Write column herd likes: "He's true voice of India."Write col herd doesn't like: 'who cares about chetan bhagat nach baliye idiot bc mc." :)— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) July 11, 2015
No and No. But does that give you a right to abuse them back? https://t.co/C5LBqyCkjX— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) July 11, 2015
Will side with objectivity. Urge you to do the same. Herds are pointless, solve nothing and frankly, boring.— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) July 11, 2015
There is no place for abuse or mob like behavior in political debates and I will do what I can to end such nonsense (1/2).— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) July 11, 2015
He also retweeted some of the praise.
I think the larger point @chetan_bhagat makes is that regardless of your political ideology, if you're abusive online, the joke's on you!— Milind Deora (@milinddeora) July 11, 2015