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How Twitter Trolls Dishonoured Bhagat Singh To Attack Shashi Tharoor

30/03/2016 8:15 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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People are seen as silhouettes as they check mobile devices whilst standing against an illuminated wall bearing Twitter Inc.'s logo in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Twitter Inc. may be preparing to raise its character limit for tweets to the thousands from the current 140, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Trading conscience for TRP/readership has gradually become ingrained in the professional 'ethics' of a few media houses. I recently came across an article reporting how the 'twitterati' lashed out at Dr. Shashi Tharoor for comparing Kanhaiya Kumar with Bhagat Singh. We will come to this later.

I completed a year on Twitter recently. And it is undisputedly a wonderful place to connect with people you admire. After setting up my account, I went to Dr. Tharoor's profile to see what he was currently tweeting. With all the enthusiasm of an ardent admirer, I clicked on a tweet to post a reply. A feeling of disgust gripped me before I even posted my first tweet. The trail of replies posted to Dr. Tharoor's tweets unfolded to reveal an unpleasant truth about social media in general-- trolls and abuse.

Bhagat Singh was an atheist, a communist, socialist, secular... His ideology was hence, completely different from that of the RSS or the BJP. Read that twice.

Specializing in subjecting select celebrities and their supporters to an array of choicest profanities, including four-letter words, Indian trolls most commonly pledge their allegiance to the ruling party and subscribe to right wing ideology. From Dr. Tharoor to Suhasini Haider, Barkha Dutt to Sonakshi Sinha, any celebrity tweeting any point of view contrary to theirs is heavily abused or 'trolled' for hours, often making the whole phenomenon look like an organized operation. There may be laws against defamation, sexual harassment and criminal intimidation but on Twitter these are sent for a toss. I distinctly remember being abused by a troll, using an image of Shaheed Bhagat Singh as his/her profile picture! One of the first accounts I blocked.

Having mentioned Bhagat Singh, let us discuss what happened after Dr. Tharoor addressed JNU. First, I will make two facts clear.

1. Bhagat Singh: The role model of every patriotic youngster in India, freedom fighter Bhagat Singh's life and death are sources of inspiration. He was an atheist, a communist, socialist, secular and tolerant . His ideology was hence, completely different from that of the RSS or the BJP. Read that twice.

Bhagat Singh's nephew Jagmohan agreed with Dr. Tharoor... his extended comparison of Bhagat Singh and Kanhaiya should have sounded more 'controversial' than even Dr. Tharoor remarks.

2. Kanhaiya Kumar: A PhD student at JNU who was alleged to have raised anti-national slogans, and arrested on charges of sedition. The Delhi High Court questioned the wisdom of Delhi Police, asking them if they even knew what sedition was, among other tough questions. Forensic examinations later revealed that the videos showing Kanhaiya Kumar raising anti-national slogans were 'doctored'. Kanhaiya is now out on bail, and has gained many supporters for being subjected to a 'media trial'. He subscribes to communist ideology-- wants 'azadi' (freedom in India). Romila Thapar, a noted historian and JNU alumni came out in support and accused the government of targeting JNU as a part of a pattern.

In response to a question raised by a student during his JNU visit, Dr. Tharoor said that Kanhaiya had some things in common with Bhagat Singh, both being victims of the sedition law. All hell broke loose. Dr. Tharoor found himself in the midst of an engineered controversy for his remarks. See the whole speech here. Trolls and critics, blind and deaf to established facts, did what they do best--shower abuse and gyan (totally out of order) on Dr. Tharoor's tweets and trend to their heart's satisfaction. A few of their intellectual counterparts, having now found representation in the Parliament, also came up with statements couched in low-budget sarcasm to criticize Dr Tharoor. Often, the lashing out of the twitterati gives yellow journalists fodder for their next news article.

In one breath [BJP supporters] vociferously denounce the principles of Bhagat Singh and in the other they use his name to their own advantage.

'A wife murderer comparing a traitor to Bhagat Singh' was the most common trolling response. Facts: Dr. Tharoor does not stand accused in the case of his wife's unfortunate death and it's clear from forensic evidence that Kanhaiya never engaged in anti-national sloganeering. So, was this controversy in the name of Bhagat Singh a deliberate misinformation campaign aiming to kill two birds with one stone? (Ever since his Oxford Speech, Dr. Tharoor's popularity graph had been rising, converting even his critics into his admirers. He also received huge popular support for his campaign to amend Section 377 of the IPC).

Bhagat Singh's nephew, Jagmohan agreed with Dr. Tharoor. To a bigoted mind, Jagmohan's extended comparison of Bhagat Singh and Kanhaiya should have sounded more 'controversial' than even Dr. Tharoor remarks.

'Communist' and 'communal' are two different words and ideological antonyms. The supporters of the BJP suffer from an intellectual deformity-- an incurable, hypocritical ideological mess being its prime cause. In one breath they vociferously denounce the principles of Bhagat Singh and in the other they use his name to their own advantage.

In the name of Bhagat Singh and Bharat Mata, trolls and critics go on abusive rampages... Is this not an insult to our freedom fighters and patriots?

In the name of Bhagat Singh and Bharat Mata, trolls and critics go on abusive rampages, regularly abusing women (especially journalists), using indecipherable profanities and flinging out vulgar and intellectually lazy coinages ('presstitute' is an old favourite). Their loathing of their targets is profound and such offerings are made to them on a daily basis. Is this their idea of nationalism? Is this not an insult to our freedom fighters and patriots?

A year on, I am now used to being abused by these illegitimate offspring of 'digital' India that carry mobiles in their pockets, connect to internet over a 3G network from the cosy comfort of their couches to often tweet that ''nothing happened in 60 years''. I don't know what I should laugh at harder--their ideological inconsistency or the moral-intellectual bankruptcy.

My tributes to Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Long may his legacy live.

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