Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows hundreds of twitter accounts regularly tweeting abuses and threats of rape and other forms of physical violence against Indian actors, artists, politicians, journalists, minorities in India and individuals of Pakistani origin
, according to Swati Chaturvedi, author of "I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of BJP's Digital Army".
Swati Chaturvedi is an Indian journalist who found herself targeted by ruling BJP's highly organized professional troll operation directed from a location, called National Digital Operations Center (NDOC), in New Delhi, India. NDOC is staffed by paid workers as well as volunteers. Many of the volunteers are well-educated non-resident Indians (NRIs) from the United States and other parts of the world.
Threats Against Chaturvedi:
BJP trolls have spread lies about Chaturvedi being a "nymphomaniac" and threatened her with "Nirbhaya-style rape or an AK-47 bullet" to get her to shut up. Each morning she woke up to "hundreds of notifications discussing my "rate"". She says "her mornings were filled with rage and a sick, slightly nauseous feelings. The attacks were personal and I had had enough." She said she filed a criminal complaint under sections of Indian Penal Code dealing with "stalking, sexual harassment, transmitting obscene material over the Internet." Twitter suspended the account and provided the IP address of the offender. But there was no action by Delhi Police.
The BJP has extensively used social media apps to spread rumors, innuendo, fake news
, outright lies and various forms of disinformation against anyone seen to be even mildly critical of their leader Narendra Modi. Their harshest abuse has been targeted at the Opposition Congress party leaders, various liberal individuals and groups, Muslims and Pakistanis.
Chaturvedi cites many instances of hateful tweets from Modi-loving Hindu trolls
, including Singer Abhijeet's lies to generate hatred against Muslims and Pakistan and BJP MP Hukum Singh's false claim of "Hindu exodus" from Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh blaming it on Muslims.
Kashmir and Pakistan:
Some of Twitter handles followed by Modi, including the account of BJP leader Giriraj Singh, routinely tell the BJP government critics to "go to Pakistan".
Chaturvedi talks about the use of graphic images of cow slaughter from Bangladesh and Pakistan being passed off with audio suppressed by BJP trolls as occurring in India as part of their campaign to stir up trouble against Indian Muslims.
Chaturvedi writes about "open gloating on Twitter at the pellet blindings in Kashmir during the protests that followed Burhan Wani's death. This was accompanied by calls on social media for the mass murder of Kashmiris. One Twitter handle @ggiittiikkaa with 80,000 followers--including Prime Minister Modi--tweeted pictures of Wani's funeral procession and added 20K attended funeral of terrorist Burhan. Should have dropped a bomb and given permanent Azadi to these 20K pigs".
Modi Encourages Hate:
Prime Minister Modi has 21.6 million followers on Twitter and he follows 1375 people, according to Swati. Among the handles followed by Modi, there are at least twenty six accounts that "routinely sexually harass, make death threats and abuse politicians from other parties and journalists, with special attention given to women, minorities and Dalits. Describing themselves as "proud Hindu", "Garvit Hindu", "desh bhakt", "Namo Bhakt", "Bharat Mata Ki Jai", and "Vande Matram", these users are loud and proud, inevitably have a display picture with Mr. Modi and proclaim to be "blessed to be followed by the Prime Minister of India".
Among the key sources of Chaturvedi's research is Sadhvi Khosla who has direct experience as an ex volunteer at BJP's NDOC in New Delhi. Khosla volunteered at NDOC for two years. She began her stint before the elections in 2014 and left in late 2015.
Khosla told The Caravan magazine
that "there was continuous hate directed at minorities, some journalists, and anyone else who has opposing views. When the head of the NDOC (Arvind Gupta) sends me direct WhatsApp messages saying, sign the petition to remove Aamir Khan from the Snapdeal campaign, what does that mean? When the head sends you messages with hashtags for the day and targets for the day, what does it mean? No one is forcing me to do work, but it means that the heads of these organizations are endorsing such views. To me, it becomes the official line."
Social Media, Fakes News and Disinformation Campaign:
The US intelligence report released after the November 2016 elections indicates that BJP-like tactics were used by the Russians in the 2016 US elections to help the Trump campaign. Ranjit Goswami, Vice Chancellor of RK University in the Indian state of Gujarat, explained this phenomenon in a piece titled "India has been post-truth for years
" wrote about it as follows: "As the US (with Trump's election) and UK (Brexit) wake up to this new era, it’s worth noting that the world’s largest democracy has been living in a post-truth world for years'.
are rapidly changing the communications landscape of the world. Everyone, including politicians, bigots, demagogues and ordinary citizens, has its own megaphones to spread whatever message they like: love, hate
, anger, lies, peace, violence, etc. These messages become much more potent and powerful when done in an organized fashion such as the BJP's professional troll operation or the Russian intelligence's information ops. It's important to acknowledge the power of the social media and find ways to make it a force for good.
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