Thursday, February 2, 2017

"I Am a Troll" Exposes Indian BJP's Vicious Attack Machine

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
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.

Disinformation Campaign:

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".

Sadhvi Khosla:

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'.

Summary:

Social media 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.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Planted Stories in Indian Media

Is Hollywood America's Unofficial Ministry of Propaganda? 

Burhan Wani's Murder

Islamophobia in America

Twitter Revolution in Pakistan

India's Pakistan Obsession

Hinduization of India

Hindu Nationalists Love Nazis

Breivik's Islamophobic Rhetoric


9 comments:

Ranjit said...

I hope she sold enough copies because after what Derek did today in parliament I can see her getting sued for defamation in coming days

Riaz Haq said...

Ranjit: "I hope she sold enough copies because after what Derek did today in parliament I can see her getting sued for defamation in coming days"

Defamation requires proof.

In Chaturvedi's case, her personal documented experience and her source Sadhvi Khosla offer substantial evidence of BJP trolls viciously attacking people. Then there's the physical evidence at NDOC that can be easily seen by a court.

Riaz Haq said...

Arnab’s Republic, Modi’s Ideology
BY SANDEEP BHUSHAN

A right-wing bias may be good business for Republic and, increasingly, for others in the media too, but what’s good for business may not be best for the actual republic.

https://thewire.in/102650/arnabs-republic-modis-ideology/


Goswami’s Republic indicates the mainstreaming of right-wing opinion as a business enterprise. Already, Swarajya and Open magazine – along with sundry portals like OpIndia and PGurus (not to speak of social media trolls) – are trying to carve a space for right-wing opinion-makers in the public sphere. Goswami at the head of a well-funded television network will undoubtedly lead the pack. In the United States, this has already happened and across media platforms – television, print, radio and digital. Fox News, like the Arnab-led Times Now earlier in India, leads CNN in ratings and has done so for a very long time.

-------

‘I am working really hard, you know. I have no time,’ Arnab Goswami’s voice crackled over the phone. Still, our chat lasted close to half an hour. While I tried to get him to give me at least a few lines for this story on ‘Republic’ – his proposed media project – Goswami cleverly ducked all of them. Instead, his focus was on our years together as colleagues at NDTV. You are seen as right wing, what do you say to that? How will you make Republic global? Will you have bureaus abroad? No reply. Instead, all my questions were answered by short bursts of laughter, signature Arnab, followed by small talk – an obvious attempt to divert the conversation. The only thing he admitted on record was that this project will have its footprint across media platforms.

It seems there are gag orders for his prospective employees as well. “Five former Times Now reporters from the Delhi bureau will be joining Republic,” said a former Times Now colleague of Arnab’s unwilling to go on record. “Also a number of desk hands from Mumbai will be joining him, including Arnab confidante and chief producer Charu Thakur,” he added. Only one of the five admitted to quitting Times Now around the same time as Arnab, but refused to reveal his future plans. ‘I am going abroad for now. I have offers from CNN and BBC. I will take a call,’ he told me, again, not willing to come on record. He also told me that “every single Times Now employee has been issued a precautionary notice by management apprising them of the ‘no compete clause’ in their contracts.”

But truth be told, while there is a buzz about Arnab Goswami the cult anchor in the national media, few reporters and journalists I spoke to – especially the senior lot – appear keen to work with him given his whimsical ways and reputation for the harsh handling of subordinate staff.

Much of the broad contours of Goswami’s project are already in the public domain. In a speech last month at IIT Mumbai, he outlined at least four defining features of Republic. For one it will be India’s first ‘independent media’. “India is on the brink of an independent media revolution,” Goswami had thundered earlier at a CII function in October just days before he quit Times Now. Secondly, the news will be ‘democratised’ riding on the ‘power of technology.’ Thirdly, Republic will be a global media project. After all, “For how long should we allow BBC and CNN to define the global media narrative?” And lastly, it will be ‘biased for the country’. “A media that is embarrassed to take a stand between India and Pakistan and pretends to be a bridge maker does not defend the interests of this country is not my kind of media”, he angrily remarked.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian media is abuzz with anti-Pakistan stories fabricated by "RAW's media directors" and planted by their "media assets" described by Professor Shyam Tekwani in his book "Media and Conflict Reporting in Asia" . These stories are part of Indian government's campaign to slander Pakistan to achieve the following objectives:

1. Deflect world attention from Indian Army atrocities in Kashmir.

2. Cover up India's proxy war of terror in Pakistan.

3. Isolate Pakistan internationally.

4. Sabotage China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

It's important for Pakistanis to not only understand what India is doing but also make a serious effort to make the world aware of it.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2016/10/planted-stories-in-indian-media.html

Riaz Haq said...

(Indian MP) Mr Derek O'Brien had, on Thursday, raised the subject of Twitter trolls and their alleged connection to the ruling BJP, and said some of them were invited to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's house for a "nice social digital party."

He said, "Twenty six Twitter handles that give out rape threats, communal threats are followed by the Prime Minister of India. 26. Two of these handles have been suspended by Twitter. Now this is not Trinamool or Congress or CPM or DMK, this is an international company called Twitter."

The opposition lawmaker went on to name some of the handles that he said had been suspended by Twitter - @Bhak_sala, used by Rahul Raj, and Mahiviram.

"Where are we headed, sir? And these twitter trolls, they are paid handles. And they are invited and this is not some private thing, they are public information, it is even published now in a book. They are invited now to the Prime Minister's house for a nice social digital media party," he charged, referring to a party that the Prime Minister hosted two years ago for 150 "social media influencers" and allegations that the list included notorious "trolls".

Smriti Irani didn't name anyone but did draw a "thank you" on Twitter.

"Thanks a lot @smritiirani ma'am. Thanks a lot. You spoke for the millions of commoners like me," tweeted Rahul Raj.


http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/pm-invited-trolls-how-smriti-irani-reacted-to-derek-obriens-charge-1655671

Riaz Haq said...

(Indian MP Derek) O’Brien’s strongest criticism was reserved for Modi’s government’s “Digital India”, which the TMC MP said was basically a euphemism for “divisive India”. He named a couple of the 26 Twitter handles which have been known to send out extremely serious threats on social media, including rape threats to women journalists and propagating hate speech, but which are still followed by PM Narendra Modi.

Social media abuse is a strategy that is actively devised and followed by the ruling regime and its expansive dominion of online warriors, who intimidate, threaten and abuse to silence criticism from liberal sections of media, public sphere as well as the celebrities. O’ Brien mentioned the Aamir Khan-Snapdeal case as an example of how superstars are hounded for airing their grievances, while others are targeted and beaten up in the real world for reimagining history.


http://www.dailyo.in/variety/derek-o-brien-ripped-apart-photo-mantri-modi-demitronisation-budget-session-parliament/story/1/15463.html

Riaz Haq said...

The dark side of #Indian politics: Why many Indian #politicians have a #criminal record. #India http://econ.st/2kt1dSo via @TheEconomist

When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics. By Milan Vaishnav. Yale University Press; 410 pages; $40. To be published in Britain in March; £25.

ALL politicians are crooks. At least, that is what a lot of people think in a lot of countries. One assumes it is a reproach. But not in India. Indian politicians who have been charged with or convicted of serious misdeeds are three times as likely to win parliamentary elections as those who have not. In “When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics” Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace meticulously tracks the remarkable political success of India’s accused murderers, blackmailers, thieves and kidnappers. Having been a symptom of India’s dysfunctional politics, the felons are metastasising into its cause.

Sadly, this is not a book about some small, shady corner of Indian politics: 34% of the members of parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha (lower house) have criminal charges filed against them; and the figure is rising (see chart). Some of the raps are peccadillos, such as rioting or unlawful assembly—par for the course in India’s raucous local politics. But over a fifth of MPs are in the dock for serious crimes, often facing reams of charges for anything from theft to intimidation and worse. (Because the Indian judicial system has a backlog of 31m cases, even serious crimes can take a decade or more to try, so few politicians have been convicted.) One can walk just about the whole way from Mumbai to Kolkata without stepping foot outside a constituency whose MP isn’t facing a charge.

Mr Vaishnav dissects both the reasons why the goons want to get elected and why the electorate seems to be so fond of them. Their desire for office is relatively new. After independence in 1947 thugs used to bribe politicians to stay out of trouble and to secure lucrative state concessions such as mining rights. It helped that candidates from the dominant Congress party were sure to win a seat and then stay there. From the 1980s, as Congress started to fade as a political force, bribing its local representative became less of a sure thing for local crooks. So in the same way that a carmaker might start manufacturing its own tyres if it finds that outside suppliers are unreliable, Mr Vaishnav argues that the dons promoted themselves into holding office, thus providing their own political cover.

What is more surprising is that the supply of willing criminals-cum-politicians was met with eager demand from voters. Over the past three general elections, a candidate with a rap sheet of serious charges has had an 18% chance of winning his or her race, compared with 6% for a “clean” rival. Mr Vaishnav dispels the conventional wisdom that crooks win because they can get voters to focus on caste or some other sectarian allegiance, thus overlooking their criminality.

As so often happens in India, poverty plays a part. India is almost unique in having adopted universal suffrage while it was still very poor. The upshot has been that underdeveloped institutions fail to deliver what citizens vote for. Getting the state to perform its most basic functions—building a school, disbursing a subsidy, repaving a road—is a job that can require banging a few heads together. Sometimes literally. Who better to represent needy constituents in these tricky situations than someone who “knows how to get things done”? If the system doesn’t work for you, a thuggish MP can be a powerful ally.

Political parties, along with woefully inadequate campaign-finance rules, have helped the rise of the thug-candidate. Campaigns are hugely expensive. Voters need to be wooed with goodies—anything from hooch to jewels, bikes, bricks and straight-up cash will do. Criminals fill party coffers rather than drain them, and so are tolerated.

Riaz Haq said...

Hinduism and Terror

Paul Marshall


In the past decade, extremist Hindus have increased their attacks on Christians, until there are now several hundred per year. But this did not make news in the U.S. until a foreigner was attacked. In 1999, Graham Staines, an Australian missionary who had worked with leprosy patients for three decades, was burned alive in Orissa along with his two young sons. The brutal violence visited on Muslims in Gujarat in February 2002 also brought the dangers of Hindu extremism to world attention. Between one and two thousand Muslims were massacred after Muslims reportedly set fire to a train carrying Hindu nationalists, killing several dozen people.

These attacks were not inchoate mob violence, triggered by real or rumored insult; rather, they involved careful planning by organized Hindu extremists with an explicit program and a developed religious-nationalist ideology. Like the ideology of al-Qaeda and other radical Islamists, this ideology began to take shape in the 1920s as a response to European colonialism. It rejected the usually secular outlook of other independence movements; in place of secularism, it synthesized a reactionary form of religion with elements of European millenarian political thought, especially fascism.

---

Twentieth-century agitation against the British led to the rise not only of the secular and socialist Congress movement but also of the rival Hindu nationalist movement collectively known as the Sangh Parivar (“family of organizations”). The Parivar proclaims an ideology of “Hindutva,” aimed at ensuring the predominance of Hinduism in Indian society, politics, and culture, which it promotes through tactics that include violence and terror. Its agenda includes subjugating or driving out Muslims and Christians, who total some 17 percent of the population. It castigates them as foreign faiths, imposed by foreign conquerors—even though Christians trace their origins in India to the Apostle Thomas in the first century and Islam came to India in the seventh and eighth centuries.

The Sangh Parivar’s central organization is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), founded by Keshav Hedgewar in 1925. Hedgewar was influenced by V. D. Savarkar, who believed that Hindus were the descendants of the ancient Aryans and properly formed a nation with a unified geography, race, and culture. Savarkar’s 1923 book Hindutva—Who is a Hindu? declared that those who did not consider India as both fatherland and holy land were not true Indians—and that the love of Indian Christians and Muslims for India was “divided” because each group had its own holy land in the Middle East.

M. S. Golwalkar, the RSS’s sarsangchalak (supreme director) from 1940 to 1973, sharpened these themes. In 1938, commenting on the Nuremberg racial laws, he declared: “Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us … to learn and profit by.” In an address to RSS members the same year, he also asserted: “If we Hindus grow stronger, in time Muslim friends … will have to play the part of German Jews.” He insisted that “the non-Hindu … must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion… Or [they] may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges.” On March 25, 1939, the Hindu nationalist Mahasabha Party, an RSS ally, likewise proclaimed: “Germany’s solemn idea of the revival of the Aryan culture, the glorification of the swastika, her patronage of Vedic learning, and the ardent championship of Indo-Germanic civilization are welcomed by the religious and sensible Hindus of India with a jubilant hope.”


https://hudson.org/research/4575-hinduism-and-terror

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt of Hinduism and Terror

Paul Marshall

M. S. Golwalkar, the RSS’s sarsangchalak (supreme director) from 1940 to 1973, sharpened these themes. In 1938, commenting on the Nuremberg racial laws, he declared: “Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us … to learn and profit by.” In an address to RSS members the same year, he also asserted: “If we Hindus grow stronger, in time Muslim friends … will have to play the part of German Jews.” He insisted that “the non-Hindu … must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion… Or [they] may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges.” On March 25, 1939, the Hindu nationalist Mahasabha Party, an RSS ally, likewise proclaimed: “Germany’s solemn idea of the revival of the Aryan culture, the glorification of the swastika, her patronage of Vedic learning, and the ardent championship of Indo-Germanic civilization are welcomed by the religious and sensible Hindus of India with a jubilant hope.”


https://hudson.org/research/4575-hinduism-and-terror