The social media was abuzz with abusive and vicious comments by the right wing supporters after Gauri Lankesh, senior Kannada journalist and activist, was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru last Tuesday.
Ashish Mishra tweeted that the journo deserved her ending. ‘Jaisi karni vaisi bharni’, he posted on Twitter which translates as ‘as you sow so shall you reap’. Another tweet from Nikhil Dadhich, read ‘A bitch has died a dog’s death and now all the pups are whining in one voice’. These are two of the several responses on Twitter after Lankesh was gunned down. Besides the fact that the comments were extremely deplorable, another common factor linking them is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows both the Twitter handles. Many other Twitter pages who take pride in the fact that the Prime Minister follows their handles, have expressed such opinions and language. It includes those who spew anti-woman and abusive comments. Those who dubbed Lankesh as a Naxal sympathiser, anti-national and justified her murder (a handle going by the name Rita, Vishweshwar Bhat and Anjana Kashyap among many others) have earlier maliciously abused those with ideological differences. The PM follows more than a dozen such abusive handles. Akash and Oxomiya Jiyori which may be real or fake handles as well as Jagrati Shukla who claims to be a journalist spread hate tweets even as they are being ‘followed’ by Modi. This gang had already began their deeds even before the murder of Lankesh. Rahul Kaushik, Ankit Jain and Suresh Naqva as well as Nikunj Sahu, ‘Abhishek’, ‘Amit Shah Army’, Monika Bhardwaj and Sadhana Tiwari, all of them followed by Modi on social media have earlier targeted Hamid Ansari, Arvind Kejriwal and Sonia Gandhi as well as independent journalists. It’s normal for all these aspects to be rampantly discoursed in the wake of Lankesh’s murder. It’s because the trend at present is the Prime Minister jeopardizing not only the dignity of his position but also social security.
Matters go beyond mere hatred and contempt. Fake news reports and hate campaigns are capable enough to trigger small forms of violence as well as massive riots. It was the Twitter handles followed by PM Modi like the above that spread fake news about a doctor murdered by Muslims. It was smothered by the intervention of UP government. ‘Ram Ki’ that published a fake news story of a Hindu techie beheaded in Chennai and Ritu Rathod who spread lie online linking the death of Sub Inspector to banning beef in Uttar Pradesh, are followed by Modi. The Prime Minister also follows Mahesh Vikram Hegde, the founder of ‘Postcard.news’ that has been at the forefront in spreading poisonous fake news. When Amitesh Singh, a 19-year old student, posted an offensive comment demanding to ‘kill at least 3, 000 Muslims’ after he followed a fake story, the BJP condemned him. But Narendra Modi apparently followed him as well. A Prime Minister who follows such handles should not remain a silent spectator. Demands are now being raised from several quarters urging the Indian Prime Minister to not encourage online attacks and to ‘unfollow’ the Twitter handles by taking a clear and transparent stance. Such statements should be coming from the Prime Minister himself in order to preserve the dignity of the nation, freedom of speech and social stability. Amit Malviya, BJP’s national head of Information and Technology had said that the PM following someone was not a ‘character certificate of a person’. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in his tweet condemned the deplorable messages on social media expressing happiness over the murder of Lankesh. However the attempts to control the damage failed to do so. The evidence are the tweets posted by ‘Rita G74’, who is followed by PM Modi. It read: ‘Bowed down to media, secular and liberal bullies? We work for you tirelessly, selflessly. This is the reward?’ It was directed towards Ravi Shankar Prasad. The Prime Minister is compelled to take a strong stance due to this fact as well.
Narendra Modi who is active on social media denouncing the online attackers will itself bolster democracy. The bullets and statements that are raised to crush dissent and the opposing voices are equally capable of destroying a democratic and independent India. It’s high time we reclaim the culture of discourse by uprooting fake campaigns and the business of ‘hate’. The nation surely expects the Prime Minister to fulfill his responsibilities by ensuring freedom of press and curbing those spreading poison. The society should also make efforts to make the online discussions honest and meaningful.