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  India   All India  12 Jul 2018  Shocking silence of BJP-RSS moral preachers

Shocking silence of BJP-RSS moral preachers

THE ASIAN AGE. | G. V. ANSHUMAN RAO
Published : Jul 12, 2018, 2:24 am IST
Updated : Jul 12, 2018, 6:28 am IST

In the meanwhile, Congress has displayed great maturity and has tweeted in support of Swaraj.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj
 External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj

Having been viciously trolled for more than a week over Ministry of External Affairs decision to issue passports to an interfaith couple and transfering an official for harassing them, Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter to pass a message. She decided to hold a poll to seek suggestions whether it was right to troll people using hate-filled messages to express their displeasure.

Much to her dismay, 43% of the twitterati backed such abusive trolling. Despite being the senior most woman minister in the Narendra Modi government, she has been subjected to sexist and violent remarks by those who follow the same party that she has proudly represented for several decades.

It is no more a surprise to see BJP trolls issue rape and death threats to women politicians, journalists and anyone else who dares to disagree with the ruling dispensation.

However, it’s disheartening to see a former chief minister, a seven-time member of Parliament, and a former leader of the Opposition go through this vilification and accusation of minority appeasement.

Among many things, Swaraj was called possessor of an “Islamic kidney” and an “almost dead woman as she runs on one kidney”. Disturbed by the malicious tweets, particularly one from an IIT graduate, who suggested using violence against Swaraj, her husband and senior lawyer Swaraj Kaushal jumped to her defence asking people to refrain from making such hate-filled comments and how it has caused “unbearable pain” to the family.

As expected, that didn’t seem to deter the trolls who now directed their anger at Kaushal. Witnessing the discourse on Twitter, several senior politicians, including former J&K chief minister Mehbboba Mufti and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee jumped to her defence.Mufti wrote: “Horrified by the vicious trolling @SushmaSwaraj ji has been subjected to . Absolutely outrageous! If our own Minister of External Affairs is not spared, what hope is there for any other woman?” Meanwhile, Banerjee condemned the language used against Swaraj and urged people to refrain from using such language.

In the meanwhile, Congress has displayed great maturity and has tweeted in support of Swaraj. Senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi pointed how Sushma is victim of the “Frankenstein Monster” that BJP’s thinking has created. He questioned BJP’s silence over this mindless trolling.

No one from her own party, including top leaders like PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, came to defend Sushma or make a comment. Several news reports suggest how journalists tried reaching out to BJP leaders to respond to Sushma’s trolling but did not receive any response.

Over a week later, Union home minister Rajnath Singh has come forward and condemned these personal attacks on the EAM. He didn’t, however, mention of any action that would be taken against those responsible.

The government that has been talking about women-centric campaigns like “Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao” has been silent on their own minister’s harassment. If they cannot support Swaraj, how can we expect them to save other women of this country?

Their silence is reflective of their stand and their support to the trolls. It is well-known that Modi follows several such trolls and even had a tea party with more than 100 such trolls at his residence.

Such encouragement by the Prime Minister himself has emboldened these elements who spare none when it comes to defending their agenda and ideology. Unfortunately, with the passport incident, Swaraj has found herself directly in confrontation with this army which soon turned ugly.

Recently, on World Social Media day, PM Modi had tweeted, “I would particularly like to congratulate my young friends for their innovative usage of social media. Their frank method of conveying opinions is extremely endearing. I urge youngsters to continue expressing and discussing freely. #SocialMediaDay”.

What an irony: at a time, when Swaraj and others are facing hostility on social media platforms, the PM seems to be urging people to continue to express themselves freely. In a way, further emboldening his abusive army to carry on attacking those who threaten party’s agenda including Swaraj.

In fact, response by one Ritu to Modi’s above mentioned tweet on Social Media Day is a testament of how his message has further invigorated the right wing trolls. Ritu in her tweet said, “Thanks for standing by your warriors Modi ji.. Nahi toh Sushmaji ne koi kasar nahi choree thee hame “Trolls” label karvane mein… And that too when we became the wall for her when Leftist media atacked her on #LalitModi Issue..!”

Modi’s silence over this controversy was not surprising considering how he had earlier feigned ignorance over gang rape of a 8-year-old girl in Jammu and a teenager in UP. The two rapes, particularly the Kathua rape case, led to huge public outcry after it was established how BJP and its leaders were trying to protect the accused.

In Kathua, he remained silent even when one of the ministers was exhorting a mob to demand justice for the accused. While in UP, the state government led by Yogi Adityanath was hell bent on protecting the legislator accused of rape, and yet Modi chose to stay quiet. Eventually, the widespread protest led to Modi promising action against the guilty.

However, his words came out as hollow considering how he described the heinous crimes as “incidents being discussed in the past two days”.

Ever since Modi came to power in 2014, incidents of rape and violence against women have gone up drastically.

The 2016 National Crime Records Bureau report highlighted how crime against women increased by 2.9% as compared to 2015. Shockingly, assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, kidnaping and abduction of women and rape also witnessed sharp spike.

The report further highlighted how rapes in BJP ruled states — MP and UP — reported the highest incidents of rape with 4,882 and 4,816 respectively. These two states are followed by yet another BJP ruled state of Maharashtra.

Under these circumstances, Modi’s silence or that of other senior ministers or RSS on Sushma’s predicament shouldn’t come as a surprise. Moreover, the BJP seems to have different yardsticks to apprehend those trolling the PM viz those spewing venom at Swaraj. Several people have been arrested in the past for just sharing memes on the PM.

In 2016, a school owner in UP was arrested for sharing an illustration of Modi on Facebook which depicted him, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and other BJP leaders as the 10 heads of Ravan. In another incident, a man was arrested in Assam for posting a cartoon on social media. Another man was arrested from Rajasthan for a remark on a private Facebook chat.

Only if Modi had asked his followers to refrain from spewing such venom or even unfollowed those who abuse on regular basis, these conversations would not have turned so ugly. By maintaining silence and in process encouraging these elements has given them legitimacy which does not bode well for our democracy.

It’s time that the PM and his colleagues stand up for Swaraj and all those who face such hostility on social media on a daily basis. It’s time for the PM to walk the talk.

(The writer is associated with the Indian National Congress and is a former chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Electronics Corporation.)

Tags: sushma swaraj, narendra modi government, minority appeasement