I Am A Troll
By Swati Chaturvedi
Rs 250, pp 250
Let me start by narrating an episode from May 2013. The Hindu Business Line was launching its Ahmedabad edition and Chief Minister Modi had kindly agreed to give a speech. It is available here.
Mr Modi was categorical: it was social media that he cared about, not the conventional ones. Social media, he said, was a very powerful platform from which to send out your messages.
I am pretty certain he did not have trolling as an important constituent of these messages. But that is what seems to have happened after he became Prime Minister.
Online abuse and threats are called trolling. Swati Chaturvedi who is a journalist, investigated the political ones.
She says the BJP under Narendra Modi has made trolling an everyday affair and a weapon of choice. If you criticise him, his party, his government, or the country, you get trolled by a very large number of people who think you deserve to be abused and threatened.
She says this is done in a systematic way, under direction. The trolls are called yodhdhas or warriors. The examples she cites are sickening. The book makes you feel very uncomfortable.
The abuse can refer to your mother’s vagina – ‘hole’ in troll language. The threats can be to your life. If you are woman, well you bitch, how about a nice little rape?
The lay of the land
Ms Chaturvedi has substantiated her findings after interviewing several of those who troll who said the targets deserved it all. All of them belong to the lower sub-stratum of the BJP, which has a pretty sophisticated upper stratum as well who can be seen on TV and be read in different publications – the very platforms Mr Modi despises.
The former live, as it were, below stairs and are seen only by those whom they troll. Ms Chaturvedi says a visitation can be very traumatic. I can imagine why. I once got trolled by a Leftist troll.
That said, I feel it is not up to journalists to grumble and moan. They have entered the fray with their eyes wide open -- unlike others who have no idea of how politics actually functions on rumours, innuendo, character assassination, threats, beatings and even murder sometimes – and should be able to take the heat.
It’s not a gentle avocation and journalists should not expect it to be so, especially the ones who are politically aligned. Abuse is abuse, polite or vicious.
Overall, however, the BJP despite its vociferous defence and denials, emerges looking like Janus or those half-beast half-human gods. It therefore has lot of explaining to do, not least because Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows – or followed when the book went to press -- many of the nastiest specimens amongst the trolls. He even invited them to tea in 2015. This is truly awful.
So it is not just the BJP but Mr Modi also who needs to explain. After all, you are known by the company you keep. At the very least he needs to stop following them.