Recent period witnessed two incidents of trolling. In the state of Telangana, Thulasi Chandu a Telugu journalist was trolled by Hindu right-wing trollers associated with saffron forces for her critic of saffron forces in her videos. Similarly, a wall street journalist Sabrina Siddiqui was trolled for her questioning of Modi on situation of minorities in India.
Thulasi Chandu makes regular youtube videos in Telugu. The topics broadly concern relevant issues of society and politics and are an honest and brave attempt in journalism. Some of the recent videos made were the ones related to Manipur issue, Adipurush movie, Odisha railway accident, Wrestlers protests, Basavanna etc. The communal narrative of BJP is questioned in her videos. In an emotional fakebook post, she expressed that she is being trolled by the Hindu right wing for being critical of Hindu communalism and questioning of Modi. Fortunately, wide segments of Telangana society responded and expressed support to Chandu. This included intellectuals, writers, human rights activists, journalists, and journalist associations.
Meanwhile in USA during the Prime Minister’s press conference, he was asked on state of minorities in India. Without answering the question if India is treating its Muslim minorities well, the Prime Minister pointed that the country does not discriminate its citizens irrespective of religion, caste, creed, and gender. Sabrina Siddiqui was trolled, and her religion was specifically pointed out. Nirmala Sitaraman, the Union Minister went on to state that USA attacked six Islamic countries to indicate that USA treats Muslims in a discriminatory way. What is not pointed is what does CAA, Article 370, Ram Mandir, Uniform civil code, religious conversion bills, lynchings, forcing one to say vandemataram – bharat maata ki jai, controversies around halaal-hizab-azaan, running of bulldozers, attack on Muslim businesses and places of their worship indicate. Whether it represents fair and equitable treatment of minorities or discriminatory.
Trolling has long been used by right wing to silence the voices and serve the masters. Swati Chaturvedi in her book Í am a Troll’ shows the workings of the BJP IT’s cell.
The recent incidents of Thulasi Chandu and Sabrina Siddiqui only indicate how trolling is used as a silencing and serving tool by the saffron trollers. It aims at the following: – Silencing the alternative and serving the dominant narrative: The dominant narrative promoted by sangh parivar seeks to propagate that Hindutva is all about inclusion, treatment of everyone as belonging to one larger family (Vasudaiva Kutumbhakam) and how India’s rise is being welcomed around the world by global leaders. And that áll is well’ whether on internal or on external front. The alternative view seeks to show how this is far from reality and how discrimination is inherent, and hate is being propagated through use of fake news such as a mosque being related to odisha train accident or an religious event related to spread of Covid. It also exposes cases of mishandling of issues such as covid management, migrant issue, Manipur crises etc. It seeks to break the myth of India’s rise by pointing how the country lags on many fronts including on fronts of world press freedom, hunger, gender equality and overall human development.
Silencing the truth and serving untruth: In the process of building the dominant narrative of saffron forces, it seeks to silence the truth and serve untruth. Hence propaganda is sought to be built on how specific ‘religious identities’, ‘opposition parties’ or ‘individuals’ are responsible for the challenges facing the nation. Those trying to expose the untruth are seen as a problem. Hence alternative narratives by alternative voices are seen as a threat which can expose untruth. By hiding the truth, it seeks to serve untruth.
Silencing the voices representing powerless and serving the powerful: The alternative voices tend to represent the powerless which could be marginalized segments or around issues of Dalits, Adivasis, Minorities, Women and Poor. The dominant voices tend to support the powerful and show the powerless in a bad light. Hence a sexual offender like Brij Bhushan may be supported and a victim that of women wrestlers might be criticized. While sudden announcements such as that of demonetization and lockdown announcement might be justified, victims of such announcements such as that of unorganized enterprises or migrant workers might be criticized. While alternative voices may tend to bring out the fears & concerns of minorities and call for action based on justice, the dominant voices tend to show why actions such as use of bulldozer running on houses of minorities is justified.
Silencing of questioning and serving pattern of obedience: The trolling aims to silence the voices of those who question power and aim to serve the masters and create obedience to those in power. It aims to create unthinking robots which without questioning accept the dominant narrative. The ones who question are seen as corrupting the minds, undertaking acts which is against nation and religion.
The recent incidents of trolling are not surprising. It only represents the creation of a ‘mob’ which is not able to distinguish between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘just’ and ‘unjust’. Trollers may continue to silence the dissent voices and serve the dominant voices. Journalists such as Thulasi Chandu questioning power are seen as a threat by Trollers as they question their masters.
T Navin is an independent writer