By Ranjona Banerji
It may be unfair to blame either Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former chief of Army staff and current minister in the Modi government, General VK Singh for this kind of behaviour. But, by calling journalists “newstraders” and presstitutes”, they opened the door as it were for their supporters to get even more vicious and abusive with individual members of the media than they were before, if that is possible.
All journalists have to fend off, ignore or respond in some manner to a torrent of abuse which targets them on social media and in the comments sections on websites. Often, it is easy to laugh it off or fulminate to yourself. But there are times when abuse crosses not just lines of decency but also of legality.
For supporters of the BJP, the larger Sangh Parivar and Narendra Modi (these categories overlap but are not necessarily the same), the Indian media is involved in a massive conspiracy against them. And the entire Indian media is on the payroll of the Congress Party and the descendants of Jawaharlal Nehru who are part of the Congress Party.
On August 8, 2015, senior journalist Neeta Kolhatkar (disclaimer, she is a friend and we have worked together in a newspaper), wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek piece on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his new “fit” look. She also added her own political insight co-relating Rahul Gandhi’s appearance with the changes which the beleaguered Congress Party needs to make.
One can agree or disagree with Neeta. And there are enough civilised ways of doing that. But what did the blogger who calls himself “Chaiwallah” and posts on the blog-site Dynasty Crooks do? He writes a long post headlined “Presstitute Neeta Kolhatkar is orgasming for real”. He refers to the Indian media as “Mameluk media”, referencing the Arabic word for slave so please do not miss the sly implication that this media is also pro-Muslim.
The rest of the piece is full of sexual references and is too full of schoolboy prurience to be repeated here.
But this is the sort of writing that Chaiwallah specialises in:
Not surprisingly, he is inspired by MediaCrooks run by Ravinar, one of the most abusive gentlemen out there.
Neeta is her normal sanguine self about this having been a journalist for a long time, but she has filed a complaint with the cyber cell about the blog. Which is just about all she can do. Freedom of expression and the way the internet runs mean that such abuse cannot be stopped. But it can be exposed and seen for what it is: An attempt to stop all dissent and suppress all disagreement to your political position by using cheap and frankly uncivilised means. Is it worth repeating once again that writers like this also claim to uphold the best of Indian tradition or will the irony fail them as it always does?
And is it also worth repeating that there are enough articles by journalists and commentators, not just bloggers, out there telling us how great Prime Minister Modi was and will be? Many of those experts in fact promised the nation all kinds of goodies that the PM would bequeath upon us. Sadly, almost none of those promises have been made. It would be easy to assume that the lack of action on the ground by the Centre has made the government’s fans edgier and therefore angrier with the criticism. They were vicious and abusive before but the victory and comments by BJP leaders seem only to have emboldened them.
Is it also worth repeated that women are especially targeted and usually with explicitly sexual references? This is what makes people assume that such bloggers are men. Whatever their gender though they are expressly and sadly without imagination, wit and even intelligence as they cannot move beyond basic insults to do with intercourse and body parts.
This is Neeta’s response to the blog:
“I am not shocked by the fact that there are such anonymous trolls on the prowl all the time. I am livid to say the least that these sorts have done no homework before making brazen allegations against me. Especially by insinuating I am paid in exchange for the focus of my writing. In my entire life, I have lived off nothing but only the salary paid to me, (which was Rs 700 at the beginning of my career). I am NOT bribeable and will not be in this entire lifetime. Worse still, they have called me names. It just shows the power that the pen has. My writing has irked them and made them stoop so low. But nothing can deter me. However, these hypocrites need to be exposed, they are only targeting women. It is disconcerting that the current socio-political environment is allowing such menacing behaviour against us citizens.”
Could not have put it better myself.