There was uproar on social media after it came to light that Prime Minister Modi follows the person who called the murdered journalist, Gouri Lankesh a ‘Bitch who died a dog’s death’. The Prime Minister’s twitter handle following an abusive troll? Those who have been around on twitter long enough will know that this is not the first time that this issue is being highlighted. The outrage builds up every few months yet the twitter handle of Mr. Modi continues to follow many serial abusers and rumor-mongers.
As of date Mr Modi has 33.8 million followers and he follows 1779 people. Of the ones he follows, many are government handles, ministers, Heads of States, senior journalists and other such profiles you would expect the Prime Minister of a country to follow. However, a handful of the 1779 are profiles that will make you squirm. Serial abusers, rumor-mongers, misogynists, handles brimming with communal venom… you will find them all there.
Let us take a look at some of these tweets of the people the Prime Minister of our country has handpicked to follow. Please bear with us, the list is long. It is a hall of shame.
Sexist tweets / abuse directed at women
For all that the “proud” nationalists may say about “sanskar” and rich traditions, when we review the handles followed by the Prime Minister, sexist tweets directed at women stands out as a prominent feature. The attack is always personal and the targets are often journalists who are seen as critical of the government like Barkha Dutt, Rana Ayyub and Sagarika Ghose.
Here are a few examples:
Here are some lewd jokes of Samir Varier, yet another person followed by Mr. Modi.
The abuse is often unprovoked. In this case, it is not sexist but this gentleman, whom Mr. Modi follows, doesn’t think twice before calling Rana Ayyub a terrorist and suicide bomber because she said her flight was running late.
Mahaveer who is also followed by Mr. Modi posted this picture of journalist Neha Dixit and her husband Nakul Sawhney asking whether payment was made in “cash or kind”.
Sonia Gandhi is also often a target of hateful misogynistic tweets
This is an old tweet of Alok Bhat, dating before 2014. Mr. Modi chooses to follow him as well.
Former Vice President Hamid Ansari was following the flag code when he was called an “asshole” and a “bastard” by Rahul Kaushik.
Here is Nikunj Sahu of BJP IT cell abusing Arvind Kejriwal
Here is another example of a twitter handle that is humbled to be followed by Narendra Modi
It is not just politicians of rival parties who are target of abuse but other twitter users as well. Here are a few examples:
When Mahaveer’s account was deactivated for abuse by twitter, it was BJP’s Giriraj Singh who stood by him to get his account reactivated.
Rumor-mongering and tweets spreading communal tension
Amitesh Singh who projected himself as a BJP youth leader and claimed to be related to a BJP politician was followed by PM Modi. He tweeted a call to “kill 3000 Muslims” in response to a rumor that was doing rounds on the internet. What followed was his arrest and a denial from BJP that he was associated with them. If he was not associated with BJP, why did Mr. Modi follow this 19 year-old? That is a question we never got an answer to.
The rumor which led Amitesh to tweet the threat was started by a handle that was also followed by Mr. Modi. The handle has been suspended by Twitter.
Who spread the rumor of doctor lynched by a Muslim mob? Handles followed by Mr. Modi. Every tweet in the picture below is from people followed by Mr. Modi.
The rumor that the murder of Swati in Chennai was started by Ramki. His claims were later proven to be fake but there was no retraction or apology.
This handle followed by Mr. Modi called for a boycott of Muslim businesses.
In this case UP government had to tweet to bust the communal rumor being spread by Ritu Rathaur, another profile followed by Mr. Modi. The police filed a case against her for “attempting to disturb communal harmony by spreading sensational and controversial posts on social media”.
Here is another rumor spread by Rishi Bagree
In this case an attempt to malign a UAE based business was led by Mahesh Vikram Hegde, one of the select few followed by the PM. The company filed a police case and the pictures were found to be photoshopped. Hegde is the founder of postcard news, a website that routinely spreads fake news.
Meena Das Narayan raised the ‘Hindus under attack’ alarm after the Kollam temple fire. She knew “for sure”. The fire was caused by pyrotechnics display that was held despite a ban on the same.
So why does the Prime Minister of India follow such people? Is it possible that his social media team is behind this and Mr. Modi is not really aware that his handle follows such profiles? In response to a RTI, PMO confirmed that “PM Modi himself tweets and posts content on his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts”. Mr. Modi is social media savvy and we have no reason to doubt the response of the PMO (:-P).
The other possible reason could be that these are like-minded individuals who are part of his core supporter group. He has personally met many of these individuals in specially organized events. All of them flaunt the selfie with him, stating, “proud to be followed by Narendra Modi”. This also makes it very difficult for him to unfollow them. A tweet by RS Prasad condemning the celebratory tweets on the murder of Gauri Lankesh had upset some of them. Imagine the backlash from his supporters if PM Modi was ever to un-follow any of them. They are already running a hashtag #IStandwithNikhil in support of the person who called Gauri Lankesh a ‘kutiya”.
I strongly condemn & deplore the messages on social media expressing happiness on the dastardly murder of #Gaurilankesh.
It is not that Mr. Modi has never un-followed anyone. After a massive outrage in 2014, he unfollowed a handle that had tweeted a morphed photograph of Gul Panag.
More recently he un-followed Jwala Gurunath after she had a spat with BJP Delhi spokesperson Tajinder Bagga.
“How can Narendra Modi be responsible for the tweets of people he follows?” ask many of his supporters. None of us are responsible for the tweets of our followers. But hey, he is the Prime Minister of the country and he has handpicked this select group to follow. Moreover, this issue has been reported many times, tons of people have raised it on social media and there is no way PM Modi is not aware of this issue.
“Who are you to tell the Prime Minister who to follow?” ask his supporters. Sure, it is his choice. He is free to follow anyone he likes, be they serial abusers tweeting lewd and sexist tweets, or rumor mongers and riot instigators. Including the person who described Gauri Lankesh’s murder as “A bitch died a dog’s death”. And the world shall know that this is his choice.