Online trolling has become a serious menace in new India as the paid members of the right-wing brigade acquire notoriety in giving grief to anyone criticising the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
These trolls have become emboldened in expressing their bigotry with impunity while targeting journalists, activists and intellectuals, critical of the current government. Usually such trolls have no existence beyond social media.
But in new India, some of these trolls have found acceptance to their hateful and violent ideologies to the extent that they are now invited by TV channels as guests to debate issues of social and national importance. This explains why the credibility of the Indian TV channels has nosedived to an all-time low.
Under the Modi government, the lines between the BJP spokespersons and the vicious right-wing trolls have been blurred with some of the individuals, known for causing grief to independent journalists, have often acted as the spokespersons for the saffron party.
Last week two women fought it out on Live TV during a TV programme on News18 India, whose video has now gone viral for all sorts of wrong reasons. The topic chosen by the TV channel was the effect of price rise following a historic hike in the retail prices of petrol and diesel in India.
The channel had invited one Sanju Verma to represent the BJP. Also joining the show was one Sonam Mahajan, notorious for trolling independent journalists and critics of PM Modi. The TV programme took an ugly turn at around 38 minutes into the show, when two women began to indulge in a war of words.
Mahajan accused Verma of resorting to bullying while asking her to ‘shut up,’ the BJP spokesperson, for her part, reminded the former that she was just a ‘troll.’ Verma went on to add that Mahajan had also not spared External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj when she had was attacked by the Hindutva gang after her intervention allowed an interfaith couple to obtain passports in Lucknow. Her ministry had also transferred the guilty official, Vivek Mishra, who had allegedly questioned the woman’s decision to marry a Muslim man and converting to Islam. The officer had vehemently denied these charges.
In the said controversy, the Hindutva gang had viciously attacked Swaraj for helping the interfaith couple.
Swaraj had faced nasty trolling from her own BJP supporters with some of them even issuing death threats to her. Many trolls, who gave her grief on social media are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the members of his cabinet.
Mahajan had famously dared Swaraj to block her on Twitter without realising that a combative foreign minister will oblige her without any delay.
On the TV debate, faced with an ugly spectacle, the programme’s anchor later muted both Mahajan and Verma. But the clip has now gone viral on social media, where users are fervently sharing the video while mocking both the participants and the channel.