BJP, RSS hold sway over social media platforms
As India was celebrating her Independence Day this year, rejoicing the overthrow of the imperial power through peaceful, non-violent means more than 70 years ago, that very same day there was a startling revelation about the state of affairs in India
As India was celebrating her Independence Day this year, rejoicing the overthrow of the imperial power through peaceful, non-violent means more than 70 years ago, that very same day there was a startling revelation about the state of affairs in India. A respected newspaper in the United States, The Wall Street Journal, revealed how the ruling BJP and its mentor RSS are controlling the social media platforms. This violates the most personal and precious Fundamental Right to Freedom of Expression.
The US newspaper revealed how hundreds of millions of Indians are controlled, divided and manipulated through fake news and hate speech that have become the bane of the social media platforms in recent times under the BJP dispensation. For several years now, fake news and hate speeches are being freely propagated by the BJP dispensation through the American social media giant, Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp.
The Wall Street Journal story stated. "Ms Ankhi Das of Facebook India has provided the BJP with favourable treatment on election-related issues." It further says, "Facebook deleted some of the BJP MLAs' hate speech posts after The Wall Street Journal asked about them."
An estimated 700 pages belonging to the Congress were deleted from the Facebook. This goes against the principles of fair play and level-playing field for different political parties. What is shocking is the fact about Facebook interference, at least in the general elections in 2019 - it intruded, interfered with and intervened in the great Indian democratic process, which is a serious affront to all right-thinking and patriotic citizens of India.
There are two interesting developments linked to this controversy. One is the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Facebook headquarters in the United States in 2015. The other is the appointment of Ms Ankhi Das as India head of Facebook, who belongs to the Sangh Parivar outfit of ABVP.
This point was brought out effectively and forcefully by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who said in a Tweet, "BJP and RSS control Facebook and WhatsApp in India. They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about the Facebook."
Fortunately, it is not just the Congress party, or I, as a Congress leader, am saying this. If it was so, then the BJP would have dismissed the charge and dubbed the party and me as anti-national and traitors. But, fortunately, it is a respected newspaper of the United States that has brought this to light and so the BJP cannot dismiss it off as easily as it would have otherwise done.
For India and the Congress, this is not something entirely new. The Congress has been raising the issue of saffron organisations controlling most social media platforms. This can be seen more openly in Facebook and WhatsApp.
The Congress demands a probe by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the charges mentioned in The Wall Street Journal report.
This is just another glaring instance of assaulting an institution. It also threatens the very foundations of the Indian democracy. It is for this reason that the Congress has voiced its demand that this matter should be investigated by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).
On this very same Independence Day, when such a shocking revelation came, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was thundering away with empty slogans, in his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in the capital. Even on such a sacred occasion as the Independence Day, the Prime Minister could not desist from speaking untruths. What he claimed and what exactly is the situation on the ground, the two do not match.
For example, in his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Modi spoke about Jammu & Kashmir, a year after the abrogation of Article 370 and it was downgraded from a State to Union Territory. "This one year is a year of the new journey of development for Jammu & Kashmir. This one year is the year of the rights received by the women and the Dalits in Jammu & Kashmir. This one year is also the year of a life of dignity for the refugees in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
Normally, a Union Territory is upgraded to Statehood. Never before was a State ever downgraded to a Union Territory. For the first time since Indian Independence, Prime Minister Modi has achieved this feat. Jammu & Kashmir, which is the pride of India as it is only Muslim-majority State that opted to join the Indian Union after Indian Independence, was bifurcated and reorganised into two Union Territories, of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The entire Valley is under lockdown for one year. Children and youth have lost academic year. Small business and tourism industry have suffered irreparable loss. What has he done to Jammu & Kashmir?
Prime Minister Modi said, "Today, neighbour is not just the one with whom we share a border but also those with whom our heart stays connected, where there is harmony in relations. I am happy that in the past some time India has further strengthened its relations with all countries in the extended neighbourhood."
For his first swearing in ceremony in 2014, Prime Minister Modi invited all the neighbouring heads of States and governments. At that time, he prided in his new slogan of Neighbourhood First. Today, India's relations are strained with all the neighbouring countries.
No talking terms even with Pakistan; Nepal has come up with and going ahead with a controversial map, despite the protests from India; Sri Lanka is warming up to investments from China; and the list goes on. As relations are strained with all the countries in the immediate neighbourhood, now, Prime Minister Modi has forgotten his old slogan of Neighbourhood First. His latest slogan is Extended Neighbourhood.
Yet another claim of Prime Minister Modi was more interesting. He said, "From LoC to LAC, whoever tried to raise their eyes towards the sovereignty of our country, our soldiers responded to it in the same manner."
Prime Minister Modi has toed the Chinese line to say no Indian territory is under Chinese occupation, which is music to Chinese ears. He has not been able to name China for its transgressions.
It is high time, Prime Minister Modi gives up his penchant for sloganeering and starts working on the ground to improve the situation that has been ravaged by his wrong policies.
The writer is AICC secretary and former MLC. Views expressed are personal