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'BJP doesn't support trolls'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
December 28, 2016 16:06 IST
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IMAGE: In her book, Swati Chaturvedi makes startling revelations about how the BJP's IT cell trolls prominent public figures.

'Sadhavi Khosla was never formally part of the BJP IT cell.'
'Modi handles his own Twitter account.'
'On that handle, he follows many people to get a feel of the going ons on social media.'

Trolling as an activity is as old as social media.

Journalist Swati Chaturvedi's new book I am a Troll alleges that the Bharatiya Janata Party has been trolling well-known Indians, including journalists, revelations that have created a furore.

Chaturvedi investigates the ties between abusive social media accounts and the BJP's Information Technology cell. Some trolls, she says, have threatened prominent women, particularly journalists, with rape.

Additionally, she mentions that these trolls are 'followed' by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter.

Her book quotes Sadhavi Khosla, a former BJP social media volunteer, on the instructions she received to troll minorities, the Gandhi family, journalists and anyone perceived to be anti-Modi.

Arvind Gupta, national president, (convener) of the BJP's IT cell, vehemently denies Chaturvedi's allegations and asks Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf, "Why has no mediaperson raised the issue of Chaturvedi's past of being an abusive troll on Twitter?"

Former BJP IT cell volunteer Sadhavi Khosla says the party's IT cell trolled people opposed to the BJP.

Khosla was never formally part of the BJP IT cell or the social media cell.

As she says she volunteered for two years. I question her for that. I want to know which (BJP IT) cell was she a part of.

Secondly, she has declared her affiliation to the Congress. She is working for the Congress' Punjab election campaign.

Thirdly, she said she had a disagreement with the BJP IT cell on trolls.

I have never heard of this, either through mail or through a Whatsapp message.

Fourthly, this is a cheap publicity stunt for the book. The author has a history of being an abusive troll.

The BJP has officially stated that we don't encourage trolling.

I fail to understand how without any due diligence these allegations are being made.

I want to see proof of the so-called threats we have made to journalists.

Where is the proof?

And the fact is Khosla is working for the Congress and is a part of the Congress campaign. That is not part of the discussion anywhere.

I am very surprised with the one-sidedness of journalism and, of course, this is part of a publicity campaign for the book that is coming up.

You can sue if the allegations are, as you say, untrue.

We shall see. Whatever action needs to be taken will be pursued.

I do not want to comment on that. I am not even in India at the moment. I have neither seen the book nor do I intend to.

What about Khosla? Did she ever work with you?

She has written that she met me once at a social function. Then she sent a proposal to become a part of the BJP's Punjab campaign, which she is obviously not part of, and now she is doing it for the Congress.

That is my interaction with her.

She claims she was part of the BJP IT cell and social media cell. I want to know where she worked full time.

We have a formal IT cell, which follows a very formal structure.

You have to attend the meetings. Where did she attend all the party meetings?

I have headed the BJP IT cell since 2010 and want to know which meetings she attended during the two years that she worked for us.

This is precisely the type of due diligence that the media has not done before carrying the story.

To me, this is propaganda by the Congress supported by Chaturvedi.

There are allegations that the BJP IT cell trolled Aamir Khan and forced Snapdeal to cancel his endorsement after he commented on the mood of intolerance in the country.

I have said very clearly what I have to say. You can see my tweets which I have put out. Please note that.

Chaturvedi points out that Prime Minister Modi 'follows' these trolls on Twitter.

There is no serious allegation in that. Modi handles his own Twitter account.

On that handle, he follows many people to get a feel of the going ons on social media.

He also follows Arvind Kejriwal who is his political opponent.

Following somebody on Twitter is not a crime nor is it an endorsement of anyone.

Suppose I follow Kejriwal, what does it mean? It means I want to know what everybody is writing and tweeting about.

Chaturvedi says Modi is 'following' the same people trolling her. Therefore, the police refuse to take action against these people who threatened her with rape.

You have to ask Chaturvedi what she means and what she has done.

The book from what I read in media reports is a work of fiction and lies.

What she does and what she says, I cannot answer for her.

So you feel this book is the Congress' way of getting back at the BJP?

This is standard for the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party with any major election around the corner.

This book is a publicity stunt by the Opposition parties.

Do you say the BJP IT cell has never encouraged trolls?

The BJP never encourages Internet trolls.

Why should we?

That is why I am saying show me proof.

We publish social media guidelines. We refute them in public. I have just given an example, follow my Twitter handle.

The perception emerging from this controversy is that the BJP sponsors people to do its dirty work on the Internet.

That I don't know.

Whatever I had to say, I have said.

You can follow my comments. You can follow my tweets. Thank you.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com
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