Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably would have been inundated with news of an inter-faith couple being allegedly harassed by a passport official named Vikas Mishra in Lucknow.
A woman named Tanvi Seth has claimed that she was morally policed by passport official Vikas Mishra, because she is married to a Muslim man. Apparently Mishra held Tanvi and her husband’s passports for not having changed her name after marriage. She aired her grievances via tweets addressed to the Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj. The grievances were heeded, the couple was helped out, the two were issued the passports in a hurry and out of turn at that; and the passport official was transferred.
— RPO Lucknow (@rpolucknow) June 21, 2018
However, there is more to the story than meets the eye. The transferred passport official claimed that neither did he morally police the couple nor did he force Tanvi Seth to change her name or religion. In fact, Tanvi Seth, had her name registered on her Nikahnama as “Sadiya Anas.” But, she had concealed this fact while filling the passport application form. This is a criminal offence, and could possibly land her into jail. All Vikas Mishra did was question Tanvi Seth on this discrepancy which he was supposed to do as a passport official.
Following this revelation, Sushma Swaraj got a lot of flak from Indian Twitterati, and rightly so because her Ministry’s decision of transferring the officer and issuing the passports to the couple out of turn and by brushing aside all the rules and regulations at that, was shamefully irresponsible however good their intentions maybe.
Barring a few hate trolls, several people who criticised Sushma Swaraj online were fairly polite. That the people of India keep a watch on their government and exercise their free speech to criticise the government whenever it goes astray testifies that India is a healthy democracy.
However, some self-proclaimed journalists of questionable character are scared of people exercising their free speech. These people are vocal against the falsehoods peddled by the media, hence they are seen as a threat to the business. The insecure journalists slander these people by lumping them together with the unruly trolls on the internet.
One of the journalists who can’t stomach people exercising their free speech is Barkha Dutt. On top of that, she is an insufferable bully who slanders people with differing views as we shall see further.
A few days back she wrote an article on the Washington Post in her typical propagandist fashion replete with half-baked lies, titled “If even India’s foreign minister isn’t safe from right-wing trolls, who is?.” The article is regarding the criticism which Sushma Swaraj faced due to her ministry’s irresponsible role in the inter-faith couple passport case.
Barkha Dutt begins by misrepresenting what happened with Sushma Swaraj, by claiming that she was abused by “her own party’s hard-line base that used Twitter to turn on her in the ugliest, most misogynistic way.” Dutt carefully cherry-picks tweets as examples of the alleged “misogyny” perpetrated on the minister. One of the tweets is a jibe on her kidney transplant, the other calls her almost dead woman” who is “running on one kidney” and the last one calls her “visa Mata.”
No doubts that the first two examples are indeed rude and must be condemned. But the last example is in no way rude or abusive. It is just a light-hearted jibe aimed at the minister’s irresponsibility in handling the passport incident. Moreover, none of these remarks are even remotely misogynistic, simply because they don’t target Swaraj for being a woman. This would be obvious to anyone, However, Barkha Dutt used this word to create a false narrative of widespread misogyny in the Indian right-wing circles. She did not mention anything about hundreds, if not thousands, of tweets which genuinely and politely critiqued the minister.
Swaraj did not take the few odd trolls seriously. But Barkha Dutt has presented the whole Twitter scenario as a traumatising saga for Swaraj while accusing the Bhratiya Janata Party (BJP) of harbouring the trolls who harassed her. Dutt took on herself the responsibility of fighting against Swaraj’s trolls. This is a bit rich coming from Dutt, given that she is herself an insufferable bully. She has slandered the Hindu community time and again. Everybody knows her scandalous role in the 2002 Gujrat riots wherein she portrayed the Hindu community in bad light. And, she has even cited the affluence of the Kashmiri Pundits as a justification for their genocide. Bully is a small word for Barkha Dutt.
Furthermore, she questions the silence of PM Modi and other ministers regarding the trolling faced by Swaraj. She yet again comes up with concocted theories to explain the silence. She writes that the Modi regime hates Swaraj or it does not want to come out as soft on Muslims. She calls the silence shocking and shameful.
However, much more shameful and shocking was Barkha Dutt’s own silence regarding Shehla Rahid’s ordeal. A few months back, Shehla Rashid, a student activist published a Facebook post in support of inter-faith love asking if the Muslim community would allow their daughters or sisters to marry a non-Muslim man of her choice. The post was in reference to Ankit Saxena’s murder by his Muslim girlfriend’s family. In response to this post, Rashid received several “graphic” gut-wrenching rape threats from the members of her own community. As a result, she was forced to deactivate her Facebook account. In comparison, Swaraj’s trolls were nothing but “cute.”
Shehla Rashid went through the ordeal all by herself. Nobody stood by her side, but for a few odd news stories. The self-proclaimed champion of women’s rights, Barkha Dutt, was nowhere to be seen because the culprits were Muslims. Barkha Dutt cannot afford to upset her Muslim fanbase by condemning the abuse faced by Rashid. It seems, she is not even trying to mask her hypocrisy and dishonesty anymore.
The ugly underbelly of the unapologetic hypocritical Indian media was exposed in this incident.
Barkha Dutt then gets down to her usual fear-mongering which she has honed year by year since 2002. According to her, the “attack” on Sushma Swaraj is an example of growing “online violence”(whatever that means) in India, while being fully aware that the so-called violence, most of the times, is the mischief of a few cowards hiding behind fake twitter handles. And that India has one of the strictest laws against cyber-bullying and harassment. Moreover, in the case at hand, Swaraj wasn’t even bullied or attacked.
She further talks about the normalising of religious bigotry against Muslims in the Indian cyber space. Yet again no factual backing is given whatsoever. On top of that, she makes no reference to the rising Hindu phobia in the country propagated by the radical Islamist, feminist and Marxist combine. She talks about people being prejudiced against Muslim cab drivers, but does mention that this was a reaction to the anti-Hindu bigotry shown by Islamophilic Hinduphobes.
One Reshmi Nair with a verified Facebook account and a considerable following, published a post addressed to Uber India saying that the drivers who put Hanuman stickers in their cabs are rapists.
Moreover, a Muslim man named Sk Abid Hasan gave a Hindu Uber driver one star rating just because he had Bajrang Bali and Maa Kali picture in the cab.
Next, Barkha Dutt quotes George W Bush, “country that had 150 million Muslims but not one of them joined the ranks of the Al-Qaeda” implying that Indians should be grateful to Indian Muslims for not joining Al-Qaeda. But she forgot that India has its own homegrown radical Islamic terrorist organisations. Moreover, Al-Qaeda has already started its India chapter four years back in 2014.
Also, discrimination against Indian Muslims by their Arab and Turkic counterparts is a major reason why there are so few of them in the international terror groups. In 2014, a radicalised youth named Areeb Majeed was recruited by the ISIS. But, being an Indian Muslim, he was considered weak and made to clean toilets used by the militants instead of participating in the Jihad against infidels. He was soon disenfranchised and escaped to India. After all, who wants to die cleaning toilets used by Jihadis.
At last, Barkha Dutt does some more fear mongering and mentions the isolated events of mob justice by fringe elements as “near-normal part of the news cycle.” And she makes sure to play the victim card at the end as she cries, “the right wing routinely distorts my name from Barkha to “Burqa.” Ironical as it may sound, Barkha Dutt is complaining about being bullied online while herself being one of the most obnoxious bullies out there.
Journalists like Barkha Dutt have taken journalism to an all-time low. Today, fake news and false narratives abound the mainstream media. Hence, the free speech of the common man matters more than ever as it empowers him to counter the propaganda spread by dishonest journalism. No wonder the sold media hates free speech.
For as long as the common Indian is free to pen down his grievances and call out the government and media whenever they go astray, India will survive and thrive as a democracy.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi