Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appeared in a photograph with women journalists holding this placard, irking Right-wing ideologues who called it ‘hate speech’.
New Delhi: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is in India, seemingly to convince young Indians to vote in the 2019 general elections through his #Powerof18 campaign.
Having meditated with Shah Rukh Khan, given a lecture to IIT Delhi students, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, Dorsey attended a conference with women journalists to discuss the ‘Indian Twitter experience’.
However, a photograph from the conference reveals that not all his social media PR was well thought-out. Dorsey is seen holding a placard that reads ‘Smash Brahminical Patriarchy’, as he stands beside journalists Barkha Dutt, Anna M.M. Vetticad and Nilanjana Roy amongst others.
During Twitter CEO @jack's visit here, he & Twitter's Legal head @vijaya took part in a round table with some of us women journalists, activists, writers & @TwitterIndia's @amritat to discuss the Twitter experience in India. A very insightful, no-words-minced conversation ? pic.twitter.com/LqtJQEABgV
— Anna MM Vetticad (@annavetticad) November 18, 2018
The placard is from Project Mukti, an organisation that describes itself as being a “Dalit Bahujan Adivasi Minority women, gender non-binary, and trans led technology start-up working to end digital caste apartheid in South Asia (sic)”.
The image has sparked significant backlash on Dorsey’s own platform, with people claiming that the slogan promotes hate-speech, targets a minority community, and “exposes” Dorsey’s true political allegiances.
A significant portion of the outcry came from Right-wing ideologues.
Replying to Vetticad’s tweet, T.V Mohandas Pai tagged top government officials, asking them to take this up with Dorsey and persuade him “to apologise to the Brahmin community for this hate poster and being party to a hate campaign”.
@smritiirani @rsprasad @PMOIndia @narendramodi @arunjaitley Govt of India should take this up and ask @Twitter and CEO @jack to apologise to theBrahmin community for this hate poster and being party to a hate campaign.Unacceptable for a overseas CEO to come to India and malign https://t.co/bWU0eBo9yG
— Mohandas Pai (@TVMohandasPai) November 19, 2018
Pai also shamed Vetticad for “maligning an Indian community and being part of this Hate campaign of #brahminphobia with a foreigner!”
Dutt replied to one of Pai’s tweets, asking him to clarify about what he was referring to, and stating that she merely went to meet Jack Dorsey to talk about “our issues with Twitter!”
Meanwhile, Swarajya columnist Shefali Vaidya liked Pai’s tweet and made her own reply to the image.
— Shefali Vaidya (@ShefVaidya) November 19, 2018
IAS officer and author Sanjay Dixit also joined the furore, suggesting “Smash Church Patriarchy?” as an alternative.
How about Smash Church Patriarchy? Shameless Hindu hating group. Hello Brahmins, prosecution under S 295 A is fully in order. Time to smash this hateful narrative by Evangelists. https://t.co/3eUyuMa4cP
— Sanjay Dixit संजय (@Sanjay_Dixit) November 19, 2018
Seshadri Chari, former editor of Organiser, an RSS publication, questioned whether Dorsey even knew the meaning of what was written on the placard he was holding.
“If yes he should explain, or else apologise for such insinuation,” Chari wrote.
See the poster held by Jack Dorsey Twitter CEO. Does he know the meaning of "Smash Brahminical Patriarchy"? If yes he should explain, or else apologise for such insinuation. Just because Twitter is popular & more freedom in India unlike China, he cannot get away with nonsense. pic.twitter.com/48Kh3JgF42
— Seshadri Chari (@seshadrichari) November 19, 2018
Chitra Subramaniam, editorial adviser at Republic TV, and journalist and entrepreneur Hindol Sengupta also commented.
— Chitra Subramaniam (@chitraSD) November 19, 2018
Dear @jack maybe your team didn't feel necessary to tell you this but the poster you are holding targets using the language of hate and violence people who constitute 5% or less of India's 1.3 bln ppl. If that's not hatred towards minorities, what is? Would you do this in the US? pic.twitter.com/z6OKFR82MT
— HindolSengupta (@HindolSengupta) November 19, 2018
Twitter India sought to address the controversy by saying that the poster was not a “statement from Twitter or our CEO, but a tangible reflection of our company’s efforts to see, hear, and understand all sides of important public conversations that happen on our service around the world”.
Recently we hosted a closed door discussion with a group of women journalists and change makers from India to better understand their experience using Twitter. One of the participants, a Dalit activist, shared her personal experiences and gifted a poster to Jack. https://t.co/96gd3XmFgK
— Twitter India (@TwitterIndia) November 19, 2018
The liberal media, meanwhile, has been largely silent on the debate. Apart from Dutt’s initial reply to Pai, no one else in the photo has publicly replied to the criticism yet.
Journalist Vasudha Venugopal of The Economic Times was one of the voices that tweeted in defence of Dorsey.
“Why are people outraging against twitter’s campaign to smash brahminical patriarchy,” she asked, adding that it “only refers to a culture where discriminatory notions of purity, pollution, and inherent hierarchy prevail”.
Why are people outraging against twitter's campaign to smash brahminical patriarchy? It only refers to a culture where discriminatory notions of purity, pollution, and inherent hierarchy prevail. What is wrong in opposing something like that?
— Vasudha Venugopal (@vasudha_ET) November 19, 2018
Controversial Indologist Audrey Truschke put out a tweet scoffing at the “elite men hyperventilating about Twitter CEO @jack holding a sign that calls out sex-based & caste-based discrimination in India”.
The real focus, she wrote, should be the fact that caste and sexism are a reality in India.
My Twitter feed is full of elite men hyperventilating about Twitter CEO @jack holding a sign that calls out sex-based & caste-based discrimination in India.
Caste and sexism are real and virulent in modern India. If you want to be angry about something, let it be that reality.
— Audrey Truschke (@AudreyTruschke) November 19, 2018
The outrage comes hot on the heels of activist Shehla Rashid quitting Twitter earlier this month, blaming “organised” hate from pro-BJP accounts.
“I don’t want to be dehumanised to the point where hate—irrational and abundant hate—doesn’t affect me anymore,” she told Huffington Post.
This report has been updated to elaborate on the statement issued by Twitter.
ThePrint’s YouTube channel is now active and buzzing. Please subscribe here.