Mayawati is the president of BSP, the third largest party of India in terms of vote share, after the BJP and the Congress. She is a four-time chief minister of the most populous state Uttar Pradesh, larger than countries like Pakistan, Russia or Japan.
When she made a much belated entry on Twitter this week, she ran into a wall of hate. And the attacks she faced on Twitter is only a microcosm of what she faces every day in Indian public sphere.
The dominant voices on Twitter are casteist, misogynistic and symptomatic of the filth that passes off for free speech in India today. To get a glimpse of this filth, please visit the Twitter handle @Mayawati of the BSP chief, Behen Mayawati, and see what is being hurled at her.
Mayawati, known for her trademark suspicion and contempt for India’s ‘manuwadi’ mainstream media, joined the world of nearly 330 million Twitter users on 22 January, 2019. Within days, her account soared to gain over 78,000 followers — but so did the trolls.
They came in hoards and with the choicest slurs. A quick analysis about the shape of Indian public sphere in the 21st century.
Like all of us, Mayawati too has multiple identities. She is a career politician, a woman, a Dalit, Hindi-speaking, and dark-skinned. Many of these identities are often under attack and they are now the subject of abuse on Mayawati’s Twitter timeline, too. These are the broad categories of trolls based on specific types of slurs.
- Mayawati is a Dalit, so her Twitter must hand out reservations. People with this idea are ridiculing her, saying there should be reservation on her Twitter handle as well. One user writes that by following Mayawati, s/he should be given quota benefits.
बहन जी के लिए फोलोवर्स में भी 50% आरक्षण चाहिए… नहीं तो भारत बंद। जय बीम।
— Irony Man (@karanku100) February 5, 2019
- Mayawati is an uneducated person, so she can’t write her own tweets. Though she was a school teacher and is a law graduate, many still perceive her as an uneducated woman. Some of the trolls ask if she can even write in English. This question isn’t posed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who reads from a teleprompter in English or many other politicians who do not speak English fluently but tweet in English. Or to Rahul Gandhi, whose Hindi skills are doubtful but he tweets in chaste Hindi.
तुम तो हिंदी देख कर भी सही से नही पढ़ सकती
और अंग्रेजी मे थैंक यु बोल रही हो इस सप्ताह की प्रधानमंत्री
— Abhijeet Singh Rajput (@abhijeetgopg) February 6, 2019
- Comments on her DP. Her profile picture is also a subject of ridicule. Trolls are asking how she appears ‘so fair’ in her display picture. Is she using some filter?
फिल्टर वाली डीपी लगाके आई है बुआ 😭😂
— 🦁 (@AndColorPockeT) February 6, 2019
- She is a puppet and has no agency of her own. She can’t run her own Twitter handle. How can she? Her handle must be run by someone else, maybe a Brahmin. She does not speak even extempore in Hindi, how can she tweet? They ignore her medical condition and the operation wherein one of the two glands in her throat was removed, after which she said doctors advised her not to put too much stress on the throat and read only written texts. Anybody with some grasp on UP’s politics would know that in her early days, Mayawati used to be a fiery and charismatic orator. But her medical condition now makes her a subject of ridicule.
There is 100 % chance that this tweet had not been done by you
— Arpit Garg Shukla (@ShuklaArpitGarg) February 11, 2019
Most of these trolls have north Indian names and upper caste surnames; they are mostly male, and if one digs into their profiles, most of them have posted Right-wing communal tweets, and many of them are Modi fans.
The author is a senior journalist.
This article has been updated to reflect changes.
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