India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj received so much flak on social media over the transfer of a passport officer, that politicians from across party lines tweeted their support of Swaraj, and commended her on the way she was handling Twitter trolls.
The passport officer involved, Vikas Mishra, had harassed inter-faith couple Tanvi Seth and Mohammad Anas Siddiqui, when they visited a Passport Seva office in Lucknow.
Seth tweeted about her experience to Swaraj, stating that Mishra had rejected the couple’s passport application, instead asking her husband to “convert to Hinduism” and take pheras (Hindu marriage ritual).
The couple’s ordeal came to an end when the official twitter account of Lucknow’s Passport Office @RPOLucknow, got involved, and the office helped grant the couple new passports the very next day.
Mishra was then transferred, but this news did not go down well with a lot of Hindu right-wing people. The hashtag #ISupportVikasMishra began to trend.
As the hate poured in, Swaraj sarcastically tweeted that she was “honoured with some tweets”, and began ‘liking’ the worst of them.
I was out of India from 17th to 23rd June 2018. I do not know what happened in my absence. However, I am honoured with some tweets. I am sharing them with you. So I have liked them.— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) June 24, 2018
Many of the tweets attacked the minister personally. Swaraj underwent a successful kidney transplant in 2016 after facing renal failure.
@dhillonsarbjit2 tweeted: “She is almost a dead woman as she runs on only one kidney (borrowed from someone else) and any time that can stop working.”
Others accused her of being biased towards Muslims, and said she was not doing enough for the Hindu-majority public in India.
@BalaJna tweeted to Indian Prime Minister @narendramodi, and wrote: “If you believe that you became PM by Hindus votes, sack this publicity hungry #visamata [mother of visas] @SushmaSwaraj immediately. If you keep cheating Hindus, you will not be PM after 2019 May.”
Other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters tweeted pictures of Swaraj’s face superimposed on a Christian image, with Pakistan’s flag.
@Bharatp1, who describes himself as a ‘proud Modi bhakt’ [right-wing Hindutva supporter] on his twitter profile, tweeted the image, stating: “Earlier @SushmaSwaraj was acting as Visa Mata for the Pakistanis and now she has evolved to Passport Mata for the Muslims … not backing her officers who are just following the process in order to appear secular. Media helps such manipulative people to create fake news.”
However, the minister has also received a lot of support from the opposition party, and Indians who demand a more secular India.
The official twitter account for India’s Congress party, @INCIndia, tweeted to Swaraj: “No matter the situation or reason, nothing calls for threats of violence, disrespect and abuse. @SushmaSwaraj, we applaud your decision to call out the heinous trolls of your own party.”
No matter the situation or reason, nothing calls for threats of violence, disrespect & abuse. @SushmaSwaraj ji, we applaud your decision to call out the heinous trolls of your own party.https://t.co/qcB0qemRGZ— Congress (@INCIndia) June 24, 2018
President of the All India Mahila Congress, @sushmitadevmp tweeted: “The troll attack on Sushma Swaraj ji is disgraceful. She is a good parliamentarian and always respectful of others. I wish her well and condemn such attacks on her.”
The right-wing Hindu ‘bhakts’ who are known to troll anything secular or anti the BJP establishment now appears to have turned inward, like a rabid creature that its masters have lost control of. They are fast becoming BJP’s Frankenstein.
Journalist Barkha Dutt @BDUTT tweeted: “The right wing trolls are so consumed by anti-Muslim hatred and communal poison and the need to foist dogma as doctrine that even the compassionate @SushmaSwaraj has not been spared.”
Many condemned the hateful way people were attacking Swaraj, and said it was a politically driven move.
Author @ashutosh83B wrote: “The fault line between the BJP is exposed. The vitriolic attack on social media by the TROLL ARMY on Sushma Swaraj is well orchestrated, everyone knows who controls this army. This battle will be sharp as the 2019 elections get closer and masters of the army fear losing.”
@deepsealioness wrote: “What @SushmaSwaraj is facing right now, ridiculing her kidney transplant is downright inhumane. We face abuse from these trolls every day. Whether BJP likes it or not, they have nurtured and unleashed venom using Hinduism to spread hate and it has come back to their doorstep... karma.”