New Delhi, May 24: An unusual gathering of independent “social media activists” on Saturday posed an interesting question to the Congress: Can the party provide a support system in their fight against the RSS-BJP’s “false propaganda”?
These activists, who claimed to have no political allegiance but ideological affinity with the Congress, drew attention to the “filthy abuses and threats” by trolls and wondered if any legal remedy was possible. They also asked the Congress to make data and facts readily available to enable them to effectively counter the perceived false propaganda by the BJP.
One of them said: “Many people who oppose the BJP and the Narendra Modi government’s decisions are abused so badly that they quit social media sooner or later. Women are the first to leave. Our family members are connected to us on Facebook and Twitter and they persuade us to avoid quarrelling with Modi bhakts. They ask us why we suffer such mindless attacks? Can the Congress provide any help?”
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, who was the chief guest at the day-long convention in New Delhi organised by the social media activists, told the gathering that “lies and abuses” were the “biggest weapons” of the trolls.
“These are paid trolls of Narendra Modi. We are discussing the issue with the AICC’s legal cell. We are exploring if courts can be approached. Most of the abuses and threats come from fake IDs and Facebook and Twitter should also take steps to ensure only genuine accounts are functional,” the veteran leader said.
Another participant pointed out that the trolls had a sense of immunity.
“They think nothing will happen to them under BJP rule. Even those who abuse and issue threats are followed by Modiji. But Congress leaders are apathetic. They don’t respond, don’t encourage those of us who are fighting the trolls without any personal interest. They can encourage us by either re-tweeting our posts or at least giving ‘likes’. We don’t have any support system.”
Digvijaya, who spent over five hours at the convention, said social media and mobile phones would play a major role in the next general election in 2019 and underlined the importance of reaching out to the masses through such platforms.
“We in the Congress have to reach out to the masses through social media, which can be used to establish contacts, spread ideas and communicate. Modi has a huge outreach, but we can match him by organising those who are opposed to the RSS ideology. Our task is to expose their lies by propagating the truth,” he said.
Shehzad Poonawalla, a young Congressman who participated in the convention, told The Telegraph that the programme had been organised by “some concerned citizens who are active on social media and face abusive attacks on a daily basis”.
Poonawalla said the organisers felt the need for a “collective response” and held the event, where around 150 people from all over the country participated. “This had nothing to do with the Congress.”
Some active Congress workers were, however, seen at the convention and they raised uncomfortable questions about party leaders’ arrogance and apathy, apart from nepotism, wrong ticket distribution for elections and neglect of genuine workers.
Digvijaya agreed with their views and conceded there was a need to address the concerns.
Pointing to the party’s failure in using the new tools of communications, Digvijaya said: “We have to create parallel communication networks to counter the RSS’s propaganda. The RSS works through over 100 outfits. There is a need to strengthen the Congress’s information technology cell and reach out to the people beyond the party structures.”
The leader conceded “problems in human resource management”.
“In my state (Madhya Pradesh), 95 per cent of the people who have been appointed to the IT cell are not active on social media,” he said.
Some participants alleged the main task of the trolls was to malign Congress leaders and “secular intellectuals”. While a few referred to the perceived negative role of the mainstream media, others pointed to the Congress’s alleged deficiencies in effectively contesting the “falsehood” with facts and figures.
A young participant said: “Why are we always stuck in the Hindu-Muslim discourse, why can’t we focus on unemployment and Modi’s governance failures? We are always on the defensive, responding to the agenda set by the BJP.”
An engineer from Uttar Pradesh said the Congress would never be able to win back the people’s faith by remaining disconnected with religion.
“There are millions of devotees who vote for the BJP only because of religious considerations. The BJP won Uttar Pradesh only because of religious polarisation and the same story will be repeated in 2019,” he said.
Digvijaya replied that “we are too religious and have faith in God”.
“At my home in Raghogarh, rituals are observed strictly and an earthen lamp is aflame for 24 hours. But I am described as an anti-Hindu and a pro-terrorist by the BJP trolls. False propaganda is their biggest weapon. The RSS does not consider Lord Ram as God. For them Ram is a political tool. Their leaders know no devotion and only use Hindu-Muslim divide to sustain their politics,” he said.
Digvijaya added: “We should understand that building a Ram temple in Ayodhya will not solve the problem. They will raise other disputes like Varanasi and Mathura. The RSS has identified 3,000 troubled spots in the country. We should tell the people that the RSS is using religion as a political strategy. We are fighting bigotry, not religion. We should tell the people the real issues of politics are jobs, education, health, economy….”