The Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, recently gave an interview to NDTV’s Sunetra Chaudhary on various issues such as the new draft policy for women, marital rape, better facilities and help for abused women etc. One of the questions in the interview was also pertaining to online “violence”, and somehow, instead of the other vital parts, this question became the talking point.
NDTV first reported that Maneka Gandhi had said the following:
This was met with widespread outrage on social media. Online trolling can range from being funny while showing up the other person, to provocation to make someone upset. Nowadays, it has also become a practice to call abusive language and threats as trolling, instead of calling them for what they are: attacks. Hence when NDTV reported that the Minister had said online “trolling”, which covers a large number of activities, even something as harmless as this, would be considered as “violence”, it angered many.
But, the video of the interview with the Minister showed that she had said something different. In fact there was no mention of the word “trolling” and neither had she said anything would be equated to violence. Here is a transcript of the relevant portion:
Sunetra: We are all talking about physical violence, but a lot of the girls here are talking of online kind of…, is that something that the new policy and you recommend?
Maneka: Very strongly. And we have recommended the home ministry that they have to start a division which deals just with viciousness against women on the net. On our side we have redone the matrimonial columns. 1 crore women are on matrimonial columns and instead of getting a mate, they will get sexually accused, ditty innuendos they will get phoned in the middle of the night. If they are divorced they will be asked to prove that they are sexually fine. All sort of dirty things. We tried for 2 years with all these companies and they wouldn’t come to the table. Then we got hold of NASSCOM and the minister for telecom and finally they changed their policy and we gave them a written policy
Maneka Gandhi only says that they have asked MHA to state a separate division to deal with “viciousness against women on the net”, and also explains how her Ministry has take steps to stop this from happening on Matrimonial sites. There is no mention of “trolling” or about “considering anything as violence”.
After repeatedly asking the host of the interview the reason for the discrepancy, the answers given were ranging from: “She did say it, it is in the video” to “had to leave out bits to fit into 19 mins slot”:
— sunetra choudhury (@sunetrac) May 18, 2016
@bwoyblunder Pl hear the first q on this issue and her answers. had to leave out bits to fit into 19 mins slot but not abt matrimonial
— sunetra choudhury (@sunetrac) May 18, 2016
At one point, the journalist even admitted that “viciousness” isn’t the same as “trolling” and that she was rather talking about “attacks, abuse, misogyny, harassment”. This was the closest she could get to admitting that maybe her headline, which contained “trolling” wasn’t quite right.
And as the day passed, the headline kept changing. What was “Online trolling against women will be considered as violence” became “Women in matrimonial ads being stalked, we stopped that” to “Online attacks on women to be treated as violence”. The URL though still contained the original title: “online trolling against women will be considered violence – maneka gandhi” :
While the first one was clearly wrong since nowhere did the Minister say “trolling” or that any action “would be considered as violence”, the second headline was more accurate as the Minister did in fact speak at length on this issues and the steps taken. The third headline deleted the reference to “trolling” and replaced it with “attacks”, which could be considered to be a fair representation of the Minister’s views, but it still continued to keep the part claiming that Maneka Gandhi had said it “would be considered as violence”.
When asked why the word “trolling” was dropped, the anchor replied that it was to make sure that “discerning viewers don’t get put off”. No admission of mistake, but at least a part of it has been rectified to suit “discerning viewers”. Although the article headline was changed, the video still contained the erroneous headline though:
It would be ideal if NDTV waited a bit and took a deep breath, before jumping the gun on framing its headlines.