While what happens on social media seldom stays there, social media should not be confused for real life. As a public figure, one is under constant scrutiny and should be ready for praises as well as criticism. The anonymity that the Internet provides sometimes brings out the viciousness in many and while there is no justification for abuses, there is hardly anything one can do in the ever-expanding Internet universe without bringing in the awful thing called censorship.
Recently, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj faced a lot of abuse over the Lucknow passport office incident where an ‘interfaith’ couple had accused a passport officer of indulging in moral policing and harassment. Lucknow office, on getting a tweet from Sadia Anas alias Tanvi Seth on Twitter, swung into action, and without verification issued passport in less than 24 hours. Eventually, the police found out that Sadia does not live at the address she has put up in her passport application form. Since this is not the first time Swaraj and her office have issued passports to people for trivial reasons while many Indians stranded abroad don’t get an audience with them, many on Twitter were critical of the enthusiasm of Lucknow office. Unfortunately, under the cloak of anonymity, some of these tweets ranged from abuses to threats. Irrespective of gender, no one should be subjected to any sort of abuse or threat.
However, Swaraj, who was not in India when the episode took place, on her return focused on the abuses instead of the lapse of judgement in her office. She painted even many of her supporters, who were only critical of her office, as ‘trolls’.
But as someone who has been on the receiving end of the abuses since quite a few years now, we wish Sushma Swaraj had spoken up earlier. Like the time someone wanted to ‘strip her on stage’ for not confirmed murder of 39 Indians abducted in Mosul, Iraq, because of lack of confirmation of their deaths.
SHAMELESS SUSHMA SWARAJ….SHE SHOULD BE STRIPPED ON STAGE https://t.co/ejLl3zXM19
— Kurien Chacko (@kurien777) March 21, 2018
A Twitter user called Kurien Chacko, who regularly retweets and supports the Congress party has a particular hatred for the women ministers in the Cabinet. He seems like a fan of “liberal” politics.
SMRITI IRANI ,MEENAKSHI LEKHI,VASUNDHARA RAJE & SUSHMA SWARAJ FOUND DANCING IN THE DANCE BAR…..THEY SAY THEY ARE GETTING READY TO DANCE TO TUNE OF MODI ON VALENTINES DAY.
— Kurien Chacko (@kurien777) February 8, 2018
Or that one time when Sushma Swaraj gave a powerful speech in Parliament and took on Congress regarding quid pro quo in helping Bhopal gas tragedy accused Union Carbide chief Anderson to escape India.
— jesika kennedy (@jesikakennedy) August 13, 2015
A disgruntled employee of the passport office also took to Twitter to abuse her for transferring him to Thane office.
@SushmaSwaraj maaa ki lodi yaha 20 hazaar mein kya kamau kya khau kutiya transfer kar mera thane se randi ki pilli sali khud mauj leti h
— Umesh gupta (@Umeshgu16917207) October 29, 2017
@SushmaSwaraj maaaaa ki lodi kutiya randi ki pilli baddua lagegi tujhe ek din haramzadi
— Umesh gupta (@Umeshgu16917207) October 23, 2017
@SushmaSwaraj randi ki paidaish tera pati mar jaye sali baddua h tujhe kutiya ki lodi sali
— Umesh gupta (@Umeshgu16917207) October 22, 2017
One fellow also described her as a ‘randi’, just like that.
Tumhari ami k pass gya tha
Kahti bastard baita paida kea hy Rape k baad
Ro rahi the Randi @SushmaSwaraj
— Raja Porus Jnr (@JnrPorus) June 16, 2018
The abuses just don’t end.
Modi ki gand dhulne ja rhi h randi sali desh ko bech diye h kutte sale ab kaha pe ho tum log madharchodo petrol ka daam nhi dikhai deta 4 sal me india ko bhikari bna diye hijde sale chut marwane ja rhi ho delhi me mc aaaattthhhu aisi sarkar pe
— Shafique ahmad (@Shafiqu46046803) May 28, 2018
Y no 1 ki randi hai Sushma Swaraj
— Vikas bauddha (@BauddhVikas) April 3, 2018
Jab we meet .. 1 randi dusri se
— anjum bhandwilkar (@ABhandwilkar) October 23, 2017
These are just a few. There are many, many, many more directed to women, politicians and otherwise on Twitter. I have been on receiving end as well, where absolute strangers have asked me to drink cow urine. I have had the editor of Janta Ka Reporter and abusive troll Swati Chaturvedi cheer for an Aam Aadmi Pary supporter who wished death upon me.
— Nirwa Sharma (@nirwamehta) July 31, 2017
Ministers like Smriti Irani have been on the receiving end of the most sexually explicit innuendos on Twitter, sometimes, even by politicians. While one is glad that a powerful politician is taking a stand against abuses, one only wishes she would not paint all criticism with the same brush. Using the abuse as a smokescreen to avoid pertinent questions is an insult to her own strength and professionalism. And if she is calling out the abuse now, not merely as a smokescreen, one can only wish she had not ignored the abuses then and stood up for her colleagues who have been recipients of some of the vilest abuses.