People are blocking Narendra Modi on Twitter for following creeps

#BlockNarendraModi was one of the top trending topics in India on Sept. 07.
#BlockNarendraModi was one of the top trending topics in India on Sept. 07.
Image: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
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Angry Indians are blocking Narendra Modi on Twitter, where he is one of the world’s most popular leaders with nearly 34 million followers.

#BlockNarendraModi, which began as a protest against what is seen as the Indian prime minister’s (PM) tacit support for abusive Hindu right-wing trolls, was trending on the microblogging website on Sept. 07.

This came days after the murder of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, an event that sparked celebrations among a number of such Twitter users. It emerged that Modi himself followed some of these Twitter accounts.

Lankesh’s murder is the latest in a series of deadly attacks on outspoken critics of Hindu extremism, reflecting the sorry state of the right to dissent in India. Like in the earlier cases, the journalist’s death, too, evoked strong reactions.

For instance, the following Tweet, reportedly by a social media advisor for India’s ministry of information technology, translates into “as you sow so shall you reap.”

One tweet in Hindi said, “A bitch has died a dog’s death and now all the pups are whining in one voice.”

While trolls have run rampant on Indian Twitter for a while, Hindu right-wing ones are perceived as particularly vile and well-organised. Often, the ruling dispensation has been accused of using them during public debates as attack dogs to post hate speech, sexist comments against woman journalists, and other abusive content.

Modi’s apparent backing of the trolls—some of these profiles proudly announce that the PM follows them—suggests an implicit acceptance of such a state of affairs at the highest level in the country.

On Sept. 07, though, not everyone was convinced that blocking Modi was the answer.