Saturday, February 9, 2013

Twitter-bullying, Indian ishtyle

Noted FreeThoughtBlogger Ophelia Benson, certainly no stranger to the harassment meted out online to women who dare to speak out, has written long and hard about it (See here, here, here, and here; Twitter is a medium which seems to especially bring out the very worst that humanity has to offer, the bottom-feeders, the misogyny-laden online trolls who revel in their power of semi anonymity and physical distance, which enables them to hurl slights and abuses at women who try to go against a patriarchal society and make a difference. Ophelia, a grizzled veteran of battling misogyny and idiocy online and off, has recently conceded that sometimes it does get too much - the relentless abuses, lies and misrepresentations, not to mention the thinly-veiled threats of violence and expressed wishes for harm to befall her.

And she is by no means the only one to face these tribulations. Rational atheist-humanist-feminist bloggers Jennifer McCreight, Rebecca Watson, Amy Davis Roth, Greta Christina, and many others have gone (and continue to go) through same or similar trials that stretch the limits of tolerance, sense, sanity or humanity. The list is long - a sad and shameful commentary on the inequities of humanity, or perhaps its inability to bridle the basest of its collective character traits. (Ophelia tweeted me some examples from elsewhere in the world, too.)

This morning, I added one more name to the list: Meena Kandasamy, an Indian poet, writer, and activist involved with feminism, linguistic identity, and issues surrounding the baneful and odious caste system in India - by all counts, an accomplished woman, who should be viewed with pride by Indians everywhere. She tweets her thoughts on different subjects, and I Twitter-follow her because I am interested in what she has to say.

This morning, when the Indian Twitterverse is abuzz with the news of the punitive execution of Afzal Guru, who was charged and convicted of masterminding the December 2001 armed terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament. The point of this post is not to debate the ethics and justifications of capital punishment. Ms. Kandasamy is a conscientious human being with ideas and opinions, and if a country pretends to democracy in the world arena as India does, it must guarantee her the freedom to express them and to differ from the establishment view - without the fear of reprisals and retributions. But this seems to be a concept that is largely alien to the Indian psyche, especially the male Indians, who have been taught by centuries of tradition that women must be silent, that women must not speak out, and those who do, must be disgraced and harmed.

Time and again Ms. Kandasamy has publicly expressed her disapprobation for the death penalty. Opinions on this matter vary rather sharply in India because of various traditional, social and psychological angles - perhaps a discussion for another day. In any event, it didn't come as a surprise to many when Ms. Kandasamy reacted thusly to the news of Afzal Guru's demise.

She also retweeted the opinions of a bunch of other folks, including the people at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who expressed dismay not only at the death penalty, but also at how the whole process precipitated rather expeditiously based on circumstantial evidence. I am not in a position to judge the veracity of the claims and the counter-claims, but it is an opinion, and Ms. Kandasamy was perfectly within her rights to express them.

The abuses soon started to flow in - from the brilliant minds of male Indian patriotic Twitter-tigers.

(This is Meena's retweet since the "arunwrites" account seems to have been taken offline.)

One particularly odious specimen, a man whose Twitter account has "My India My Pride" emblazoned in the background (I am not kidding!), wrote a series of nasty tweets at Ms. Kandasamy:

Served, of course, with dollops of gratuitous anti-Muslim inflammatory tweets:

So far, Ms. Kandasamy has refused to take the bait. She continues to engage these people like normal human beings, and responds politely to them. But she also has retweeted their original vicious tweets for the posterity to see. Is this the kind of India that is emerging in this second decade of a new millennium? Shame.


  1. Exactly my thoughts! You've said everything that has been on our minds! Will be sharing!

  2. Misogyny, islamophobia, and nationalism.

    So much wrong with the Indian male.