In a space of less than a week, two senior ministers of the Narendra Modi government have taken on social media trolls, many of whom profess allegiance to the ideology of the Sangh Parivar.
The determined stand taken by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Home Minister Rajnath Singh could help reduce the animus that has come to characterise the social media discourse and was feared to worsen in the run-up to the forthcoming assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
Late Tuesday night, Mumbai Police arrested 36-year-old Girish Maheshwari from near Ahmedabad for allegedly giving a rape threat on Twitter to the 10-year-old daughter of Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi. He has been booked under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act.
Maheshwari told police that he worked as a salesman. But, on his Facebook page, Maheshwari has described himself as an accounting associate with one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) local units. There was no word from the BJP on the issue.
His arrest came after Home Minister Rajnath Singh had asked Delhi Police and Mumbai Police to investigate the complaint that Chaturvedi had filed on Tuesday.
Singh, along with Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, was among only a few BJP leaders who had come out in support of Swaraj when she was recently trolled on social media after her ministry had transferred a Passport Seva Kendra officer for allegedly harassing an interfaith couple.
The case is related to Lucknow resident Tanvi Seth, married to Anas Siddiqui. After an unseemly controversy where passport officer Vikas Mishra had allegedly asked Seth to change her name to the one in her nikahnama, or marriage certificate, the couple finally received their passports on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the Ministry of External Affairs released a report that said “all existing norms were followed” for issuing a passport to Seth. It said much “misinformation has been going around on the issue”.
The MEA report implied that not just Mishra, but also Lucknow Police were to blame for the delay in issuing of passport to Seth.
Passport to Seth was delayed on two counts — her name in her passport form was different from her marriage certificate, and there was a discrepancy in her residential address.
The MEA said that under the revised passport allocation rules, there is no requirement for submission of a marriage certificate at the time of applying for a passport. “Therefore, the name in the marriage certificate is not relevant to the issue of passport,” an MEA spokesperson said. The ministry didn’t find any discrepancy in her residential address either.
Swaraj was trolled by social media users, several of whom called her names, and also by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders occupying key positions in that organisation.
The Congress and other opposition parties welcomed the developments on both the issues, that of Maheshwari’s arrest and Seth getting her passport. Chaturvedi expressed her gratitude to the Home Minister.
However, there was no word these issues from either Prime Minister Narendra Modi or BJP chief Amit Shah. Apart from Swaraj, Singh and Gadkari, no senior BJP leader has either criticised the rape threat to Chaturvedi’s daughter or come out in support of Swaraj.