Siddhartha Chatterje is pretty much your conventional NRI techie, giving firms valuable tips on how to make the most of technology. But, when he is on Twitter, he has another avatar (@ma_falesu)—one who, in his words, is a “non-secular Hindu; pis*ed off with liberal bs; want to learn and share; want to see democracy (real one) in India”. Twitter is where Chatterje takes on public intellectuals who “preach lofty liberalism but practise a worse form of hypocrisy”. What was once just a hobby gradually became a calling.
Chatterje, who says he is “atheist-turned-religious”, is one of the growing clan of ‘Internet Hindus’. He is one of the rare ones to use his real name. “For me the term means standing against hypocritical, self-important elites who refuse to recognise that their old ways has kept India down for long,” he adds.
The term IHs goes back to a January 2010 tweet by CNN-IBN deputy editor Sagarika Ghose who had described them as “swarms of bees.... They come swarming after you at any mention of Modi, Muslims or Pakistan!”
“It is a term I coined to describe a specific group of people online who describe themselves as Hindu nationalists and who operate in well-organised groups to attack—in foul language—those perceived as liberal,” she says.
These are people who liberally retweet role models like Subramanian Swamy and Narendra Modi, but often use their anonymous identities to launch vicious and vulgar attacks on those who oppose right-wing views. An anonymous IH, who got online after Ghose’s remark and uses those two words in his online identity, argues they are there for a ‘healthy debate’. “Many Congresswalas use an IH mask to malign us,” he says.
And they are cognoscentes in using technology as their megaphone. “New religious groups such as the Neo-Pentecostals are more likely to be technologically adventurous as they have no legacy and consequently their risk appetite is much higher,” says Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society. The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, for instance, was fuelled by the use of cassette tapes—a novelty then—in which Ayatollah Khomeini’s speeches were smuggled in from Iraq. A ‘Hindutva revolution’, if ever there is one, will be tweeted by these iPracharaks.
The Hindu right-wing (like its Islamist cousin) finds its voice in new technologies. Unlike the mainstream English media that leans to moderation, the internet is inherently an open space without a logic of internal restraint. It has been the Internet Hindu’s 21st century vahan. “It is because they do not see the argument that Godhra justified the riots in the media that they go online and troll so much,” says freelance journalist Shivam Vij. “Offline, nobody supports Hindus and their plight,” adds the anonymous IH.
An editor of a media website, the comments section of which has a large presence of Hindu right-wingers since 2000, says many of them are pesky, even hostile, NRIs. Someone wrote to him once, wishing his “head was severed by Shiva’s trident”. And that is among the less hostile and vulgar comments. “I think mostly these guys are losers who revel in any attention they can attract. So, when either Sagarika or Barkha replies to their comment, it gives them the high they want,” he says. “In a way, they also feed off each other.”
But Internet Hindu activism predates Twitter, to when numerous sites came up in the ’90s. “The RSS at one point actively trained people to write letters to editors,” says Harsh Kapoor, who helped set up sites that counter right-wing propaganda. In the internet era, the BJP has been preaching the use of social media vigorously. Dhruv Soi, a Delhi-based IT professional who joined the BJP recently, says he met many others like him at a recent party meet in Delhi. “Most of the newcomers were there because they see Narendra Modi as the saviour,” he says.
Other than adverse comments on Modi, what agitates IHs is the mainstream English media’s alleged failure to expose Congress’s votebank politics or criticise the Gandhi family. “In general, media is pro-Congress. Their leadership was a holy cow—until a certain Kejriwal came along. Why do so many reasonable people hold this view? Are they stupid? Or are they trying to make a point?” @ecophilo told Outlook. He thinks the term IH is “pejorative” and calls himself a “patriot Hindu”. The recent spate of reports criticising the Gandhi family, related to alleged corrupt deals, hasn’t helped. “I don’t think the anger is going down much; it’s being met with a bit of a triumphalist sentiment, as Modi moves from strength to strength. That the media—and the BJP—has abandoned chasing UPA scams has also left many dissatisfied,” Jaideep Prabhu, one of the editors of Centre Right India, an online portal, wrote to Outlook. For him Internet Hindu makes as much sense as ‘Internet Muslim’ or ‘Internet ManU’.
Vij, also a blogger now associated with the left-leaning opinion site Kafila.org, thinks the term is ‘counterproductive’. “That’s what right-wingers want. They think they are hated just for being Hindus and that people have a problem with religion,” he says. “The term is also symptomatic of what is wrong with our approach to Hindutva. Instead of demonising right-wingers, we need to engage with them, but left-liberals tend to address the converted and critique their own.” Sagarika Ghose, however, clarifies, “It is not a term for all Hindus or all right-wingers. I am not negating Mahashivratri, Durga Puja, the mahants who live in Benares—I am not taking on the entire panoply of Hindu civilisation.”
To be fair, there are many sane Hindu right-wingers just as there are not a few online loonies from the Islamic and Christian right in India. The former get noticed more because they are numerous. And few will disagree that it’s better to have them badger us online than do things far worse offline. As for the relative absence of left-leaning liberals on cyberspace, Vij seems to be of the view that they have always been ‘contemptuous’ of the internet and of dealing with the masses. But Mumbai-based writer Dilip D’Souza, who features in an online “hitlist of Hinduism’s enemies”, thinks right-wingers get noticed because they are more vocal: “I think these guys are neither Hindu nor nationalistic. All they want to do is anonymously abuse people they disagree with and thrash about their empty drums for mutual appreciation. I find it hard to take these guys seriously as long as they won’t engage in debate with their real names. Beat me in an open public debate—I have no problem with that.”
If the ‘Internet Hindu’ crew is vocal, it is primarily because of the extremely slanted and non-dispassionate views and analyses the media puts out (Shiva’s Tridents). I’m not necessarily aligned with the BJP, but it bothers me when I see the media going after them with a smile and not the others. When you keep picking one-sided stories, be ready to face discomforting comments.
After 60 years of b.s. from liberal, paid media and media mercenaries who character- assassinate anyone with a point of view different from theirs, we’re at last making it accountable for its words. Thanks, social media.
Dev Chatnani, San Jose, US
I’ve been labelled an Internet Hindu even though I’d be only too glad to see Hinduism go down along with all other religions. It’s easy to pick stupid, ignorant comments and use them to tar a whole category of commenters with the same brush. One-sided propaganda from the ‘secular’ press only does more to add to Internet Hindu numbers.
This is called cherry-picking. Taking a few comments from the far right and then painting everyone who questions the ‘queen’ and her subjects in the same colour. So these are Outlook’s credentials.
Pramod, Phoenix, US
The entire media community is now fearful of being exposed by Internet Hindus. Such articles only convince us of our righteousness. We’ll keep at it.
Himanshu Singh, Jaipur
After an unopposed stint lasting almost half a century, the left-liberal axis is today facing the heat on the internet. Is it time for self-reflection?
Mahesh Babbar, Delhi
Why don’t you write in the true tradition of liberal secularism and badger all religions equally?
This article is proof that the mainstream media is afraid of people relaying the truth about their dubious dealings and entrenched partisanship.
Internet Hindus are not the abusive, trash-talking trolls the media make them out to be. The vast majority of comments are expressed decently, only a small percentage of commentators are abusive.
Prasanth Nambiar, Melbourne
It’s an insult to Shiva’s trident that it should be used to headline a piece on divisive hate.
D.L. Narayan, Visakhapatnam
Bereft of any rationale to explain the inherent contradictions of their religion, Internet Hindutva warriors take refuge in any philosophy that suits them—all in the name of a cocktail Sanatan Dharma.
Shyamal Barua, Calcutta
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
When did Maoists came to Bastar? What delopment
happened before in tribal areas? Didnt tribals has not
been exploited earlier?
The truth is lack of development and exploitation invited
maoists to that area.
I stand with my staement that Maoists can never be
a party to harass tribals. They never have nexus with
missionaries. Dinesh, please tell me when gov agency
woke up for betterment of tribal area? Who came first?
Maoists or Gov agency?
87/D-73 ///But why drag Mr. Sharma and NAC ?///
First I would like to correct a typo - Mr BD Sharma was DM ( not SDM). It is appropriate to debate on both Mr Sharma and NAC to let pople know how him and his likes are member of NAC affter all this is an advisor council to UPA gov and is open to public debate as they are paid out of public exchequer and must be debated at any forum. As for care by naksals of tribal is concerned, Do they really care for those people? No gov agency can undertake any work for betterment of these tribal areas where naksals operate. Dr sen's ( he is only garnted bails and yet to acquitted of the charges levied on him still was posted as Planning Commission member) plight it is nothing in comparasion to those tribal people ( who formed judawa salem later) whose women were rapped, and they were ransacked and made to leave their native places for not accepting conversion. I hope you could read this if not deleted by OLI web policy.
First let me appreciate your prompt reply.
I did go through your first and now the second
with all wisdom I hav. I too appreciate your knowledge
of Geography and what you said about Bastar district's
area is also correct. But why drag Mr. Sharma and NAC ?
I too lived in Madhya pradesh for 37 years and was a witness
to the birth of Chathisgrah.I closely followed the Naxal Vs Para
military security encounters and Kidnappings.But to brand Naxals
or Maoists are hand-in glove or hav nexus with misais cant be digested.
I am no sympathiser of isai propaganda or approve their conversion tactics.
But these Maoists care the tribals. Hope you know the plight of
Bangali Dr. Sen.who happen to love tribals.
Winston Churchill said " A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on"... And I would like to add " When the truth does finally catch up, it finds the lies with its pants down"
So...After 60 years of BS from the liberal paid media and media mercenaries, who character assasinate anybody who differs,....thanks to social media, we are finally making you acountable for your words.
It's alright to be fidgety Debarishi!!
V.N.K.Murti, pitambi India /// Missionaries and Maoists (earlier Nexals) has one thing in commonBoth are mostly exported from Gods own country i. e Kerala and both///
Perhaps you didn't read my full post I had written thatiI had lived in CG for over 10 years. This whole state is in the grip of naxal terror. Naxalism found its root there when BD Sharma was SDM at Jagadalpur (the head qurter the then district 'Bastar' . That time area of Bastar district was even bigger than whole Kerala state). You know , Mr BDsharma is now a member of NAC. Answer me who cry most when any naxalite commander is killed by security personnel. It is isaai missionary propaganda which has been painting these cruel killers as rebels. They never condemned deaths of securiy personnel rather they celebarete when SP are killed by naxals ( Whatever you may call them but for me they will remain naxals, always)They are not fighting for any goodwill of tribal people. In fact they are professional killers, smuglers, kidnappers and are being used as terror force for conversion. If you want to know how they operate I can let you know. But each time outlook deletes comments when one tries to discuss it thoroughly.
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