Beware, Internet Hindus are multipling like Virus on Social Media
The “Internet Hindus” Ghose refers to — actually, she coined the term — are right-wing bloggers and tweeters who seem to follow her every move, pouncing on any mention of hot-button issues like Muslims or Pakistan.
Liberal journalists and netizens sympathized with Ghose’s exasperation. But for right-wingers, it was like throwing gasoline on the fire.
Today there are perhaps as many as 20,000 so-called “Internet Hindus,” many tweeting as often as 300 times a day, according to a rough estimate by one of the community’s most active members.
“You will find thousands with similar sounding IDs [to mine],” a Twitter user who goes by the handle @internet_hindus said in an anonymous chat interview. “Some [others] prefer to openly do it with their own personal IDs.”
Freedom of speech
Internet Hindus, largely because of their numbers and influence, find themselves smack in the middle of India’s censorship debate. There are signs the country’s growing problem with controversial online content has already eroded legislators’ commitment to free speech.
Journalists, too, are starting to question the value of certain online content.
Television anchor Barkha Dutt has expressed the similar sentiment that “lurking online — usually behind anonymity or names that suggest an evangelical religiosity — are many propagators of hate and violence.”
Though neither of these journalists has openly advocated censorship, their comments are evidence that trolls, or cyber bullies, and others who abuse the freedoms of the web stand to force a cultural shift.
“The government is scared of us,” said Suvendu Huddar, a 33-year-old Mumbai entrepreneur who calls himself “Internet Hindu” online. “That’s the reason they want to knock down the internet freedoms through some biased tools, which seem to be coming up very soon.”
When good Hindus go bad
The Internet Hindus don’t have a monopoly on trolling, of course — some, like aspiring right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party politician Jits Gajaria, say they’ve had their own run-ins with abusive stalkers. But because they are so numerous, so committed, and can appear so organized — whether or not they are part of a formal network — it’s the Hindu nationalist tweeters who have drawn the most flak
Modi is the principal hero of most Internet Hindus, along with Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy.
Committed Internet Hindus argue that it’s easy to block abusive users on Twitter, so there’s no need to complain. And all of the people who agreed to talk with GlobalPost — whether openly or anonymously — said that the community discourages tweets that are simply abusive, if for no other reason than that they do nothing for the cause.
Who are the Hindus?
Many Internet Hindus say they don’t have any political affiliation — apart from a deep-rooted disdain for the Congress Party. But broadly speaking, most of them seem to sympathize with an ethnic nationalist doctrine called “Hindutva,” or “Hinduness,” which is the unifying ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or “National Organization of Volunteers” (RSS), a paramilitary organization with as many as 5 million members, and the BJP, its political wing.
It proposes that India is first and foremost a Hindu nation, and rather than “appeasing” Muslims and other minorities with special privileges, the government should promote Hindu culture.
“I want the Hindu dignity of India to be restored,” said another 23-year-old Internet Hindu who has yet to join any political organization, in a representative comment. “We’ve had a glorious past but the Muslim invaders, the Mughals and the Brits destroyed our sense of pride.
At various points in history, Hindutva and the RSS — sort of like Boy Scouts of America crossed with the Ku Klux Klan — have proven problematic. One of RSS’s chief ideologues, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, expressed open admiration for Adolf Hitler’s ideas of racial (or in this case, ethnic) purity in “We or Our Nation Defined,” one of the founding texts of Hindutva, in 1938.
“Kar sevaks” or “volunteers” inspired by the ideology tore down the 16th Century Babri Mosque in 1992, sparking nationwide Hindu-Muslim riots. Members of the Bajrang Dal — an organization affiliated with the RSS and known for beating up couples on Valentine’s Day — burned to death an Australian Christian missionary and his two sons in 1999. And breakaway Hindutva extremists have been accused of perpetrating terrorist attacks on Indian mosques and Muslim shrines in 2007 and 2008.
According to an informal online survey, the Internet Hindus are mostly young, educated professionals — as one might expect in a medium that requires a computer and a strong command of English. More than half of them are under 30 years old, 80 percent have undergraduate or graduate degrees, and two-thirds of them earn more than $10,000 a year — putting them on the high end of India’s middle class.
Source: GLobal Post
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