Trigger warnings: sexual violence, abuse, trolling, threats
“अरी ओ देश के गद्दारों की #खालाजान
गद्दार को गोली ही खिलाई जानी चाहिए
तुझे बचाना है तो नाड़ा खोल कर अंदर कर ले “
[Hey you, looking out for the traitors to the country
Traitors should be fed bullets
If you want to save them, open your trousers and take them in.]
This was just one of the many vile comments I faced on Twitter earlier this year, after I posted on my profile a video of men shouting a certain hateful slogan at Rajiv Chowk metro station, in the center of Delhi, in broad daylight.
The slogan, popularized by right-wing activists as well as leaders of the ruling BJP such as Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur, had by then become quite the signature call to violence: “Desh ke gaddaaron ko, goli maaron saalon ko” (Rain bullets on the traitors to this country). It was being shouted by men who were apparently on their way to a right-wing rally, at around 10 am on the morning of February 29, 2020 at Rajiv Chowk Metro Station (on the bridge connecting the blue line platforms).
Someone I know took a video, and I posted it on my Twitter with the caption: “Men shouting “desh ke gaddaaron ko, goli maaron saaron ki” in broad daylight, in the middle of Delhi, at Rajiv Chowk metro station, earlier this morning. This is how Hindu terror is normalized. Please amplify. Everyone should know the dangerous direction this country is taking.” The post went viral, attracting more than 5k likes and almost 5k re-tweets, and was picked up by various news outlets including Indian Express and The Wire.
Usually, I do not post anti-right wing content, as my professional and academic interests lie around the intersections between law and gender. So while I was expecting some trolling, what I really was not expecting was the barrage of gendered insults that came my way. Throughout that Sunday, and the subsequent week, I was subjected to sexist attacks and remarks through replies, comments and quote tweets on Twitter as well as some extremely pernicious remarks in my Twitter direct messages, until I was forced to close my DMs (one that I still remember threatened to take the picture of my face on Twitter, morph it on to pornographic videos and spread them across the internet, while calling me names such as randi).
Many somehow accessed my Facebook profile and left comments on a couple of public posts. Someone sent me a threatening message through a work website I maintain. One reply in particular tagged the police administration of a certain part of Delhi, where I work (which was (then) mentioned in my bio), asking them to take action against me; I have subsequently removed this information. There were vile comments asking that the so-called traitors be sent to my house so that they “take care of me”, asking me to invite them into my own house and also asking me to make these traitors my “baap ke daamaad” (father’s sons-in-law). And these are merely the ones I remember.
It was horrific but also slightly fascinating to be thrust quite so suddenly into the world of gendered trolling, and to observe just how much of the trolling was focused on gendered abuses that centered on my character as a woman. It became pretty clear that being a woman and speaking against a right-wing agenda attracts certain kinds of trolls: those which target you for being a woman. While I did not face the kind of consistent repetitive abuse that many who regularly speak against the right-wing agenda do, that week was pure hell for me to go through, particularly as a woman.
This is not new; activists have faced gendered trolling for a long time now and anyone who expresses even a modicum of support for them on social media gets their own flock of trolls for a temporary period. But it merely reconfirms my suspicions around the kind of world that those who espouse a right-wing agenda want to bring in. Common words used to troll those on the left include “presstitute” (a play on prostitute) and “nymphomaniac” – both of which inevitably hinge on women being overtly sexual, being whores.
What the Hindu rashtra wants on the other hand, is a nation of Madonnas, pure virtuous women who do not raise their voice and do not break any rules, and find their empowerment within the traditional Hindu family. So when a woman is outspoken on social media, especially against a right-wing agenda, she is immediately seen as fair game for attack, and particularly attack from a gendered lens, because she is breaching the gender roles that Hindutva has laid out for women.
I don’t hesitate to say that the abuse I faced scared me; I spent a good couple of hours that first night cleansing my entire online presence of any markers of location, workplace, or other information that could be used to track me, or anyone I know, down. We shouldn’t have to be going through this, and we especially shouldn’t have to be facing the additional attacks we face as women.
On the other hand, there isn’t space in a Hindutva ideology for a woman who does speak out. So we will continue to face these vile attacks, until those on the right change their way of thinking and empathy becomes ingrained – for which there is a long long way to go.
Featured Image Source: Metro