Year in review: Top social media controversies of 2015

  • Geetika Rustagi, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Dec 22, 2015 18:57 IST
HT revisits some of the biggest social media controversies of 2015.

If you missed any of the biggest Indian social media controversies of 2015, we are here to help you.

Politicians, actors, government agencies, authors, you name it and they would be on this list. Some of these scandals in 140 characters or more had the quality of an ‘edge-of-the-seat’ thriller.

So, here we revisit some of the biggest social media controversies. Bring on those pop corns, please!

Arvind Kejriwal and ‘psychopath’

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal sent a flurry of angry tweets calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a ‘psychopath’ and a ‘coward’ when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided his office.

The spat between AAP-led Delhi government and Centre has been in the open and Kejriwal has taken to Twitter for expressing his displeasure on many occasions. It wasn’t any different this time as well. Though, CBI quickly refuted charges levelled by Kejriwal saying investigators raided the office of senior bureaucrat and CM’s secretary Rajender Kumar for allegedly favouring private firms in state tenders.

“Reports of raids at Delhi CM office are completely baseless. Do not spread baseless rumours to impede the investigation,” said a CBI spokesperson. Kejriwal’s tweets didn’t go down well with the BJP leadership and the party asked for unconditional apology.

PIB is the new Photoshop Images Bureau

The Union government’s official public relations division Press Information Bureau (PIB) was caught in a ‘flood’ of controversy when it used an altered picture of PM Modi surveying flood-hit areas of Tamil Nadu in a tweet.

The PIB issued a clarification after it was derided on social media for the picture that showed the PM looking outside an aircraft window at a scenery that had been merged from another photograph. The PIB very conveniently called it the ‘technique of merging two pictures’. The images were subsequently deleted, but Twitter had a field day ‘merging pictures’ to create some masterpieces!

PIB released a photo showing PM Narendra Modi looking outside of an aircraft window to scenery that had been merged from another photograph. (Twitter @PIBIndia)

‘Intolerance’ and Aamir Khan

Leading Bollywood actor Aamir Khan joined the intolerance debate when at an award function when he said that he was ‘alarmed’ by the number of incidents and revealed that his wife Kiran Rao had even suggested leaving the country.

“When I chat with Kiran at home, she says ‘Should we move out of India?’ That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day.” It also revealed the good, the bad and the ugly sides of Twitter.

From #IStandwithAamirKhan to celebs criticising him for his statement, Twitter was buzzing for close to three days in a row.

Here some of the tweets that got lot of RT love:

Sanskari James Bond

The censor board of India has made more headlines than the movies it certified in 2015. The latest instalment of the Bond movie Spectre got a Sanskari makeover ahead of its release in India. The board chopped the kissing scenes in the movie by half.

The movie, starring Daniel Craig in the title role, suffered four cuts - two verbal and two visual - before it was given a U/A certificate by the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC), Rediff reported. #SanskariJamesBond started trending when the reports started doing the rounds and Twitter actually put together a list of dos and don’ts for the desi James Bond.

Here are the best ones:


Delhi chief minister Kejriwal tweeted pictures of the lungs of two people in an attempt to educate the citizens about the hazardous levels of pollution in the city. The pictures were shared by renowned cardiologist Dr Naresh Trehan with Kejriwal.

The pollution level in the national capital has reached such alarming proportions that it prompted the Delhi high court to compare the city to a gas chamber recently. In fact, the Supreme Court also made a key ruling to help clean up Delhi air. The apex court banned registration of diesel SUVs and high-end vehicles with engine capacity of over 2000 cc until March 31, 2016, and also stopped entry of goods vehicles not bound for Delhi.

Chetan Bhagat on #AwardWapasi

2015 was the year of #AwardWapasi as the noted members of the society, including filmmakers, authors, scientists and historians, returned their awards to protest the growing intolerance in the country. One author, in particular, got a lot of flak on social for his comments on #AwardWapasi.

Chetan Bhagat ticked off his trolls on Twitter asking ‘What do historians do?” Twitter had a gala time explaining to him what exactly historians do and what authors like him do. He later clarified that it was a joke, but Twitter spares none so easily.

Modi has his eyes on the camera

During his visit to the US in September, PM Modi stopped by Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters where he also took part in a townhall. During his visit, he scribbled ‘Ahimsa is the greatest Dharma. Satyamev Jayate’ on Facebook’s real wall. What happened minutes after that is open to interpretation.

Zuckerberg’s back was facing the camera but after being nudged to the side, he came to face it directly. (YouTube screengrab)

PM Modi, seen in conversation with the social networking giant’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, nudged its CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the side. Zuckerberg’s back was facing the camera but after being nudged to the side, he came to face it directly. Apparently, social media users assumed that Zuckerberg was blocking Modi’s view and hence was nudged. No clue what Zuckerberg felt at that moment, but nothing can come between Modi and the camera. The video led to various memes and photos of PM Modi showing how he always manages to look straight into the camera!

Take a look at this video:

Fake pictures of Indian Army’s Myanmar operation

On June 9, the Indian Army conducted a cross-border raid in Myanmar to strike two insurgent camps, five days after the worst attack on security forces in 30 years in Manipur’s Chandel district.

The attack had left 18 soldiers dead. Soon after, a series of photos from the Myanmar operation started doing rounds on Twitter. The first set of pictures was shared by news agency ANI which was re-posted by other users as well. A reverse image search pointed that those pictures belonged to some other operation in 2009. The defence ministry issued a clarification saying that the ministry had not released any pictures of the operation “so far”.

A reverse image search pointed that those pictures belonged to some other operation in 2009. (Screenshot)

Burhan Wani, the face of militancy on social media

Wani, the 21-year-old man from Kashmir, has a Rs 10 lakh reward on his head. He is the top Hizbul Mujahideen commander whose ultimate goal is to ‘unfurl the flag of Islam on Delhi’s Red Fort’. His pictures, which he had shared on Facebook to lure other young men to follow his path, in full battle gear and rifles went viral in August.

In fact, he had also posted a five and a half minute long video on his Facebook page asking his fellow men to join him in his cause. Not only him, but also a group of militants also posted their pictures taken in an orchard in south Kashmir.

Burhan Wani, the most wanted regional commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, who is all over the Internet and involved in recruiting young Kashmiris for jihad. (Photo courtsey: Social Media)

The photographs soon went viral with users sharing them in large numbers on Facebook and WhatsApp. Social media as we know has an immense potential as a medium for sending one’s message. Militants and terror outfits are exploiting this medium to influence the biggest user base of social media: the youth.

This viral Facebook photo shows Burhan Wani (in the middle) posing with guns and other militants. (Photo courtsey: Social Media)

Suresh Prabhu falling asleep during Yoga Day celebrations

During the first International Yoga Day celebrations in India, Union minister for railways Suresh Prabhu fell asleep while performing an asana.

The pictures, captured by Malayala Manorama, went viral on social media. The minister, who was the chief guest at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Kochi, fell asleep while doing the Shavasana. It took a while for him to wake up from the sleep. Can we rename the Shavasana as Snoozasana?

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