BJP used social media to spread religious hatred: Shiv Sena
The ruling Shiv Sena, which is part of Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government, comprising the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, on Tuesday, launched into ally-turned-rival the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and alleged that the party benefitted the most electorally using social media and gained politically by spreading religious hatred since it assumed power at the Centre in 2014.
An editorial in Saamana, the party mouthpiece, referred to a news report published in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on August 14 that took a dig at Facebook’s India operations for turning a blind eye to hate speech by a BJP elected representative and three other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups” in a bid not to hurt the social media company’s lucrative business prospects in its biggest market.
The editorial in the Marathi daily said that social media platforms can be used to voice opinions but “if it is used to spread hatred to divide the country, then action should be taken against those without thinking about which party they belong to. Facebook cannot turn a blind eye to the person spreading hatred because he is from the ruling party.”
It exhorted foreign companies to abide by Indian laws.
The BJP leader cited in the WSJ report is T Raja Singh, the lone party member of the Telangana legislative assembly (MLA), who is known for his provocative social media posts against Muslims and dabbling in divisive and rabble-rousing politics.
“It is alright to have a difference of opinion on platforms such as Facebook… However, the social media company (Facebook) is not a platform to create a divide between Hindus and Muslims,” it said.
“Instead of connecting society, social media is used to spread hatred. Today, countless new age Goebbels have their own law, judicial process, prison. Social media is on the payrolls of political parties. In 2014, the social media army had made a big contribution because of which the BJP had won the election under the leadership of (Narendra) Modi,” it said.
“In the last seven years, truth is being twisted and falsehood is being openly propagated. Rumours and hatred against religion are being spread for political gains,” it added.
The editorial pointed out that social media was full of jokes and memes about former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh until not too long ago, but now the same platform has turned on the heat on PM Modi and ex-Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, which is “tragic”.
Keshav Upadhye, BJP’s chief spokesperson, Maharashtra, dismissed the allegation that the party has gained electorally because of its divisive politics.
He described Sena’s charges as “laughable”.
“Such claims made by the Congress or the Shiv Sena are baseless. It is far from reality. Before last year’s parliamentary elections, over 700 (Facebook) pages, which had right-wing propaganda, were banned. Today, too, materials written against Modiji are available on Facebook. The BJP has not benefitted electorally in any way,” Upadhye rebutted.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had also taken a swipe at the BJP over the WSJ report.
“BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) control Facebook & WhatsApp in India. They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook,” Gandhi had tweeted on Sunday, two days after WSJ had published the report.