Book says BJP cell trolled Aamir on his intolerance speech

Updated - December 28, 2016 01:25 am IST

Published - December 27, 2016 11:18 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan

The Information Technology Cell of the Bharatiya Janata Party found itself in the middle of a controversy as a new book, I am a Troll , by Swati Chaturvedi, journalist, says it orchestrated a social media campaign to get the e-commerce site Snapdeal to end its endorsement deal with film star Aamir Khan for speaking out against growing intolerance in the country last year.

Soon after the actor made the remarks at the Ramnath Goenka Awards ceremony in 2015, a social media campaign pushing for his removal as brand ambassador of Snapdeal swept cyberspace. The company subsequently did not renew its contract with the actor.

Quoting a former member of the BJP’s social media team, Sadhvi Khosla, Ms. Chaturvedi’s book says the Information Technology Cell was behind that campaign and she had WhatsApp messages from the convener of the cell, Arvind Gupta, directing the same.

Highest endorsement

Ms. Chaturvedi has said that this was only one of several such “campaigns” by the IT Cell that she describes in her book.

“In a democracy why should the ruling party be behind such a campaign? Why should the Prime Minister be following even a single troll and host a meet and greet for them at his official residence,” Ms. Chaturvedi told The Hindu .

“As a journalist, I am naturally bewildered by this and my book explores this phenomenon, and how trolling has found its way into various departments of the government, with even the Digital India handle tweeting ‘death to presstitutes’ only to retract it later.”

“It is time this was called out rather than provide a cover of freedom of expression for such trolling,” Ms. Chaturvedi added.

Claims denied

Mr. Arvind Gupta has denied the allegation that he or the IT cell had orchestrated any such campaign. He also said that Ms. Khosla had “Congress links”.

“The BJP has never encouraged trolling and in fact has well published social media guidelines on the party website. Sadhvi Khosla, who supports the Congress, has all the reasons to publish unsubstantiated claims and Swati Chaturvedi is basing her fictitious stories on the same to due to vested paid interests,” he said. “She [Ms. Khosla] is claiming Whatsapp forward of a causes campaign. She, as far as I know, was seeking work professionally from the BJP,” he said and added that he was not the head of the party’s IT cell during the period when the campaign was allegedly carried out.

Ms. Chaturvedi, however, denied the claim that Ms. Khosla was a member of the Congress or even a sympathiser.

“She has made a film on the drug problem in Punjab and is not a member of the party or employed by them,” she said. “I think Mr. Gupta protests too much,” Ms. Chaturvedi added.

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