When “liberals” targeted my family for cracking jokes on Congress leaders

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Recently an interview of filmmaker Shirish Kunder, known for making comedy movies like Tees Maar Khan and Joker, was being shared by a few “liberals” on Twitter. Kunder, who was often target of their ridicule earlier, has suddenly become a role model for them because of his frequent anti-Modi and anti-BJP jokes and tweets.

One paragraph from his interview caught my attention. The same paragraph was shared by the so-called liberals too with much enthusiasm. In his interview, Kunder claims that no one was attacked online for cracking jokes against Congress leaders.

Kunder interview

A claim without any proof

This was unbelievable for me, reason for which I would explain later. But before that, to be sure, I searched for “jokes” that Shirish Kunder claims to have cracked on Congress leaders to see if he really wasn’t attacked at all.

Well, there was no tweet by Kunder that contained the word “Sonia”, so it appears he never cracked any jokes on Sonia Gandhi:

Twitter search

Shirish Kunder had no opinion, let alone a joke, to offer on Sonia Gandhi on Twitter.

On Manmohan Singh, there were six tweets, five of which can be termed as jokes with the remaining one targeted against Modi:

Kunder on MMS

“Jokes” by Shirish Kunder on Manmohan Singh.

He didn’t get many re-tweets for his jokes or tweets back then (going by the limelight he enjoys now, his achchhe din on Twitter are definitely here!), and got even fewer replies. One of the replies to his Manmohan Singh joke was this (which according to Kunder is not abuse?):

And finally jokes on Rahul Gandhi, about which he specifically claims that “All my tweets and jokes against Rahul Gandhi were always live, but no one attacked you online”.

I searched again. There are five tweets that contain the word “Rahul” and none of them are jokes on Rahul Gandhi:

Kunder on Rahul Gandhi

All tweets about “Rahul” by Shirish Kunder till 10th May 2016.

I searched for the term “RaGa” and “Pappu” too as many Rahul Gandhi jokes refer him by those names, and again I got zero results. So at least on Twitter, Kunder didn’t crack a single joke on Rahul Gandhi – when the entire universe was cracking jokes on the poor prince – totally contrary to what he claims in his interview.

In his new avatar, Kunder cracks anti-Modi jokes all day round, and gets abused by Modi fans. That doesn’t justify the abuse, but given his lack of jokes on previous regimes, Kunder is no position to pass a judgement that jokes or tweets against the previous government didn’t attract abuse.

You didn’t crack too many jokes, and you didn’t get too many abuses.

However, not just Kunder, this is an oft-repeated propaganda online that Modi or BJP supporters are abusive while the rest are saints.

I won’t dispute at all that opinions against Modi or BJP indeed attract online abuse, but I won’t let this Goebellian propaganda go uncontested that opinions against the previous government or other leaders were, or are, taken in with all respect and tolerance.

This narrative gets easily propagated because those on the “right” side of this ideological divide don’t speak up about the abuse they receive. We (yes, I have taken sides and I am with the “right” in this battle) like to play brave and don’t like playing victim, whereas the other side is champion in playing victim.

This has to change. It’s not about playing victim but speaking out and setting the records straight.

So here is the story of abuse I got. In fact, no, not me – I have lost count of the abuses I get and I keep on getting them regularly now on Twitter – but this is a sick act that some fan of the previous regime did because I – from my personal Twitter handle as well as from the @fakingnews handle – would target the UPA regime through tweets and articles.

This fan of Congress and a “critic” of Modi was so upset with my tweets that he decided to target my family. He made a Twitter account with display name of my wife started writing obscene things about my wife and tagging me. There were filthy abuses and threats about me, my wife, and other members of my family.

I had tweeted about this experience when it happened:

By this time, I had become accustomed to the abuse I got personally. That had in fact stopped bothering me. I had developed thick skin and in future, I’d start giving them back. But I was not ready for this. This scared me like anything.

My wife still doesn’t know about it. Immediately after seeing these abusive and threatening tweets, I untagged myself from Facebook pictures of all the nice holidays that me and my wife had together. She felt odd. I jokingly told her that I was now a celebrity and I want only my own photos on my timeline. I didn’t want her to get affected by what was going on.

I was trying to remove all private information about her from my Facebook profile, which can be accessed by my haters. These sick guys, who must be strutting around as “liberals” in the society, could have gone to the next step.

Once I hid all the private information, I decided to take it up both with Twitter as well as the Mumbai Police’s cyber cell. Since the tweets were really filthy and abusive and were a textbook case of targeted harassment (my handle tagged in every tweet), I think it didn’t need much time for Twitter support to identify that it was a case of abuse. The handle was suspended within 12 hours.

Unfortunately I couldn’t take screenshots of those tweets that I may later give to the cyber cell to make a police case. Those were so filthy that I didn’t feel like looking at them again, so these legalities didn’t strike my mind then. I had sent emails to the cyber cell and was supposed to submit physical evidences next.

But through my tweet, I made it ample clear that I was pursuing it with the police. I knew that this guy must be tracking me from his other Twitter handle and he’d get scared that a police action was on its way.

Perhaps he read this tweet where I was seeking help for police action.

It worked and an apology mail arrived:

screenshot of email

The apology mail by one of my countless abusers

I knew that the guy was lying, but somehow I thought that maybe he was genuinely sorry. I could have used the html header of this email as a proof to the police, but the proof of original crime – screenshots of his hateful and threatening tweets to my family – was gone as Twitter had suspended his account.

Maybe like a typical “right winger”, this was my Prithviraj Chauhan moment – when you decide to trust your enemy. Somehow I felt I should leave it here and not pursue it. Maybe the guy is really sorry and a police case will spoil his life, I thought. I fancy myself as a ruthless guy, but perhaps I am not. Don’t know if it’s something to be proud of or to get worried about.

Some weeks later, a journalist was writing a story on Twitter trolls. Someone tagged me that I also had received abuse. I confirmed that:

But the journalist didn’t appear too interested in that for some reason and didn’t ask for much details about the abuse per se. Somehow all media stories about trolling and abuse cover abuse by only one type of people and they ignore the other type.

And this is why we need to speak up. The media won’t carry your stories (something on that for some other day), and the propaganda would go uncontested.

As an African proverb goes – until the story of the hunt is told by the Lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

So when I read that part of the Kunder’s interview and saw it being shared like gospel truth, I decided to speak up.

Let the stories be known. I know for fact that those on the right, especially the ladies, receive the worst abuses for their opinions. Tell your story. Don’t let them run away with the prey of your hunted dignity.

Editor’s Note: We have often heard about many more people being put into similar situations for their jokes on Gandhis and Congress. We urge them to come forward and let us know their stories too.