Inter-faith couple passport issue: Sushma Swaraj battles trolls

FILE - In this April 21, 2012 file photo, Indian lawmaker Sushma Swaraj speaks during a press conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Swaraj, who is now India's foreign minister, said Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 on Twitter, that she is undergoing medical tests for a transplant after suffering kidney failure. The 64-year-old minister was admitted to the hospital last week. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe, File)

(Online Desk)

The Frankenstein monster in the social media space reared its ugly head against the Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, as swarm of trolls went after following the decision to transfer a Lucknow official over handling an interfaith couple’s application for renewal of the passport.

Announcing her return to the country after foreign visits, Swaraj posted tweet of her intention to share messages tagged to her on the issue involving the interfaith couple. The minister went on to “like” over 50 messages, which included curses to her and abuses with communal overtones. The twiterrati slamming her claimed to have been BJP supporters but vowed to teach the saffron outfit a lesson for “Muslim appeasement”.

With hashtag of ISupportVikashMishra, trolls commented on kidney transplant of the minister, besides calling her “Visa Mata and favouring Muslims in issuing instant passports”. Incidentally, government sources claimed that Swaraj had never intervened in the issue of passport application of the interfaith couple, while not ordering Mishra’s transfer as well. “Since an enquiry is underway on the passport controversy, Mishra had been transferred to ensure a fair probe,” sources said.

While the BJP has maintained a stoic silence on the ordeals of Swaraj on the social media, party leaders stated that the issue involved a decision of the ministry, which doesn’t warrant political reactions.

However, the Congress jumped into the fray, with the party posting a message on twitter that “no matter the situation or reason, nothing calls for threats of violence, disrespect and abuse”. The Congress applauded her decision to call out “the heinous trolls of your own part”.

The CPI (M) Central Committee member and MP Mohammed Salim said that the troll brigade is a vicious creation that has become Frankenstein. “It is a paid brigade created by the RSS-BJP and it is natural for them to oppose an inter-faith marriage. As far as abuses against the external affairs minister (Sushma Swaraj) is concerned, either the BJP has lost control over its troll brigade or I think this is being commanded,” said Salim.

The CPI leader D Raja said that Swaraj took the right decisions as no Indian citizen can be denied passport. “These (trolls) are creation of RSS and all are paid activists. Their agenda is to spread lies, abuse and do character assassination of people. All leaders of the Opposition have been facing this regularly,” said Raja.

Noted Supreme Court lawyer and former Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Prashant Bhushan in a tweet claimed that many of the trolls are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Meanwhile, following murmurs both within the MEA and from the opposition parties that her ministry had been sidelined by the PMO which had reduced her to a visa issuing official, Swaraj had responded with a question during a press conference in late May while presenting her report card on the achievements of her ministry in four years.

“How am I answering these questions on the foreign policy front if I am ignorant of foreign policy? she asked. “I was surprised to hear that there were so many countries that our leaders didn’t go to,” Swaraj said. “When we formed our government, we thought that we will cover all the 192 countries present at the UN, for ministerial level talks. And, we have covered 186 countries already,” she added.

Swaraj, who had been indisposed for a while following a kidney transplant, also ramped up her travels, and since January alone, she has travelled to over 15 nations, some of them twice. These include Italy, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, South Africa, Myanmar, Mongolia, China, Azerbaijan, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Thailand Indonesia and Singapore.