Members of the online right want Raheel Khursheed's head because Twitter India's new chief of News, Politics, and Government is an avowed Narendra Modi hater. Their outrage has in turn sparked yet another left/right social media war, with everyone calling each other the usual names (free speech fascists, anti-Hindu jihadis etc), burying all available facts in the ensuing fury.
Perhaps it is useful then to first establish at least two known and pertinent facts.
One, Khursheed does indeed loathe Narendra Modi. Sure, he has also been scathing on the subject of Rahul Gandhi. In one Quartz.com commentary, Khursheed calls Rahul's Jaipur speech "laughable," and describes his political career as oscillating "between the insipid and the uninspiring." Another open letter to the "Yuvaraj" openly mocks him as a do-nothing, entitled dynastic brat. But none of Khursheed's anti-Gandhi comments quite rise to the level of a tweet like this one: "He oversaw a Muslim massacre for fun. RT @ndtv Wrong to call Narendra Modi communal: Nitin Gadkari to NDTV."
Anyone calling Modi a 'mass murderer' is way more than a mere critic. So let's not be accusing those enraged Modi supporters of being "over sensitive."
Two, the BJP leadership has not called for Khursheed's head.
Gupta's quote in Mint read as follows: “Twitter has been successful in becoming global by being a neutral as well as open-ended platform of communication. I am afraid that this appointment will hamper that image in India,” said Arvind Gupta, the head of the information technology cell at the BJP.
It doesn't amount to a demand for Khursheed's resignation. Moreover, BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi clearly told Headlines Today, "Pehli baat yeh hai ki hum isse itna mahatva nahin dete."
Naqvi bluntly says that Twitter has the right to decide who it wants to employ, adding, "Us prerogative par hum kuch bole, woh baat theekh nahin hain." An immensely sensible position that no one, right or left, can argue with.
The Change.org petition requesting Twitter CEO Khursheed is not a party initiative but an effort put together by Modi fans. And that's alright too. Grassroots advocacy is not the preserve of any one side of the ideological spectrum. The rightwingers on Twitter also have every right to go after Khursheed for offending their sentiments. One assumes social media liberals would do no less if he had a documented past of racist or sexist tweets, including, say, some that described Sonia Gandhi as an "Italian waitress."
That said, it is silly for the petitioners to expect Twitter -- which is driven by frank and uncensored opinion -- to appoint an "unbiased" guy who carefully avoids offence as one of its top employees. Khursheed's tweets epitomise the anarchic spirit of the business of social media which values candour, not tact.
It is also true, however, that his views will likely make his current job -- which includes tracking and expanding "Twitter's relationships with journalists, editors and politicians" -- a wee bit tricky. But that too is as it should be. Our past social media activity often has unexpected consequences for our current professional lives.
It takes a fertile imagination to recast an online petition with a mere 2000 signatures and whole lot of Twitter abuse as a vast rightwing conspiracy to oust Khursheed. This is just another social media storm that will soon pass. No one knows this better than @raheelk himself who has stayed stoically mum except to correct one other little fact: "For the record, I am 30. Not 33. #TrueFact."
Updated Date: Jan 09, 2014 13:38 PM