A lot of concern is being expressed by secular-minded people regarding the dominance of a tribe called the “Internet Hindus”, a term allegedly coined by Sagarika Ghosh, an Indian TV journalist. Internet Hindus can mostly be found on social networking websites like Twitter and FaceBook, and they’re also quite vocal on various the so-called “right wing” blogs. This Mid-Day article is one of the examples of the ongoing Internet Hindus fear wave.
The Indian mainstream media has so far been dominated by a particular section of people who normally call themselves the “elites” and the seculars. They pretend to control the thought machine of the country. They define what’s secular and what’s democratic. To deepen and strengthen their ideology they copiously publish books, conduct seminars and talk shows and publish scholastic essays and papers. I’m not saying they’re good or bad — it’s just that they totally steer the thought process of a massive literate section of the country. They control the newspapers, magazines and the electronic media.
The Internet on the other hand, due to its neutral functioning, is available to everybody. You can start publishing a new blog even while reading this blog post. You can open a new Twitter or FaceBook account and unleash your thoughts among your followers, friends and fans, provided you can create a presence for yourself. This is just the beginning.
The real advantage is, your friends, fans and followers can talk back to you, and in response, they can start their own streams of conversation through their own blogs and social networking accounts. Conversation and communication on the Internet cannot be controlled. Discussions and debates are no longer elite pass times. Whether you have 2 readers, 200, 2000 or more, you command a degree of influence. The people who so far have been controlling the thought process of the country get rattled by this new trend. They’ve been caught off guard. Everybody can communicate now, so they can no longer control ideas and opinions. Consequently, their only response is, name calling. It’s like, when you start drowning you start flailing your arms and legs even when it does you more harm than good.
Coming back to Internet Hindus
So why many feel the Internet Hindus have a strong hold over the Internet? Because this is a medium that allows you to communicate unhindered. I’ve personally experienced that these so-called Internet Hindus at least have a real notion of what they are saying — whether good or bad — and those who oppose them either do so due to the herd mentality or they belong to the above-mentioned class. Internet Hindus are there because communication and thought process is so lopsided in our country. The same people who lament the right wing thoughts on the Internet conveniently keep mum when people like Arundhati Roy romanticize the Maoist murder sprees or bomb attacks. The same people who start screaming “Hindu fundamentalists” at the drop of a hat start presenting copious excuses or creating sob-dramas when Muslim terrorists attack (there, now I’m an Islamophobe, you see?). Remember the Chaddhi campaign? Why isn’t there a single such campaign against, let’s say, the Owaisi brothers of Hyderabad? I’m not against such campaigns, in fact they should be encouraged, but why just one-sided? You need to see the pattern.
Hence, the Internet Hindus. They’re sort of a backlash. They’re a collective WTF. It’s not a communal threat, it’s just a beginning of thought-backlash. Something like, you think that? But we think this. It doesn’t mean they are Muslim haters. In fact such thoughts are often seeded by the other group, the so-called secular and elite people. They make it as if, each time you say something in defense of the Hindus, you become a Muslim hater, or a Christian hater, and on top of that you are a Dalit hater too.
And why are most Internet Hindus anonymous? Free thought is actually not free in our country, it comes packaged with dangers and backlashes. There is a section that wants to be vocal without revealing its identity, because these people are normal folks going to offices and earning decent livings. They don’t want their jobs and careers jeopardized, but at the same time, they have a need to show how angry and frustrated they feel. Besides, the more important thing is the thought, the opinion, not who originates it.
Personally I’m happy that there are Internet Hindus heavily active on Twitter and FaceBook. Let there be Internet Sardars and Internet Dalits and Internet Every-other-community that needs to be heard.