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India: Meet the 'Internet Hindus'

Decried by more liberal Indians as anonymous trolls and serial abusers, Hindu nationalists and other right wingers are making a serious play to dominate social media.

India trolls 2012 6 15Enlarge
A protest poster against the Indian government's increasingly restrictive regulation of the internet outside a shopping mall in Bangalore on June 9, 2012. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI, India — “Internet Hindus are like swarms of bees,” Indian television anchor Sagarika Ghose tweeted in 2010. “They come swarming after you."

The "Internet Hindus" Ghose refers to — actually, she coined the term — are right-wing bloggers and tweeters who seem to follow her every move, pouncing on any mention of hot-button issues like Muslims or Pakistan.

Liberal journalists and netizens sympathized with Ghose's exasperation. But for right-wingers, it was like throwing gasoline on the fire. Since Ghose's tweet, Hindu nationalists and other conservatives opposed to the Congress Party of Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have, if anything, multiplied and grown more organized — embracing Ghose's derogatory term and making it their own.

Today there are perhaps as many as 20,000 so-called “Internet Hindus,” many tweeting as often as 300 times a day, according to a rough estimate by one of the community's most active members.

“You will find thousands with similar sounding IDs [to mine],” a Twitter user who goes by the handle @internet_hindus said in an anonymous chat interview. “Some [others] prefer to openly do it with their own personal IDs."

Freedom of speech

Internet Hindus, largely because of their numbers and influence, find themselves smack in the middle of India's censorship debate. There are signs the country's growing problem with controversial online content has already eroded legislators' commitment to free speech.

In April 2011, India added new rules to the 2000 Information Technology Act that required websites to remove content authorities deemed objectionable within 36 hours of being told do so. The amendment specifically targeted allegedly defamatory content and hate speech, but it was less than crystal clear how either could be identified reliably without an arduous trip through India's notoriously slow court system.

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Some say the new rules simply bend to Congress Party officials' sway. In December, for example, Kapil Sibal, acting telecommunications minister, was reported to have met privately with top executives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook to ask them to pre-screen and censor such content before it appears online. According to the Times of India, 255 out of the 358 requests that Google received to remove content cited criticism of the government as the reason it should be censored.

Offline, Hindu nationalist groups have used threats and violence to prevent people like artist M.F. Hussain and filmmaker Deepa Mehta from speaking or exhibiting works they deemed insulting to Hinduism. But in the online world, many Internet Hindus believe that Sibal has attempted to blur the line between statements that are slanderous or dangerously inflammatory and those that are only politically incorrect.

Journalists, too, are starting to question the value of certain online content.

In a recent article for the Hindustan Times, journalist Namita Bhandare argued that “when Twitter dwindles to a platform for abuse it loses its sheen,” citing tweets that questioned the moral character of an alleged victim of sexual assault, or the patriotism of a tweeter who criticized anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare and happens to be a Muslim.

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Television anchor Barkha Dutt has expressed the similar sentiment that “lurking online — usually behind anonymity or names that suggest an evangelical religiosity — are many propagators of hate and violence.”

Though neither of these journalists has openly advocated censorship, their comments are evidence that trolls, or cyber bullies, and others who abuse the freedoms of the web stand to force a cultural shift.

“The government is scared of us,” said Suvendu Huddar, a 33-year-old Mumbai entrepreneur who calls himself "Internet Hindu" online. “That's the reason they want to knock down the internet freedoms through some biased tools, which seem to be coming up very soon.”

When good Hindus go bad

The Internet Hindus don't have a monopoly on trolling, of course — some, like aspiring right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party politician Jits Gajaria, say they've had their own run-ins with abusive stalkers. But because they are so numerous, so committed, and can appear so organized — whether or not they are part of a formal network — it's the Hindu nationalist tweeters who have drawn the most flak.

“[Congress party] supporters tend to shout 'Troll' early and leave,” said Samit, a 37-year-old marketing consultant based in Mumbai. “The reason, in my

Amit Tiwari More than 1 year ago
India is secular due to Hinduism and not inpsite of it !! Only Hindusim says and promotes that all religons are same and all gods are equal , Which other religon says that all gods are same ? So whats the defination of Secularism ? Recently david Cameron too said that UK is a christian country and should be run according to that point so does that make him a communal then ? Whats the defination of Secularism ?
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
many mulsims are publicly trying convert european countries into islam. the local people are worried but politicians are not, becoz they are receiving funds from gulf countries
Big More than 1 year ago
Good. Westerners have been lecturing Hindus about tolerating Islamic terror for decades, it will be good to see many mini Pakistan's come up in Europe.
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
so called sickular politicians have made hindus 3rd class citizens in india. this is becoz 100% of minorities vote 100% in elections, but 70% of hindus do not vote in elections due to disappointment with politicians. This time it is going to change. Narendra Modi will be BJPs PM candidate and entire Hindus will wholeheartedly support him to become PM. After that Hindus will become 1st class citizens of India.
JaidevJamwal More than 1 year ago
Another one of your so called "Internet Hindus" here. I'm an atheist by the way. This article puts forward a strangely twisted message that so called "Internet Hindus" are unreasonable trolls while keeping journalists like Barkha Dutt in context who have been proven to be of dubious professional integrity quite often. Don't expect nationalists like me to be mellow when such people broadcast their lies and propaganda which more often than not is against Indian interests. I'd like Ms Ghose to coin a similar term for Muslims who spew hatred and against India and non-muslims on internet as well as outside it and try to survive the fatwa after that. But why'd she do that, she is a liberal and secular person unlike communal "HIndus", right ?
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
until 100% hindus decide to vote in elections this will continue
Big More than 1 year ago
Christian and Islamo fascist propaganda tries to portray Hindutva as a religious movement. Infact it's a reassertion of the traditional culture and heritage of Indians. Hinduism itself is a collection of religions (including atheistic) beliefs. Our strength was the mutual respect of different philosophies, i.e. polar opposite of Abrahamic beliefs. Since we refuse to become an imitation slave culture of either the middle east or the West, that cause's an irritation in their minds.
Karthikeyan Sivaraman More than 1 year ago
Dear Jason, I am sure you are erudite - and care about equality and justice and everything associated with it. If that is the case, why single out Golwalkar for praising Hitler? Subhash Chandra Bose, the founder of the Indian National Army also sought help from Japan of the 'axis-of-evil'. Did you ever bother to ask why? In this sense, you parrot the self-same views of the media that the so called Internet-Hindus are agitating against. The reason is simple: India did not have a rosy time under the British. For us Indians, the Brits in power were a bigger problem than the evil Hitler who was fighting the British in a faraway land. You declare Hitler as evil because of his crimes against humanity (rightly so), but then what about the crimes against humanity of the British in India? Have you heard of the term Jalian Wala Bagh? Or the notorious Bengal Famines that were artificially created to support the empire's adventures out of India? Have you heard of the detention cell in Andaman & Nicobar Islands? Your attitude towards the so called 'nationalist right-wing' forces in India reflects not only your ignorance (or should I call it arrogance) for most part, but also your prejudice. None of you Op-Ed writers have had a problem calling the RSS a 'paramilitary' force, despite the fact that none of you have been in one of their congregations with an open mind. You go there to collect dirt on them, and everything becomes a crime - wearing a Khaki knicker to practicing with a stick and being punctual; everything becomes a crime. Yet, you westerners lament the same lack of punctuality in Indians as a whole. Also, when you call them 'paramilitary' for training with sticks - do you mean they plan to fight AK-47's, claymore mines, missiles, RPGs, armored vehicles and suicide attacks with "frigging sticks"? On the other hand, you have no problem describing terrorists of any kind as "citizens with a grievance and a gun". It would have been a far balanced article if you had mentioned the service that RSS has rendered in past several decades - without fail, and more importantly without fanfare. They were the first responders in any natural calamity in India: Surat Earthquake, 2004 Tsunami, every cyclone or any other disaster; RSS has been at the forefront without asking for money or even recognition. And you are blind to it. Before you write about anything, please conform to the first lesson of journalism - go with an open mind. Question what you see critically. Much of what you hear from the air-conditioned offices of your fellow journalists in India is a lie. Pity you cannot see it. SK
arun More than 1 year ago
Superb response! I only hope this Jason guy responds to this, and here (not hiding somewhere else in a different post). "Internet Hindus" is just bullcrap..
arun More than 1 year ago
True. I would like to relate an incident which media has never highlighted probably because it shows RSS in a positive light. There was an aircrash in Delhi, in which a flight to the middle east was involved and most of the passengers were muslims and there were no survivors and the bodies were completely charred. A letter to one of the newspapers from middle east citizen thanked RSS specifically for help provided after the crash in extracting the bodies and help to relatives!!! RSS acitivists were first on the scene!!!
bharat_builder More than 1 year ago
This article tries a lot to be fair, however it has a tilt towards the 'authority'. The writer has failed to explain why are people so angry towards the main-stream media. The writer has failed to explain how Congress is spreading the propaganda. The writer has failed to explain how the poor, helpless man, paying taxes through nose has finally found a voice on the social media. The writer has failed to explain how cheats and corrupts like Abhishek Manu Singhvi had to resign due to this new found voice. The writer has failed to explain how the crooked President Patil had to forgo her 2.6 Lakh Acres house due to impact by the so called 'Internet Hindu'. We were, we are and we will always be non-violent. We live on the Gandhian principles. The article suggests in many ways that 'Internet Hindus' promote violence but has failed to produce a single incident when it really happened. 1992 was way before Social Media came, and it was a handiwork of BJP, not the common tax paying man. So please. Get You Facts Right. Stop this propaganda. You would soon get many blogs in reply to this baseless article. And stop being racist and stop tagging Poor Tax paying Indian as "Internet Hindu". A lot of muslims, sikhs etc also are with us. We all are PROUD INDIANS
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
until 100% hindus decide to vote in elections this will continue
Rajul Sharma More than 1 year ago
the english journalist community is a blot on journalism, instead of investigating facts they rely on gossips ( barkha dutt's case) instead of asking tough questions from the government ,they bring opposition also in the same category & dilute the attack on the govt. most of them are corrupt .they have flats & plot of land allotted to them which are valued in crores of rupees .they can be seen attending the parties thrown by politicians. they hesitate to discuss anything wrong with muslims ( even pakistani media does a better job).the media in genral & english media in particular does not even publish the killing of hindus ,be it in kashmir( in the past) or meerut & kosi( recently)
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
until 100% hindus decide to vote in elections this will continue
awakeindian More than 1 year ago
Internet Hindus Exposed Pseudo Secularist Anti-Hindu IBN7 News Channel Propaganda
Sahil Mehta More than 1 year ago
For long Indian journos had opportunity to express their views completely unchallenged. However, with advent of social media like Twitter and Facebook, average people got opportunity to question and argue with these journos. Suddenly journos realized that they won't be able to easily get away with anything they would say. Hence as a natural reaction, they started name calling the people who were questioning them. Internet Hindus is part of that name calling exercise. If you go online, you will find tons of websites showing stories of people from other faith converting to islam and christianity. If you were to visit Facebook or Google communities, Christians and Muslims outnumber hindus by huge margin. So are these online active christians and muslims called internet christians or internet hindus? If not, why single out hindus?
Big More than 1 year ago
Hindus are singled out due to western propaganda. Unlike the pretense of secularism, the West (atleast the elite) is still driven by Christian myths. For example, the fact that Hindus exist and won't worship the middle easterner Jesus (who mysteriously looks like a Northern European in their art ) is a cause of great irritation. Hindus are hated simply because they are different and won't merge as a subset of western civilization (read Rajiv Malhotra's book "Being Different"). This is rooted in Christian thought which classifies the world as either believers or heathens, i.e. you are either with us or against us.
Vibiesh Venugopal More than 1 year ago
why don't you talk about the internet Muslims and Internet Christians This itself shows that the author of this article is an anti hindu
guruprasadbhat More than 1 year ago
I ask you a simple question: What is the definition of Secularism? How is it defined in the constitution (44th amendment was not passed by RS)? How it is proscribed to be adhered to or followed in political or day-to-day life? Today most politician like to believe that Anti-Hindu is secularism and that is not right and also believe that appeasing Muslims is secular and that too is not right. Reservation for Muslims is secularism, knowing well that the constitution doesnt permit reservation based on religion. So, please explain me what do you mean Secular? I believe that only a Hindu could ever be a secular - as only he believes that all religions are equal and leads toward the same God. Where as Islam and Christianity insult Hinduism within in our country by proscribing that there is no other God than what they believe in.... and that is Secular for you?
vikaasssahay More than 1 year ago
Kanchan Gupta, a very well known and widely read journalist recently tweeted that the anonymous abusers among the right wingers in reality are planted by the Congress mischief department to slander people in the name of hindutva and bring Narendra Modi's name to disrepute. If this analysis is to be believed, then this article anyway stands discredited.
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
until 100% hindus decide to vote in elections this will continue
ABHISHEK MITTAL More than 1 year ago
well,nothing surprising for me. indian media is systematically programmed to turn anti-hindu and anti-bharat. billions(yes billions) of dollars is being spent on this programme. read "BREAKING INDIA" written by Rajiv Malhotra. Guys, we need to get out of our comfort zone.
BHARAT GAJRIA More than 1 year ago
The author seems to be confused and has combined Religion, Economy, society and blamed every thing on 20000 twitters Hindus. Should look for more facts before mixing up issues. Its like every thing happening in Afganistan and pakistan is blamed on US.
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
until 100% hindus decide to vote in elections this will continue
Kavish Bhoonah More than 1 year ago
you may rant or whine how you want in order to please your white masters and jihadi masters of Congress but yes we will continue to be swarms of bees to defend our identity, our Hinduness and our Bharat against sickularists like you, against hate-mongers and against enemies of Hindus. We will continue India become a Hindu Rashtra!
awakeindian More than 1 year ago
Internet Hindus Exposed Pseudo Secularist Anti-Hindu IBN7 News Channel propaganda
Big More than 1 year ago
It's natural that Hindus would organize themselves. Faced against Western Christian militants and White Nationalists, it's natural for Hindus to defend themselves.
Duart Maclean More than 1 year ago
It's best to think of Hinduism as a State of Consciousness first and as a religion or belief system only secondarily. It is the first expression of Hinduism (as a State of Consciousness) that is a profound threat to the Ego. Religious fanatics are always egomaniacs -- paradoxically, since they inevitably believe they on the right hand of God -- and the monotheistic religions seem to be awash with these kinds of people. Those who hold to the Sanatana Dharma must hold firm and refuse to degenerate into mudslinging and violence. At the same time, they must not be timid and afraid to speak out. When I read Adi Sanakara's writings, I am always impressed by how clearly and powerfully he confronts his opponents, yet never yields to name-calling or any form of denigration. Same with the great modern sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi -- never condemnation or mudslinging and never any form of violence or cowardice.
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
hindus are trying to survive in the face of attacks from all around. first survival, then philosophy
RAJEEV KUMRIA More than 1 year ago
Hi All For all these pseudo and sick secular folks please check how the minorities treat and consider Hindus. After goign through this weblink people would be shocked and this writer would not find place in his mother's womb even.
Big More than 1 year ago
This author and many of these Western journalists have a false persona of being accepting of other religions and cultures. In reality, many of these people are Christian fanatics who consider all non believer of Jesus as Heathens (infidels) who will go to hell if they are not converted. Due to such primitive beliefs, they have a knee jerk hatred towards Hindus/Hinduism.
Hari Das More than 1 year ago
this is from another pseudo secularist, who want freedom for their any kind of abuse, but very much get agitated by true peoples comments on issues where they feel our beloved country - Bharath is getting destroyed by abuse of its hindu culture and civilisation, which is not only the true heritage, but also the human endeavour's culture...
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
until 100% hindus decide to vote in elections this will continue
gopimaliwal More than 1 year ago
These articles will provide a complete picture than the clever hit job done by author!
Vinoth More than 1 year ago
this is article has lies .. people will understand.. author does not know india .. i dont want elaborate .. this is internet era .. you cant cheat us or manipulate us.. truth is out on the internet .. one thing .. i want to tell to fellow hindu nationalists that entire media in india is funded and particularly christian ngos and orgs.. they are meant to influence and manipulate us .. they are trojan horses .. follow eminent people like swamy gurumurthy rajiv dixit rajiv malhotra ramdev and so many .. not the arvind khujiwal and co..
Big More than 1 year ago
The only Indians allied with the White's increasingly are the far left liberals (who due to colonial rule have an inferiority complex anyway , i.e. Macaulyite). Seems like the West is great at creating enemies.
johnnydeo311 More than 1 year ago
interesting article!
Santhosh N More than 1 year ago
islamic terrorists are using the internet for publicising, recruiting, training and perpetration of terror. that will not be interesting to you people
Kavish Bhoonah More than 1 year ago
read also interesting articles on or or wikiislam!