External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has stirred up a Twitter storm by blocking some popular right-wing handles on Twitter. The “block” feature on Twitter allows users to stop other users from viewing their tweets or interacting with tem. Twitter users sometimes block other users who annoy them. But should a Union minister block citizens from following her on Twitter? What has led to this response?
Sushma Swaraj runs a very popular Twitter handle with close to 11 million followers. Many people reach out to her via Twitter. Lost a passport in a foreign country? Need to travel on an emergency? Need consular access on a holiday? Whatever the issue for Indian citizens abroad, Swaraj was always a click away, resolving problems with a warm, personal touch. Though her personal intervention in individual cases won her much acclaim, she also invited criticism from those who argued that her talent was severely underutilised in the ministry.
It is, however, her assistance to Pakistani citizens that earned her the ire of her right wing supporters and made her a target of incessant trolling with tweets like, “Those who promised to bring us ten heads in retaliation for one are distributing visas to our enemy state”, “You criticise or trash Medical Maata @SushmaSwaraj You will be instantly blocked by her.. even though shes a public offficer…”
Since the time India tightened its visa policy for Pakistani nationals, many Pakistanis have approached Sushma Swaraj on Twitter for help with acquiring medical visas on humanitarian grounds. The fact that she has been equanimous and considerate in her approach has earned her the ire of many right-wing twitterati, terming her “Medical Mata” and “Visa Mata”. Matters were aggravated by the recent treatment accorded in Islamabad to the family of Kulbhushan Jadav, an Indian who Pakistan has sentenced to death on spy charges.
Here are some of the tweets which led to these people being blocked, and their subsequent reactions.
Ironically, many of those who are mocking Swaraj and have been blocked by her are staunch supporters of her own party, some even followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter.
Alt News believes that whatever the nature and extent of provocation, a minister should not block a citizen from access. To be at the receiving end of vicious trolling can be a frustrating experience, but as a public official in a domain that requires active intervention and outreach at key moments, Swaraj’s selective barring of individuals who disagree with her actions and thoughts is disadvantageous to citizens.
This article first appeared on AltNews.