Indian Administrative Services Officer Nidhi Choudhari has triggered a massive row ever since her tweet about Mahatma Gandhi in May went viral. Congress and Aam Admi Party leaders expressed shock, National Congress Party leader Jitendra Awhad called for her immediate suspension and his party leader Sharad Pawar wrote to Maharashtra’s chief minister demanding that “exemplary action” be taken against her. As a result, Choudhari has been issued a show cause notice as well as transferred.

On May 17, Choudhari had tweeted, “What an exceptional celebration of [Gandhi’s] 150th birth anniversary year is going on. High time we remove his face from our currency, his statues from across the world, rename institutions, roads named after him! That would be a real tribute from all of us. Thank you Godse for 30-1-1948.”

The tweet has now been deleted.

A misinterpretation

Choudhari had posted her controversial tweet one day after Pragya Thakur, the Bharatiya Janata Party Lok Sabha candidate who has since been elected to Parliament, called Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, a “desh bhakt” or patriot. As per Choudhari’s clarification, her tweet was sarcastic and had been misunderstood. I bow before him [Gandhi] with the deepest regard and will do till [my] last breath,” she wrote.

If one were to read through the complete thread, it is evident that Choudhari’s tweet was indeed sarcastic.

Choudhari’s Twitter timeline is also a testament to the fact she is a devout follower of Gandhi.

In April, she had tweeted that Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth was one of her favourite books. In another tweet from 2018, she thanked Gandhi for giving meaning to the principles of truth and non-violence.

In several other tweets, the IAS officer quoted Gandhi. “Gandhi Ji inspires me daily and I keep posting his quotes very regularly… His tweets are needed more today than any other time,” was her reply to a person who asked her why she was sharing so many of his quotes.

in conversation with Alt News, Choudhari reiterated that her tweet was sarcastic in nature. “I have been dragged into this controversy unnecessarily,” she said. “My tweet on Gandhiji posted on May 17 was pure sarcasm and written with deep grief as clear from the weeping emoji in the tweet. It has been misinterpreted as an insult because some people didn’t understand the real meaning. I deleted that tweet once I realised that people are reading it wrong. I, however, have explained in great detail on Twitter that I post about Gandhiji very frequently and have never insulted the Mahatma. In fact, I am deeply saddened by the unfolding of events.”

An obfuscation

However, mainstream media has either ignored Choudhari’s clarification or only mentioned it briefly, choosing to keep the focus on her misinterpreted tweet and the reactions it generated.

ANI reported that Nationalist Congress Party leader Jitendra Awhad’s statement demanding action against Nidhi Chaudhary for her “derogatory” tweet, without carrying her clarification.

Several media outlets added to the outrage with headlines likeWoman IAS officer insults Gandhi, hails Godse, wants Bapu pictures removed from notes.” Others carried her clarification several paragraphs into their reports, with misleading titles that had phrases like “anti-Gandhi” and “derogatory”.

The misleading reportage was also picked up politicians like Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia and Congress Member of Legislative Assembly Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Manish Sisodia of AAP and Randeep Singh Surjewala of the Congress criticised Choudhari's tweet.

The incident highlights the perils of social media, where statements can often be taken out of context. Nidhi Choudhari’s tweet was taken at face value as there was no way for a reader to comprehend that it was meant to be sarcastic without going through her timeline to understand her actual views on Gandhi. Unfortunately, the outrage continued even after her clarification, with the media doing little to clear her doubts.

This article first appeared on AltNews.