Support builds up for Sushma, I&B Minister says ‘ignore trolls’

Support builds up for Sushma, I&B Minister says 'ignore trolls'
New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addresses on Day 3 of the 9th Heads of Mission Conference on 'Unprecedented Outreach:Unparalleled Outcomes", in New Delhi on July 2, 2018. (Photo: IANS/MEA)

New Delhi:  Union Minister Rajnath Singh’s bold decision to back his Cabinet colleague Sushma Swaraj, who was battling trolls alone with help from the opposition but none from own party, on Tuesday drew more support from NDA leaders.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, however, made clear that “ignoring the trolls” is better than a “draconian law” that restricts freedom of speech.

“The trolling going on against Sushma Swaraj is very unfortunate. She was not even in the country when this decision was taken and has nothing to do with it. Besides, there is nothing wrong in the decision,” Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari told reporters.

Swaraj was viciously trolled for pulling up a passport officer accused of harassing an inter-faith couple in Lucknow during application process.

“The way it is going on is very unfortunate. The country is not liking the way Sushma is being trolled. People should take the responsibility to not troll like this on social media,” said Gadkari a day after Home Minister Rajnath Singh condemned the abusive trolling against Swaraj.

Singh had on Monday said it is “absolutely wrong” to troll Swaraj. He became the first Minister in the Narendra Modi government to speak against the right-wing trolls who had launched a massive campaign against External Affairs Minister Swaraj in the past few days.

Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) President and Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, too, came forward in support. “I strongly condemn the shameful trolling campaign against Sushma Swaraj. She is a very senior parliamentarian and we must respect each other,” he tweeted.

However, I&B Minister Rathore had a piece of advice for Swaraj.

“Everyone needs to self-regulate themselves and also if somebody is mocking you, has a difference of opinion, I think one of the best ways is to ignore that person rather then come up with a draconian law which restricts freedom of speech,” Rathore said.

He said the law may restrict the miniscule number of people who are into trolling and mocking but it would affect a larger population who would like to use social media for their freedom of expression.

“As it grows, I think people will be more aware of what language to be used. If we bring down the position of any constitutional authority then we are weakening our constitutional institutions ourselves. We are not into restricting whatever freedom is there on social media,” he said.

On Saturday, Swaraj had initiated a Twitter poll asking her 11.8 million followers if they approve of such trolling. Some 124,305 Twitter users took part in the poll that was online for 24 hours. About 57 per cent respondents backed her but a shocking 43 per cent supported her trolls.

After the poll, Swaraj tweeted on Sunday: “In a democracy difference of opinion is but natural. Pls do criticise but not in foul language. Criticism in decent language is always more effective.” Her husband, in an emotional response to a troll, said it had caused “unbearable pain”.

The Congress was quick to respond to her statement, saying: “No matter what the situation or reason, nothing calls for threats of violence, disrespect and abuse. Sushma Swaraj ji, we applaud your decision to call out the heinous trolls of your own party.”