Trigger alert: This article contains transcripts of discussions with Islamophobic comments, sexual violence against women
Having tested positive covid, a few days ago, I anticipated all this week and the next to rest. I take the necessary medications so there is nothing to worry about. Fortunately, I also acknowledge my privilege in this matter after hearing sad stories of covid-related deaths.
It was Monday night, I woke up from a deep sleep. Starting my work (online course) early in the morning, I really cherish mindful sleep. Hope you can understand this too. As usual, after this big nap, I happened to check my WhatsApp notifications.
I scrolled through my chats and saw a text from my ‘scrappy’ best friend, who is currently working on a masters in social sciences. His WhatsApp texts often consist of memes, but this time it unimaginably turned out to be ‘toxic’ videos he recorded during a clubhouse session that took place around 2pm -3 p.m. the same day.
He told me to listen to him and share my comments. I was amazed that this session at the clubhouse “muslim girls are more beautiful than hindu girls (girls opinion)” was way beyond the definition of toxicity, sexism and Islamophobia. Totally baffled. Disgusting and yet highly perilous.
Trigger warning ⚠️
Here in @Clubhousea young group of Hindus discuss with impunity: a) “hitting a Muslim girl’s vagina equals the destruction of 7 Babri mosques”, b) “we are fans of RSS, we will convert Muslim girls, & c ) muslim girls vagina is pinker than hindus
— Jaimine (@jaiminism) January 17, 2022
The comments during this session, especially from speakers who were only 18 years old, would beat even hatemonger Yati Narsinghanand’s records. I’m also at the clubhouse, but totally inactive there as the audio views won’t bring any real changes except for those seeking influence and popularity. Like Twitter Spaces, the clubhouse is another ultracrepid platform for those who welcome intellectual masturbation and gibberish discussions.
After listening to the videos ‘scrappy’ sent me, I logged into clubhouse to see the profile IDs of these speakers. Took screenshots of their profile IDs because they had no idea what storm awaited them. I tried to trace their session or club there, but unfortunately it wasn’t there anymore. Given my technical knowledge, I wasn’t too sure how the clubhouse actually works, so there’s that too.
I pleaded ‘scrappy’ to share these videos on social media, but for his own mental health reasons he was apprehensive. It’s also part of my sanity initiative on a social media space, so that I can humanly understand his personal situation. He shared these videos with his other friends on WhatsApp before I could even see them, but they just “reacted” and moved on. He suggested if I could possibly upload it to my social media space, instead.
I didn’t think much and just said “yes, it is high time to despise, condemn and break such levels of toxicity”. Although I have been doxed and bullied on Facebook, in the past by a few “rioting” ruling party activists, I dedicated myself to taking the incalculable risk and uploaded it to my Twitter. No matter what, but I cannot afford to remain silent because that would also be tantamount to supporting oppression.
Frankly, I expected the video feed to barely reach 50 RTs and 100 likes since I’m not an influential account on Twitter either. Luckily, the video unexpectedly surpassed 7,00,000 views and 2 million impressions according to the latest Twitter analytics. All of Monday night and Tuesday kept me busy with notifications, text messages, calls from reporters and police (from Delhi and Mumbai), inboxes and a few hateful comments generally from saffron wits.
If few good Twitteratis hadn’t been labeled DCW (Delhi Commission for Women), NCW (National Commission for Women) and many other constitutional bodies, I doubt the legal machinery would have taken suo-moto notice of this question.
The video thread on Twitter went viral, in no time. Well, it deserves it and even you can feel why. But, will this so-called virality really deter such a “toxic” next episode? Recently we have seen that 5 arrests have been totally realized in the case of the Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai app problem. Few more arrests should be in the works as I feel this case is an organized racket.
“Hate is the new love”
These platforms like Sulli deals and Bulli Bai were brazenly generated to doxx and transform images of over 100 Muslim girls, and they were auctioned off. And coincidentally, amid the ongoing virality of the clubhouse issue, a few hours ago, Ritesh Jha (the admin of the “secular doge” channel on YouTube) is back with the same volume of impunity. He is known for his anti-Muslim comments/videos on his own YouTube channel. Completely pejorative. Last year an FIR was filed against him but is the ecosystem really fair to act against such oppressors or even deter further hate speech against minorities?
After a few hours of this video thread, I made another video thread highlighting the misogynistic and anti-Sikh views of the same speakers.
Here, “Kira xD” brazenly declares “that the girls should be lying naked, their whole bodies impaled with the hot rod”. Another user – “Corona” also passes a sexist remark, when this misogynistic comment is made, & leaves the room. #RapeCulture #Clubhouse
1/4 https://t.co/0e9ki5iFz0 pic.twitter.com/Rk3WTwZMT3
— Jaimine (@jaiminism) January 19, 2022
It would be wrong and totally incoherent to say that these speakers are “lone wolves”, as many Hindutva toads sympathetically concluded after the arrest of criminals who run the Sulli Offerings and the Bulli Bai app. This ‘lone wolf’ theory is naturally debunked, after realizing how hate crimes against minorities have increased by 300% in the last 7 years.
In 2019, a report from a US civil society study found that 40% of social media content is filled with caste slurs and Islamophobic remarks. The correlation between the current political dispensation and hate speech can be easily tracked, having witnessed the ecosystem reaction against anti-CAA protests, etc.
In fact, it is the “privileged wolf” theory that allows young people between the ages of 15 and 18 to make hateful comments. A quick look at the quality of interactions from their saffronized parents, WhatsApp family groups and media spheres like Zee News, Sudarshan News, OpIndia, etc. can easily reveal how “hate” is systematically and sustainably manufactured, and therefore wolves are not. socially alone.
Sadly, “hate is a new love” now. Islamophobia or anti-dalit or anti-reservation views are no longer political in nature. They are collective, cultural, and yet very personal too.
Arrests have been made
In this ongoing clubhouse episode, after DCW issued a suo-moto acquaintance notice, Delhi police registered FIR against these speakers under IPC sections: 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on religious grounds ), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion) and 354A (sexual harassment).
For now, despite the deletion of these profiles/IDs on the clubhouse app, the police have targeted 4-5 participants with the help of the technical team and should interview the participants soon. They assured that they would attack more members who were present at this session.
Three were arrested for making abusive and cruel comments about women in the #ClubHouse app chat. #Bombay Cyber Police investigate after registering case on woman’s complaint: ANI quotes Mumbai Police. https://t.co/NbXXyY2ydb
— Arvind Chauhan (@Arv_Ind_Chauhan) January 21, 2022
I don’t know why these toxic, sexist, Islamophobic Clubhouse speakers have to deactivate their IDs after exposure. If they are brave enough to utter hate speech, they should be brave enough to stay active too. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Police (cyber cell) led by DCP Rashmi Karandekar, which is also investigating the Bulli Bai app case, has promised tough action against such speakers. His office has issued an opinion under CrPC 91 to the Clubhouse application and requested more information.
A recent report from The footprint revealed that one of the ‘Kira xD’ clubhouse speakers is 18 years old and he said he made “rape jokes” against Muslim girls during that clubhouse session “for fun, to vent frustration.” He also said in this recorded session that “girls should only have the privilege of walking naked down the street”. He adds, “They are to be lying naked in the street and their whole bodies impaled with a hot iron bar.”
His name, as I know him after hearing his sessions many times to the detriment of my own sanity, is Akash and he is from Karnal, India. It’s sickening to me every time I attend calls from journalists and police, I have no other choice either.
When I uploaded screenshots of these sessions and news articles/headlines that covered this issue to my Whatsapp statuses, I saw no more than 7 friends out of about 600 saved contacts (including business contacts ) text me and ask about my condition. I don’t expect it either, but is their deafening silence a prelude to their subtle sectarianism against Muslims? Or do people in my social circles, including Sanghi’s family members and loved ones, lack basic empathy to come out and condemn this whole episode?
One of my cousins texted me saying: “I shouldn’t do such ‘social service’ because it can cost my career” but do the people around me really understand that human life has become cheaper in India, or are we really pretending to be alive on the outside while dutifully dead on the inside?
This story continues to develop as arrests will indeed be made.
This story won’t be the last either, as India has already lit up the gates of dystopia. Hate speech has become free speech now because apples are oranges in this country. Although free speech comes with its own inherent reasonable restrictions, do we care to tax stupidity?