The recent book I am a Troll: Inside the secret world of the BJP’s Digital Army was instrumental in exposing a trend in India which had been going on for the past few years – that of the BJP (and its co-ideologists like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – RSS) employing thousands of young men and women to spread propaganda including fake news, and also to harass those who argue against its ideologies and politicians. To understand how effective this venture has been, sample this testimony by a foreign journalist (Amy Kazmin):
“Two years ago I wrote an article about Indian immigration authorities barring a local Greenpeace activist from flying to London, where she was booked to talk about coal mining in India. Coming less than a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election, it seemed a noteworthy event: India had sometimes banned foreign activists from entering India but had rarely, if ever, prevented its citizens from going abroad. I tweeted the link to the story, then, ill-advisedly, added a provocative hashtag, #acchedin. Next morning, I found 150 tweets to, or about, me. Most called for my deportation or worse; it was obscenity-laden verbal violence from strangers that made me queasy.”
The impact this epidemic of epic-scale propaganda and fake news has on us common citizens is that we most often are not aware of the actual state of affairs, being so bombarded with politically motivated tweets and FB posts and news (much of the mainstream media also now enthusiastically participating in the propaganda). The good news is that some people have decided to do something about this, for the country and for its citizens. The purpose of this post is to have a one-stop reference list of such people – Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as websites.
A note on that oft-mentioned concept of ‘bias’: When presented with news or opinions or evidence which does not project our favorite politicians or parties or ideologies in good light, we often reject it outright and claim that to be ‘biased’ (forgetting that we ourselves could also be equally biased). Hence I urge readers not to think that I am mentioning the following sources for ‘unbiased’ accounts. These are to be better used for accounts and versions and analyses of happenings in India which are different from the dominant narratives including govt propaganda. That way, once the reader has multiple perspectives on an issue – something that is prevented by the fake news/claims epidemic that has gripped India of late – they can form their own informed opinions. There is no insistence on accepting the perspectives these sources present, but there is a request to read and understand them and then decide for oneself.
Pratik Sinha: I personally admire this person for the fearless way in which he works to empower citizens and expose the workings of politicians, their supporters and the government machinery. Sinha is a seasoned activist and I urge people to follow him on social media.
Sinha’s Facebook, Sinha’s Twitter
AltNews: This is an initiative co-founded by Pratik Sinha which, among other things, provides systematic evidence against the major propaganda and fake news websites being trusted currently by millions of Indians.
Here’s one of their stories against a website spreading false ‘knowledge’ about Hinduism, and here’s one in which they expose a false claim by the government.
Social media hoax slayer: SMHoaxSlayer
News and analysis websites: The Wire, Scroll, Hindustan Times, and Outlook (read esp the Outlook story on ‘Beti Uthao’: “how the Sangh Parivar flouted every Indian and international law on child rights to traffic 31 young tribal girls from Assam to Punjab and Gujarat to ‘Hinduise’ them”)
Shriranjan Awate (esp for Marathi speakers)
Devdutt Pattanaik: For a tolerant, inclusive and non-violent version of Hinduism as against the fake, violent and Abrahamic version propagated and believed in by the RSS, which unfortunately is infiltrating India’s educational and cultural institutions today, along with mainstream politics.
Devdutt’s website, FB, and Twitter.
Ramachandra Guha: For a more authentic version of India’s fascinating history, as against the monolithic and hyper-nationalist one propagated by.. well, way too many people and ideologies all over the nation.
Guha’s website, Guha’s Twitter.
P. Sainath and PARI: Sainath has been an exceptional journalist for decades now, and his reporting on rural India is always impeccable. PARI, or People’s Archive of Rural India, is an initiative he founded, and in their stories we get a better sense of the lives of rural Indians and of the effects of government policies on them. This esp helps us in knowing the ‘other’ side of our fellow rural citizens.
PARI website, FB, Twitter
My Quora answers: I contribute my bit by writing about history, politics and Hinduism on my Quora.
More websites to follow:
More Twitter accounts to follow: