The KCL Indian Political Society (IndPolSoc) has stepped back from its websites and social media platforms following repeated instances of targeted social media harassment by suspected members of a nationalist volunteer organisation.
The society has archived all articles featured on their two websites, as well as numerous Instagram posts which bore the brunt of the harassment. While some comments left on the society’s posts were of a critical nature, others featured threatening or graphic language. Translated from Hindi, one excerpt reads: “Child of a motherf*cker, if you have the guts, reply to me […] You c*nts read the report, don’t f*ck your mother for no reason”. Another comment from the same individual reads: “Check your facts, prostitutes”.
Several accounts joining in on the harassment shared an artistic rendition of the Hindu deity Rama as their profile pictures on Instagram. The image is often accompanied by the slogan “Jai Shri Ram”, which has been used to symbolise the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Many such accounts also featured red flag emojis (symbolising the saffron flag, or Bhagwa Dhwaj) in their profile bios, further linking them to the movement – the temple, inaugurated August 5, 2020, flies a similar flag from its highest point.
The flag symbol and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement are both linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, or “National Volunteer Corps”). According to Britannica, the RSS “advocates a Hindu nationalistic agenda under the banner of ‘Hindutva’, or ‘Hindu-ness'”, and has on several occasions been banned by the Indian government, including in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid’s destruction in 1992, where the Ram temple stands today.
The mission statement on the RSS website states: “Strength, it should be remembered, comes only through organization. It is therefore the duty of every Hindu to do his best to consolidate the Hindu society […] The present fate of the country cannot be changed unless lakhs of young men dedicate their entire lifetime for that cause.” The RSS’s political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, or “Indian People’s Party”) is currently the dominant right-wing political party in India.
A member of the IndPolSoc committee, who wished to remain anonymous, told Roar that the society has gone dark out of an abundance of caution, given that many of its committee members have returned to India following the Covid-19 outbreak. They added: “The Indian Political Society was built to be a platform where people could speak freely without judgement, a place to speak about real issues without fear. As a society, the safety of our committee members is our top priority.
“At the moment, we don’t feel free. We are disappointed, concerned, and afraid.”
When asked why they believe they are being targeted, the committee member told Roar: “Our most recent post was on Article 370. The government decided to inaugurate the new Ram Mandir on the same day as the day the article was abolished one year ago, essentially to take away attention from Kashmir and bring it to the temple. So that could be a reason why the RSS was quick to attack the Kashmir post because both those things were happening on the same day, and they consider the temple to be their victory.” Article 370 granted special provisions to Jammu and Kashmir and restricted the Indian Parliament’s legislative powers in the region until it was repealed on August 5 2019.
The society has not yet announced when it will resume normal operations. In a final statement, the anonymous IndPolSoc committee member told Roar: “As a committee, we think it’s a shame that we’re getting threats for expressing ourselves when we should just have freedom of speech like stated in the constitution. We’re also shocked that the RSS would choose to attack a student society that isn’t even in an Indian university.”