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4

The last few days have seen alarming reports about culling of street animals in Kerala. "Apolitical" groups have launched a #BoycottKerala campaign. However, not everything seems to be as it appears.

Street dog attacks on children

The whole thing apparently started with increasing attacks on children (real or perceived) when 2 children 3-4 year old where brutally attacked and their faces disfigured by violent dogs and later a small girl was killed by stray dogs. In 2014-15 over a lakh dog bites were reported (this sounds pretty serious or exaggerated - merits concern in any case).  An all party meeting chaired by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to address this issue included four cabinet ministers, top officials from the animal husbandry department, district administrators and heads of local bodies.

In this meeting, it was agreed that the government was within its rights to cull rabid or violent dogs if other measures failed. Immediate actions to start an Animal Birth Control programme were announced. An update on the Chief Minister's official site confirms this as well. Misinterpreting this as an order to Kill all dogs in streets AWBI started initiating protest actions against state of Kerala. Or perhaps it was a deliberate misrepresentation inspired by China's mass culling that saw tens of thousands of animals butchered brutally.

Happy to target the Kerala government, the BJP IT CELL waded into the mess with its usual throng of wholesale trolls and the #BoycottKerala campaign reached new lows, including their signature technique of creating "proofs" to convince people of their accusations by presenting images taken randomly off the internet as the crimes they oppose.

Fake propaganda images used against kerala government
Fake propaganda images used against kerala government

 

Basic common sense makes it evident that it does not make sense to spend time and money on a large scale sterilization programme, if the government intends to kill the strays - which would be done in far less time. Clearly, it doesn't.

A post by Roshan Thomas on Facebook, provides an overall explanation as follows:

The organisers of hate campaign against Kerala are adamant about the protests they have planned in various cities across the globe. Here are a few interesting facts bout the organisers and the information they propagate:

  1. They claim that the boycott kerala campaign is against Kerala Govt's decision for mass culling of stray dogs following the all party meeting.While the truth is that Kerala Government hasn't agreed for mass culling of stray dogs. The decision is to go for Animal Birth Control (ABC) measures.
  2. Kamna Pandey, who is one of the organisers of the hate Kerala campaign is also a member of Animal Welfare Board of India. The pictures which Kamna uploaded in facebook as a part of the campaign initiated the fury and the call for boycott kerala.From a simple Google Image Search, it is evident that most of those images aren't from Kerala. Some are even from Nigeria & the United States. That raises the ethical question: Are members of a governmental organisation allowed to spread hatred by propagating lies intentionally?
  3. Some of the organisers of the event, proudly displays 'BJP Social Media Cell' tag on their facebook profile. The racial hatred spilled by the set of people were enormous. Soon after I published a status update on the same a couple of my friends informed me that they have brought the same to the attention of Kerala BJP leadership.The silence of BJP Kerala faction is highly condemnable and raises so many questions on their allegiance. Who are you with? The North Indian tourism lobby which spills hatred or the people of Kerala? ( It is to be noted that pages approved by BJP social media cell are hyper active today in defending Union Agriculture Minister's statement but doesn't seem to have any idea about the racial hatred induced by their North Indian counterparts.)
  4. The event pages and people behind the hate campaign are consistently endorsing Goan & Srilankan tourism. That alone gives a clear idea on the intentions.

In other words, it is yet another invented outrage. Move on.

With inputs from Sharath Sathisan

2

A surprising villain has come up in the Sunanda Pushkar saga. Apparently it is Twitter that killed her. "Murder by Twitter" "Live by Twitter, don't die by it" it seems. That would make sense if the accusation was that Mehr Tarar used Twitter to add insult to injury, but apparently it was Sunanda Tharoor's use of Twitter that was villain in her own murder.

In other words, a variation of the age old "she brought it on herself" by journalists who would normally object to the use of this reasoning while objecting to it is in vogue. But is it Twitter that failed Sunanda? These are some of the things Sunanda Tharoor seems to have said in the days before her death.

Messages of the sort allegedly sent by Mehr Tarar to Shashi Tharoor:

@mehrtarar I love you, Shashi Tharoor. And I go while in love with you, irrevocably, irreversibly, hamesha. Bleeding, but always your Mehr,

Shashi. I'm not crying any more. I'm not falling to pieces. I'm more lucid than ever. How little I knew you became visible to me.@mehrtarar

You unfollowed me. You don't RT me and you don't answer me on twitter. I can live with your favourites. I have your personal validation have your personal validation of my words, I don't need any public one. For that I will wait until we are together publically really mehr

These are not exactly messages of an interviewer or even a friend. Sunanda Pushkar seemed convinced that Mehr Tarar was chasing Shashi Tharoor while she was suffering ill health and Shashi Tharoor was tempted (if not already having a "rip roaring affair"). The interview with Indian Express is explosive. A quote:

“I completely stand by my tweets, I 100 per cent stand by that,” Sunanda Tharoor later told The Indian Express. “That woman pursued and pursued him…men are stupid anyways…for all you know she is a Pakistani agent. Where’s love, where’s loyalty in this world…I am so distraught.” Sunanda Tharoor said she felt “destroyed as a wife and a woman” over her husband’s “rip-roaring affair” with the Pakistani journalist which she claimed had been going on since April last year. Sunanda Tharoor also claimed there have been a series of Blackberry Messenger exchanges between her husband and the Pakistani journalist in which, among other things, the possibilities of his divorce with her have also been discussed.

It may be possible that there was no affair between Mehr Tarar and Shashi Tharoor. Mehr Tarar claims that she met Shashi Tharoor twice, once in April for the interview and once in June in Dubai and they stayed in touch. It is also true that many people use affectionate language more easily than others, but "I go while in love with you, irrevocably, irreversibly, hamesha. Bleeding, but always your Mehr" is stretching that one.

Mehr Tarar claimed that Sunanda Tharoor had put her life in danger and threatened a defamation suit. Media reports she denied having an affair with Shashi Tharoor, though there are no direct quotes. On the other hand, she has not denied that the messages posted as sent by her are false. Media apparently did not think it interesting to ask her if she denies sending these messages. Nor did the endangered Mehr Tarar see the need to end the danger by claiming that she had sent no such messages to an Indian minister.

There is no question of why someone would send messages like that to a public figure and risk her life if they were to be found, and further goad an already suspicious wife and increase the risk that they could be made public.

Media, has gone in damage control mode with an "intimate" email from Mehr Tarar to Shashi Tharoor in June "leaked" (we saw a lot of very convenient leaky emails in the Tarun Tejpal rape episode too) where she is "understanding" about the difficulties he faces with his wife and talks about how suspicion will see wrong in relationships between man and woman.

 

Mehr Tarar's sly tweet about Sunanda Tharoor seems far from the limited relationship with Shashi Tharoor that she claims
Mehr Tarar's sly tweet about Sunanda Tharoor and discussion with prominent Congress handle about what is obviously a sneer at a Congress politician's wife seems far from the limited relationship with Shashi Tharoor that she claims

This does not explain the BBM messages, nor is this understanding in evidence in her interactions with her "friend's wife" who "misunderstands" her relationship with him - given the content of the messages, there seems little room to misunderstand. This sly tweet doesn't seem to be speaking like someone who understands that the subject is "loved" by her "friend" who is "happy" with her.

Nor does this response to Sunanda Tharoor's tweets sound like she has the least interested in her supposed friend's marriage not suffering from a misunderstanding over her, regardless of her halo in media.

The blonde's aqal is weaker thn her grammar & spellings.From an 'affair' it has become 'stalking'..make up yr mind, darlin'.Which one is it?

Neither sound like a professional journalist covering politics speaking of a interview subject and foreign politician's wife. They are bitchy and they are personal. Media does not seem to have seen fit to question this either, though there is an abundance of damage control quotes.

Again, Mehr Tarar may merely be a groupie with serious immaturity issues, but that is most certainly not Sunanda Tharoor's hallucination and no one bothered to ask Mehr Tarar any uncomfortable questions. It is almost as if media expected she would give a sound byte saying "Yes, I am in love with Shashi Tharoor" or "Yes, I am an ISI agent" if it were true. And it is a private matter otherwise. I mean why get in the way of Aman ki Asha?

There seem to be several journalists who think it is social media that did Sunanda Tharoor in, even though the problem broke on Twitter, but happened in private messages and emails. No clear logic is provided and to me, the only explanation seems to be that the problem was the scandal, and not what Sunanda Tharoor went through. Media at its khap panchayat best. That halo is sure easy to adjust depending on who the subject of the "hot news" is.

I don't doubt that social media can do people in. God knows there are enough episodes of internet bullying that lead to suicides. But is that correct in this case, or is it media's guilt over being on the wrong side of Sunanda Tharoor, till Sunanda Pushkar committed suicide and all of a sudden they know her by the maiden name she used before marrying Tharoor and are raiding Mehr Tarar's Facebook photos (I presume - she gave permission at added grave risk to herself) to publish "who is this woman" type articles?

Sunanda Tharoor was viewed as a tamasha when she was making revelations that devastated her. She was sent off to page 3 and her accusations reduced to a "catfight" as Twitter calls it. Headlines spoke about how Sunanda Pushkar created a problem or embarrassment rather than made grave allegations about Member of Parliament.

Shashi Tharoor, Sunanda Pushkar row: I have been put in jeopardy, says Mehr Tarar

or

Shashi Tharoor caught in tweet war between Sunanda Pushkar, Pak woman journalist Mehr Tarar

for example. Who except Sunanda Pushkar has had to defend their actions?

 

Apparently, media did not think it relevant to India if an Indian Parliamentarian was sending and receiving intimate messages from a foreigner to the point of discussing divorcing his wife. Not to mention Sunanda Tharoor's accusations of Mehr Tarar being an ISI agent - whether true or false. Shashi Tharoor was not asked for confirmation or denial of those messages, nor was Mehr Tarar.

Mehr Tarar and Shashi Tharoor may have refused to speak to media on some subjects, but Sunanda Pushkar most certainly was speaking. Her allegations about the IPL dropped like a rock in pond. Media simply didn't hear them, it seems. No further questioning. Best cover that up.

 

So media's message was clear. This is nothing, just some entertainment getting TRPs because it targets a celebrity politician.

In contrast, media has gone to great lengths to shield Shashi Tharoor. His supposed statement on his Facebook account, claiming to be from both Sunanda and him has gone unquestioned as his last word on the subject - both before and after his wife's death.

There are no questions raised about the body being cremated before the nature of her injuries was disclosed.

And of course, Rahul Bhatia's blunt observation 

Shortly after the Economic Times piece, the news channel NDTV got Pushkar on the phone for an interview. They didn’t ask her about the “crimes of this man.” At one point during the live phone conversation, when Pushkar said she regretted choosing silence during the cricket controversy, the interviewer changed the subject, “Ma’am, you do realize you’re live on NDTV? Also, aren’t you worried the BJP [the party in opposition] will take up this issue?” The channel’s concern for the minister’s career, not the details of Pushkar’s revelation, was dismaying.

So you have this woman speaking of betrayal and heart break and making accusations which most certainly have national implications, and she is the only one to get asked tough questions. Which obviously means a media silencing or disbelief - if media believed that the accusation was serious, they would give more of a damn about the implications of it being true, right? Her cry of distress was effectively rendered toothless by a spineless media, leaving her to the fallout and her husband to impunity. What other escalation remained to her after such a humiliation?

So which media "outlet" has a quote or denial on record whether the messages Sunanda Tharoor leaked were true or malicious inventions by her?

Even after she died in their aftermath? So you tell me, did TWITTER kill Sunanda Tharoor?

2

Shashi Tharoor returned from the AICC meet to his hotel suite he shared with his wife Sunanda Tharoor at around 8:30pm and found her dead. Her body seemed undisturbed and was lying in bed, according to Shashi Tharoor's PS, Abhinav Kumar, who called the police.

Separately, DNA reported that Sunanda Pushkar (her surname before marrying Shashi Tharoor) may have committed suicide by hanging herself.

The contradictory reports seem to be in line with an ongoing conflict between Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar/Tharoor, where both seemed to be claiming things directly contradicting each other, without confronting each other either.

Their marriage was said to be in trouble, and Sunanda Tharoor had made several disturbing tweets from Shashi Tharoor's Twitter account that seemed to be BBM messages between a Pakistani journalist and Shashi Tharoor. Their response to this whole episode was also very strange. While Shashi Tharoor's Facebook account was putting out messages that the account had been hacked and that he and his wife were happy, Sunanda Tharoor seemed to be taking responsibility for the tweets and angry over the alleged relationship.

shashi sunanda tharoor joint statement
Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Tharoor's joint statement about Mehr Tarar controversy

The Pakistani journalist in question, Meher Tarar, in the meanwhile denied any relationship with Shashi Tharoor and made several taunts regarding Sunanda Tharoor's allegations, implying that they were outrageous. Here are the key tweets as reported in India Today:

tweets by late sunanda tharoor, shashi tharoor and meher tarar
Key tweets from the controversy involving Sunanda Tharoor, Shashi Tharoor and Meher Tarar

Sunanda Tharoor seems to have gone back and forth regarding Shashi Tharoor's involvement. At times speaking of his treatment of her in spite of her taking on his guilt, or speaking of him being a "man" and thus interested or prey to a predatory Meher Tarar. At other times she speaks of being happy with Shashi Tharoor.

She has made allegations of stalking against Meher Tarar. At other times she has accused her of being an ISI agent hacking into Shashi Tharoor's computer and making many calls.

Meher Tarar on her part seems outraged by the accusations and now saddened by news of her death.

At the same time there seems to be a history between the two women. For example, this tweet made well before Sunanda Tharoor's accusations.

Mehr Tarar's sly tweet about Sunanda Tharoor seems far from the limited relationship with Shashi Tharoor that she claims
Mehr Tarar's sly tweet about Sunanda Tharoor seems far from the limited relationship with Shashi Tharoor that she claims

But the oddness had always seemed a bit apparent to me. Right from the beginning, when Sunanda Tharoor got groped in a mob by a Congress worker and did not file a complaint. That seemed really odd and disempowered for the wife of a senior leader mistreated within the organization.

In recent days, her Twitter conversations at least were more with right wing and AAP related handles than Congress ones, which is what one would expect, considering that she was the wife of a senior leader and Member of Parliament. She also seems to be very candid with all. The laguage of the type of suspecting ISI agents or "we Hindus" and such is also very outside what one sees with the Congress. There is no sense of .... inclusion (?) with his world.

For example, in Mehr Tarar' tweet, which seems to be talking of Sunanda Tharoor, the person she offers to DM the name to is a popular Congress handle. So you have a Pakistani handle gossiping with a Congress worker about the wife of a senior Congress politician. Hardly an uninvolved and professional relationship that she appears to be claiming. For that matter, Mehr Tarar on the whole seems to connect far more with Congress handles than her. This may not be deliberate, but it could add to someone already feeling excluded?

Her body has gone for a post mortem, and we will probably know more soon, but combined with the many mentions of her health problems and needing rest and so on, along with the overall lack of caution in her public tweets, reminds me oddly of my mother when her schizophrenia was at its worst, with the ever changing suspicions against specific people and the suffering she went through because of them. This is not to say this is the case with Sunanda Tharoor, just that her vulnerability and helplessness to deal with a perceived dire threat beyond raging at it and getting little result touched a chord in me with what I saw my mother go through.

There is a vague guilt in me that I commented on her tweets, but did not reach out to her, in spite of recognizing that she needed help before she died.

And a part of me wonders if I ignored her because she was a public figure, assuming that she had resources. Obviously, I could not do much, but hasn't experience taught me that what we most need is a compassionate ear? Strange how I have no hesitation reaching out to so many women, but I didn't, in her case, even when I had seen the need. Or perhaps it is survivor's guilt. "What if"

Of course, it is possible that Shashi Tharoor was really having an affair. Mixed and contradictory reports indicate that she was very angry and seeking a divorce, others say that she did not seem depressed and denied that Shashi Tharoor was having an affair, though she accused Mehr consistently, if about varied things. Then there are the tweets where she said that Shashi Tharoor and she were happy together.

Clearly investigations will happen about her accusations, as well as the cause of her death and we will know more soon.

Of course, the alternative theory is believing her ISI related accusations about Mehr Tarar, as Madhu Kishwar has gone ahead and done by declaring Sunanda Tharoor "eliminated" already. Several others on this track believe she was eliminated because of the accusations, which is rather strange considering that they would now be rigorously examined instead of merely being gossip fodder. Another person found it strange that she didn't tweet if she was taking such a drastic step. So you get the idea. There are all kinds of opinions and little information out there.

Men's Rights Activists have started demanding a dowry case against Shashi Tharoor because they were married less than 7 years, quite forgetting that it isn't a criminal case that is mandatory, but a post mortem. Delhi police have asked a magistrate to conduct an inquiry into her death, since they were married for less than seven years.

Every vulture is going to pick at this one for their own ends. I feel sorry for Shashi Tharoor already.

Or the truth may be something else altogether.

Obviously, this story is going to explode in the days to come.