BJP stumbles in move to drum up support for contentious CAA on Twitter

Large-scale protests have erupted across the country after both Houses of Parliament passed the controversial Citizen Amendment Bill in December 2019, paving the way for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019. Under CAA, for the first time religion has been used as a criterion for Indian citizenship. The Act will give Indian citizenship to minorities who faced religious persecution in neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan if they migrated to India on or before December 31, 2014. These include Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians; however, Muslims and Sri Lankan Tamils have been left out of CAA’s purview. CAA has come under severe criticism from all quarters – both in India and globally – on attempts to divide the country along religious lines.

Social media platforms have been abuzz with heated exchanges opposing and supporting the BJP Government’s decision to push ahead with CAA. In a move to drum up support for CAA, BJP’s IT Cell has leveraged social media platform Twitter and their Namo app, which has 10 million downloads on Google Play.

Under the Volunteer section of the Namo app, the BJP has crafted a series of ready-made Tweets clarifying, simplifying and busting various ‘misconceptions’ about CAA. One Tweet insisted, “The CAA does not violate any provisions of Article 371. It aims to preserve the linguistic, social, and cultural identity of the Northeast.” The app also features the contentious video by Jaggi Vasudev, popularly known as Sadhguru by his followers, where he talks about CAA.

However, the carefully engineered campaign went awry as instead of using the correct hashtag #IndiaSupportsCAA, the hashtag #IndiaSupportsCCA was copypasted on the social media handles of BJP spokespersons.

Before the error could be caught and rectified, the aggressively promoted campaign went viral on social media, reaching #1 on Trending list, with more than 27K Tweets under the wrong hashtag.

Even BJP ministers were caught using the wrong hashtag in their Tweets in support of the Act.

This error has completely derailed the entire conversation around the contentious Act and several memes have been posted on the social platform lampooning the mistake made by the political party.

The campaign has since been redeployed using the correct hashtag and has accrued 13K Tweets on Twitter.

Starting with Assam and rest of the Northeast, protests against CAA spread like wildfire across the country. The protests assumed a violent form, especially in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, before some semblance returned. Several lost their lives in police firing. Internet services were blocked at several places, including 10 districts of Assam for 9 days. The protests in Assam and the Northeast have been due to the heavy influx of Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants apprehended with the Act coming under force, as well as giving citizenship to an already heavy presence of Hindu Bangladeshis present in the region, even as earlier illegal Bangladeshi migrants are yet to be deported. Already, the demographic balance in large areas of Assam has become skewed towards illegal migrants.

A mere hashtag and social media drive by the ruling party cannot hide the ground realities anymore.


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