No flood can wash politics off Kerala, not even the great floods of 2018. Floodwaters are yet to recede from certain areas of the state but social media is awash with trolls and memes by partisans targeting rival political groups. The trend, to say the least, is disgusting.
The two prominent groups engaged in the cyber war are the BJP-RSS and the CPM.
Ironically, the epicentre of the troll war this time is oceans away — the UAE. The ambiguity surrounding a financial aid/goodwill gesture of $100 million (approximately Rs 700 crore) from the UAE to the flood-ravaged Kerala set troll machines in motion, triggering an all-out Twitter/Facebook war.
The news of the extraordinary aid was announced by none other than Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a press meet. Jubilation followed with Malayalis all over the world showering praises on the rulers of the Gulf federation.
Then came the shock, official sources first said India may not accept the aid citing policy issues, and now the UAE has said they haven't even made any official announcement. All of a sudden, an announcement made by the CM of a state turned a piece of alleged 'fake news', triggering wry smiles and laughter waves among the cyber warriors of the Sangh Parivar.
The Sangh couldn't hold back their happiness over an opportunity to mock at the CM and his party, unfortunately at the cost of people who are struggling to come to terms with the havoc wreaked by the floods.
Reason for the Sangh trolls' happiness lies in the fact that prime minister Narendra Modi and the BJP-led government at the Centre were targeted harshly by those who hailed the UAE's reported move to donate the huge amount to Kerala. These trollers as well slammed the Centre's reluctance to accept the offer.
Social media posts targeting the Centre were justified simply because the UAE's 'promised' aid of Rs 700 crore was bigger than what was announced by the Union government as an immediate assistance to the state (Rs 600 crore).
The anger against the Centre for citing policy issues and rejecting the amount despite the same policy allowing receipt of goodwill aid was also justified because Kerala is and will be in need of each rupee on offer. Such is the gravity of the flood-inflicted damage.
The posts, tweets and memes from both ends were politically motivated, no doubt. However, it would be unfair to equate those from one side to the other. While one set stemmed from a sense of gratitude (the thanksgiving messages) and frustration (those slamming the Centre), the other was result of shameless vengeance. And that's where the cyber supporters of the BJP-RSS get it wrong about Kerala.
Some of the Sangh trolls sought to dig out the origin of the fake news, some wanted the CPM to repent by finding the amount from its accounts and some said the 'Bharat' was not being ruled by the Congress to beg to before other nations. And a common theme underlying the campaign was hatred, vengeance and sadism. Schadenfreude - to sum it up.
The vengeful cyber campaign was even validated by one of the veteran RSS ideologues in public during a TV debate. TG Mohandas, convener, intellectual cell of the BJP in Kerala, asked the TV anchor what was wrong if the Sangh celebrated a lie against them being exposed. There's something wrong since what they celebrate is not actually the busting of a fake news but the misfortunes of a people, which comprises even their supporters.
The issue at hand appears more than the fake news menace as it involves several layers of administration and diplomacy.
The crucial announcement was made by the chief minister while none other than the prime minister had acknowledged an offer of help from the UAE in a tweet.
So there was something of an offer, the details of which we don't know. Pinarayi has stood by his claim saying he made the announcement after confirming it with businessman Yusuffali who spoke to the UAE ruler.
The Sangh celebrations take place amid all the ambiguity. The truth of the UAE aid is yet to come out. But the truth about humanity is that even if the state is not going to get the amount, no person is supposed to make fun of the misfortunes of the tiny piece of land and its devastated people who fought and survived the calamity together.
The Sangh handles are also busy sharing photos of their volunteers engaged in rescue and relief efforts. (Let it be clear that those targeting the volunteers of the Seva Bharati for political reasons are also not on the right side of morality at this moment of crisis).
Those sharing the photos of the exemplary work of the volunteers and the trolls making fun of the UAE aid should see the contradiction on their own - it is visible for those who believe in compassion and unity.
Your laughter is being watched by people in distress. They will reply at the right time.