OPINION: The Hullabaloo Against Raheel Khursheed’s Appointment As Twitter India’s News Head

Posted on January 10, 2014 in Society

By Mayank Jain:

Those who believe in nothing are very, very jealous and angry at those who believe in something.”-Dennis Prager

Nothing summarizes better, the recent hullabaloo which is created by the media and the online right wingers who seem to have taken the task of ensuring better talent acquisition upon themselves by condemning the appointment of Raheel Khurshid as Twitter India’s new chief of News, Politics, and Government.

Khursheed_Raheel

It is a sad realization that criticism in this country doesn’t need to be rational and everyone’s right to free speech can automatically turn into right to criticize/condemn. Right wing people have already termed him an ‘unfit candidate to carry out his duties in an unbiased and professional manner’.

I might be hugely mistaken but the last I checked, companies are supposed to hire people on the basis of their skills and abilities and not their public perception and political opinion. What people think of his comments is not Twitter’s business. It is laughable to assume that a petition like this which forms its basis on a Tweet that expresses a person’s personal opinion will succeed in getting him out of the job he deserves – but at the same time, is scary as well.

Twitter has been successful in becoming global by being a neutral as well as open-ended platform of communication. I am afraid that this appointment will hamper that image in India,” said Arvind Gupta, the head of the information technology cell at the BJP.

On one hand, Twitter signifies free speech and the right to express yourself but on the other, petitions like this and statements like the one above make me shudder at the thought of the future if BJP comes to power. The blame can’t be put on the whole party for this because it is just the maniac supporters who have come together to bash this person who has been equivocally critical of the national politics and other issues as well. Check out his Quartz commentary on Rahul Gandhi’s Jaipur speech.

I fail to understand how it affects the Twitter platform if, for a moment, we do assume that he does not like BJP and he is very much apprehensive about Modi and his politics. Modi is yet to become a prime minister, BJP is yet to win and Raheel has not been hired to ban BJP supporters from Tweeting their minds out. Then why this commotion? He has worked with organizations like CNN IBN at senior positions, and was previously the Communications Director at Change.org India, which has been having tremendous impact on issues all around us.

A report in the Kashmir Observer reads this about Khursheed’s background and job role at Twitter, “Khursheed has a postgraduate degree in mass communication from Pune. The former director of communications at change.org, a US-based online social pressure group, has five years of experience in online activism and heading awareness campaigns among netizens, the report said.

Khursheed, who assumed office on Monday, has spearheaded several campaigns, including the StopRape campaign, started after the Delhi rape case last year. He also led hundreds of petitions, raising issues of injustice. “He will manage, track and expand Twitter’s relationships with journalists, editors, government officials and politicians, and increase the active usage of the website significantly,” says a statement issued from Singapore this week.

Khursheed, the first Indian to assume such a position, has also been assigned to “develop best practices and new story formats, and drive adoption by news, government, political users and share those with the global team”.”

The Change.org petition against his appointment has already received 3500+ signatures (at the time of publishing) and it speaks volumes about the kind of society that we inhabit. This society is intolerant of something conflicting with the perceived ‘right’ beliefs and eager to play down someone’s victory at the first opportunity they get. Did I expect it to happen? No. Could we stoop any lower? We might.

Life is difficult for political parties and their supporters as the whole business is of mud-slinging but expecting a person to be completely non-aligned and diplomatically dodging any act of support/criticism on his own personal Twitter handle is as hypocritical as it can get.

Can we all pause for a moment, reflect on the issue and observe where we are heading with this? Is this what we are going to see after general elections? Is this a mark of developing society where voices are being suppressed? Don’t take someone else’s job in your own hands and most importantly, stop feeding the trolls.

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