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Book claims Bharatiya Janata Party trolled Congress, journalists on social media

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The volunteer says Narendra Modi’s campaign posted criticism on social media about public figures who did not support him. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reutersv

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — A social media campaign against some of India’s most prominent public figures, politicians and journalists was spearheaded by the country’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a new book claims.

A former volunteer of the party alleges that the 2014 prime ministerial campaign of Narendra Modi used social media volunteers to push critical messages about public figures perceived to be opponents of the party.

Whether they were intended by the BJP or not, the book claims social media campaigns would often spill over into religious and sexual criticisms of the target, especially in the instance the target was a woman. This according to Sadhavi Khosla, the 37-year-old former party volunteer.

The “hit list” included political opponents, such as the Congress party vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, and screenshots provided by Khosla also show that the Bollywood star Aamir Khan, was among those singled out. Khosla said the party’s social media unit that directed her and hundreds of others is still in operation today.

The former head of the party’s social media unit, Arvind Gupta, told the Indian Express that Khosla’s claims were unsubstantiated and that she was a supporter of the opposition Congress party.

He said the BJP had published social media guidelines on its website and never “encouraged trolling.”

Khosla’s story is told in a new book by journalist Swati Chaturvedi, published in India on Tuesday, I Am a Troll, which investigates the ties between abusive social media accounts and the BJP. She claims, in the book, that starting late in 2013, and for nearly two years after, she was one of hundreds of BJP supporters receiving direct instructions on messages to push online from senior members of the party’s social media unit.

She received the orders through WhatsApp but also met senior members of the digital unit, she claims.

Khosla claims she grew uncomfortable when ordered to tweet criticisms of prominent Indian journalists, such as Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt, which sometimes featured “slanderous claims.”

“It was a never-ending drip-feed of hate and bigotry against the minorities, the Gandhi family, journalists on the hit list, liberals, anyone perceived as anti-Modi,” she said in the book.

The targets of the social media unit would end up being swarmed by critical messages that occasionally veered into criminal threats, Khosla said.

“I simply could not follow [the] directions anymore when I saw rape threats made against female journalists like Barkha Dutt,” she said. “Every day some new person was a target and they would attack like a swarm of bees with vile sexual innuendoes, slander, rape and death threats. It made me feel suffocated as a woman.”

Khosla left the unit after she was asked to spread a petition calling for SnapDeal, a shopping website, to cut its ties with the Bollywood actor Aamir Khan.

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Missing Hindu woman found mutilated in Pakistan

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) – The mutilated body of a Hindu woman was found in a field in southeastern Pakistan. Police say 40 year old Daya Bheel was murdered in the latest suspected attack against minorities in the Muslim-majority country. Authorities say they have arrested some suspects but have not determined a motive.

The Khosla family has donated nearly 2 million dollars to the Nudge Institute to help fight poverty. The philanthropists have donated millions of dollars for many other causes.

And disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-fried pleaded not guilty to eight different counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy before a U.S. federal court in the Southern District of New York. U.S. prosecutors allege that under Bankman-Fried’s direction, FTX, once considered one of the largest and most-trusted cryptocurrency exchanges, transferred billions in customer assets to his trading firm, Alameda Research. If convicted of these charges, Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Christmas crash kills Indian American toddler

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Tragic news out of Nevada. Authorities say an Indian American toddler has died in a devastating Christmas day car crash and his mother is in critical condition fighting for her life. Authorities say the accident happened on a busy Las Vegas boulevard and they were returning home from a trip in California.

Anil Beephan is now the first Indian American Republican ever to be elected to the New York State Assembly in Albany. So far only Indian American Democrats have been elected to the state legislature. Beephan will also become the first minority to represent Dutchess County and at 29 years old, he’s the youngest GOP rep in the state legislature. He’s currently in the tech industry and has also worked as a volunteer firefighter.

Vice President Kamala Harris has named Indian American Rajeev Badyal to a key national advisory group, responsible for strategy and recommendations to improve and maintain space policy. Badyal already works for Amazon, helping launch satellites into orbit. 

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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EXCLUSIVE: Warriors host first-ever Bhangra Night

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) – The Golden State Warriors first-ever Bhangra Night made its debut during the Warriors-Jazz game at the Chase Center in San Francisco. The Warriors say it’s a chance for the team to connect with the Bay Area’s rapidly growing South Asian community and fan base. Only Diya TV was on hand to capture the festivities. This change from the annual Bollywood night was supposed to take place in 2020 but was postponed because of the pandemic.

A federal jury in San Francisco has convicted Sivannarayana Barama of insider trading. Authorities say he used the quarterly financial performance of Palo Alto Networks before that information was released to the public and then traded in that company’s stock while that information was still confidential. Barama worked in IT for several Silicon Valley companies.

U.S. Border Patrol caught more than 4000 Indians illegally crossing the Mexico border in October and November. That’s more than double compared to the same time frame last year. An Indian man recently died climbing a border wall in Texas. The Biden administration is struggling to contain a surge of illegal immigration at the southern border.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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