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A Barkha Dutt, Maneka Gandhi debate on online trolling cancelled due to trolls!

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 3 May 2017, 18:21 IST

The Embassy of Sweden in New Delhi was to host a programme titled, ‘Women’s Participation in the Online Public Space’ on 8 May.

On Sunday, 30 April, it was abruptly cancelled, allegedly because of some social media trolls. The keynote address was to be given by the Union Minister for Women & Child Development Maneka Gandhi.

The panel discussion, moderated by journalist Barkha Dutt, was to feature Swati Chaturvedi, author of I Am A Troll, Dr Anjana Kovacs of Internet Democracy Project, Anju Pandey, UN Women, among others. The hashtag carried on the event circular was #LetsTalkAboutTrolls.

Like that wasn't ironic enough, the program was to be held days after World Press Freedom Day.

Some right-wing Twitter handles were furious with the Swedish Embassy for inviting Dutt and Chaturvedi, both of whom have called out trolls multiple times in their columns and books.

Conflict of schedules

"Due to unforeseen circumstances, the conference has been called off," the embassy informed Catch. However, in a comment to Asian Age, the embassy has raised the possibility of an event on similar lines sometime in the future.

Another explanation being circulated on social media is that it was cancelled due to "conflict of schedules of the panellists".

However, going by the tweets and by their own admission, it becomes rather evident that trolls were circulating the embassy's number, calling and harassing them.

These trolls went beyond just calling the embassy. They compiled lists of Swedish products that they would boycott if the embassy didn't comply with their protests to cancel the event.

Mumbai-based Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) volunteer Suresh Nakhua even put out a sarcastic tweet to highlight this.

Angry trolls

The so-called trolls were angry for two main reasons.

First, one of the guests invited, Chaturvedi is known to be a writer who targets BJP leaders and supporters through her writing. The presence of Gandhi along with Chaturvedi raised alarm bells. Even Dutt, allegedly an anti-BJP journalist being seen with Gandhi was another reason for Modi supporters to get angry.

Second, the event was seen as giving legitimacy to the labelling of anyone who disagrees with criticism as a 'troll' and linking that to press freedom.

Twitter, of course, was livid. Their anger clearly showing. Even #SackMenaka trended over the weekend.

Dutt, on her part, kept relatively quiet on this issue. In fact, so did Gandhi.


One of the chief trolls - followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter - was architect Shilpi Tewari. Another was BJP leader Nupur Sharma.

First published: 3 May 2017, 17:42 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.