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India-Pakistan in the Time of Hashtags

Discussion in 'Central & South Asia' started by Zarvan, Dec 22, 2014.

  1. Zarvan

    Zarvan ELITE MEMBER

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    Rishi Majumder



    • (Rishi Majumder is an associate partner at the new media company Oijo)

      There's a chance that #PakWithIndiaNoToLakhviBail was the first time Pakistan saw a 'pro-India' hashtag trend on Twitter.

      This was despite it being an overlong hashtag at a time when things looked like they were leading up to another standoff between the two nations.

      Here's an interactive chart that shows how it trended:



      And some key Pakistani Tweets that helped it trend:

      A prominent columnist.


      A writer.


      And a lawyer and spokesperson of a political party.


      But what really made it trend was another hashtag that Indians launched right after the heinous attack on the school in Peshawar. #IndiaWithPakistan was suggested by columnist, entrepreneur and Congress leaning "political trendwatcher" Tehseen Poonawalla.

      Here's the chart for that:



      Now, if words are open to interpretation, hashtags more so.

      Hence tweets such as these:



      A question, implicit in these and other tweets-and in off-Twitter conversations-was: Who do you mean by 'Pakistan' when you tweet #IndiaWithPakistan?

      Seriously? Does anyone seriously believe many right-minded Indians, had decided to stand unconditionally by the Government of Pakistan? Or it's highly questionable judiciary? Wasn't it self-evident that the #IndiaWithPakistan hashtag was not for Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi? That it was for similar right-minded Pakistanis who would denounce both, and object to terror within and outside their borders?

      In a world of 140 characters it's all the more necessary to view things through the prism of common sense, and some humanity. Is that too much to ask for after the slaughter of 148 people, mostly children?

      Does anyone really believe that Nawaz Sharif is reading Twitter hashtags before determining his terror policy? Was this one presented in the anti-terrorism court where Lakhvi's case was being heard? Who do the questioners think we hashtagged #IndiaWithPakistan for? The ISI?

      The outcry against the hashtag #IndiaWithPakistan diminished considerably after news arrived that Lakhvi would remain in custody.
      But let's pose an uncomfortable question: What if Lakhvi hadn't been retained in custody?

      Would we then have hashtagged #GoodTheyDied? #PakistanisWithIndiaCanGoToHell?

      Another tweet that caught my eye:



      Was #PakistanWithIndia after 26/11? It wasn't. Because Twitter wasn't big in either country back in 2008. But did you need that hashtag to tell you that a section of people in Pakistan would not have been delirious with joy at every gun shot being fired in Mumbai, but as shocked as you were? The Islamabad Marriott bombing had occurred just a couple of months before, remember? The country was imploding then, as it is now.

      Now, let's talk about the other hashtag.


      A "big hi5" is, indeed, due. It's been reassuring to have so many Pakistanis support our cause on Twitter, as we did theirs. It took a horrific tragedy and a successful social media platform to bring us to talk to one another directly and express support collectively in a way that got heard- the way we couldn't without such a platform.

      But, and this is another uncomfortable question, what if enough of the "like minded people across the border" were not on Twitter? Then #PakWithIndiaNoBailToLakhvi wouldn't have trended, right?

      Are we really using a trend on Twitter as conclusive evidence of what some people in another country are thinking? Without that trend would it have been impossible for you to believe that there are right-minded Pakistanis who don't support their Government's backing of Hafiz Saeed?

      A look at powerful editorials such as this one will tell you how there are Pakistanis who disapprove of many of their Government's actions.

      Do we always support our government's actions?

      A Minister of State tweeted after the Peshawar tragedy (he deleted it soon after):

      @girirajsinghbjp: "Whatever is happening in Pakistan is called friendly fight."

      Do we support that?

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