Threatened with Genocide After Post Critical of Modi: Riaz Ahmed

Riaz Ahmed, a businessman based in Hyderabad, on 3 November had published a satirical thread on Twitter consisting of a series of GIFs and videos featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A day later, he decided to deactivate his account altogether after an incessant barrage of hateful comments and abuse from trolls targeted him primarily on communal lines, and included death threats to him and his family.

The thread, according to Ahmed, was intended to satirise Modi’s camera-conscious conduct in public.

"“Many of us need to learn the difference between criticism and offence, there’s a broad line between both.”" - Riaz Ahmed

The thread got wide traction on Twitter and at the time of deactivation, Ahmed said itd had over 5,000 retweets. The thread has, since 4 November, been hosted and shared by others.

The ten GIFs were primarily a compilation of instances where PM Modi is seen to be unhappy with people blocking the cameras from getting a clear shot of him. They also showed instances where Modi is allegedly seen to be ignoring senior leaders and officials.

While Ahmed acknowledges that he did receive many positive comments, the abusive ones targeted him as a Muslim, some going to the extent of calling for mass killings. Ahmed said that most trolls displayed a similar pattern – accounts created in 2018, very few followers, a timeline filled with anti-Islam and anti-Congress posts.

The Quint spoke with Ahmed about his post and the severe trolling it spawned.

What prompted you to make the GIF thread on Twitter?

I saw PM Modi’s video with Gujarat Governor Om Prakash Kohli, where he just left him alone after photo-op during the inauguration of the Sardar Patel statue. I found this behaviour to be really rude. Despite knowing well that Mr Kohli is divyang, he walked away hastily. This really disappointed me and I recalled all his previous behaviours caught on camera and decided to create a thread in a satirical way.

What are the things you wanted to convey through the thread?

I just wanted to show that besides his humble appearance, there’s another side of him, an egocentric one, which shouldn’t be ignored.

What kind of response did it generate?

Several people agreed that he indeed has another side which is egocentric. They seemed to have felt so from the beginning but it was probably the first time they saw this kind of compilation of such instances.

What were the main focus points of the hate comments and abuse?

Some people were justifying it as normal behaviour, and for me, that’s fine if they believe so. However, some trolls went ahead with abuses and name-calling. They were using derogatory words and many wrote that I hate PM Modi because I am Muslim which is totally wrong. I don’t have any hate for PM Modi, neither am I a fan of any political leader.

How long did it go on for and did you engage with them?

I don’t argue on the internet. I didn’t reply to them as I believe they don’t deserve my response.

What made you deactivate your account?

When I read two comments (which were on a different post) calling for genocide and kicking us (Muslims) out of the country, it made me really upset and I went into depression. I told myself that I should keep away from such an environment, and then decided to deactivate the account.

What has this experience revealed to you?

There are good, bad and ugly people on the internet. I am active on other social media platforms but have decided to keep away from Twitter because they have failed to control this menace.

Do you plan to re-activate your account in the future?

Not sure if I will activate my Twitter account any time soon because of the way it has impacted me.

Would you put out a similar thread in the future?

Yes, I will. I love to express my views and opinions and I think everyone should. It’s their right and this is healthy in a democracy.

Ahmed’s tweets, however, did receive support from political figures like Yogendra Yadav and Kavita Krishnan.

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