Moral spin doctors shouldn't blame Twitter for Pushkar's death

Enjoying the world social media is opening out before you when the times are good, and blaming it when things go sour is unfair

shantanu

Shantanu Datta | January 18, 2014


Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in her hotel room in New Delhi on January 17

Less than a day after Sunanda Pushkar, wife of union minister Shashi Tharoor, was found dead, and even before the police can confirm whether it is a murder, suicide or natural death, the verdict – sort of – is out. It’s murder, say many. And since there has to be an accused if there’s a murder, the jury is convinced on that score as well: it’s the social media, or Twitter to be precise.

And this, mind you, even before the basics of a police probe is completed: questioning everyone concerned, carrying out the autopsy, collating all evidence (the cops have only as of Saturday noon collected something as basic as CCTV footage at the Delhi hotel where Pushkar had checked in, reportedly two or three days before she was found dead in the room around 8.30 pm on Friday) and other such mundane work.

"It's disturbing what social media can lead through....We have to see what is going on in our society and where social media is taking us to," filmmaker and producer Kunal Kohli tweeted. In another, he wrote, "Shocked to hear about #SunandaPushkar. RIP. Can't believe the times we living in. Twitter wars leading to this?"

While he followed up saying, "Not blaming twitter. saying today our lives are v public, constant public scrutiny, all this adds pressure...", not many were willing to buy the reconciliatory tone.

"First murder by TwitterIndia, claps, fellow twitter matured guns!" tweeted badminton player PV Sindhu, while Suketu Mehta, writer and academic sent out a tweet saying, "terrible news about Sunanda Tharoor. This is murder by twitter," according to a report in ET.

Madhu Kishwar, feminist and women’s rights activist, had another angle to it: a conspiratorial murder, she hinted, without using the M word. "Spine chilling news: Sunanda Pushkar eliminated. Clearly, she knew too much," Kishwar, not too soft on liberal-left activists, tweeted. Given Kishwar’s proximity to the Narendra Modi line, it isn’t too difficult what/who she was hinting at, given that Pushkar herself had earlier accused Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar, who she alleged was "stalking" Tharoor, of being an ISI agent.

While she rightly said one should not arrive at a quick conclusion that it was suicide, and said the case needs a thorough probe, she hinted that Pushkar could have been “eliminated” soon after her first tweet late Friday night, as news channels cut live to the hotel and the couple’s house in Delhi: "I hope @ShashiTharoor Shashi insists on a proper inquiry into his wife's death. Police too quickly hinting at suicide."

That was the tone of many in the twitterati on Friday night as well as Saturday: murder on Twitter express.

Besides the fact that the police are yet to arrive at any conclusion, it is incorrect to blame social media for her death, because it was, by her own initial admission to media, Pushkar herself who brought this war of hers with Tarar out in public domain. According to her admission, she had hacked into Tharoor’s account and posted about his alleged affair with the journalist.

With all due respect, if she had brought it upon herself, there is very little others can do. Social media can be an insanely acidic and acerbic medium – Twitter more so than Facebook, among other media, because just about anyone can pour over what you write and can shoot back at you, so to speak.

But enjoying the world it is opening out before you when the times are good and blaming it when things go sour is unfair as it is. But to call it a murderer in a case that is yet to be probed conclusively would have been, well, laughable and daft if only the case itself was not tragic.
 

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