Can Bureaucrats Post Propaganda Messages? A Look at Some Tweets

Various IAS and IPS officials have been criticised for posting propaganda tweets.

Updated01 Aug 2020, 04:38 AM IST
India
7 min read

On Thursday, 30 July, Rohit Kansal, Principal Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir took to Twitter to deny that former union minister Saiffudin Soz, was detained in his house.

<a href="https://twitter.com/kansalrohit69/status/1288860783909036033">https://twitter.com/kansalrohit69/status/1288860783909036033</a>
https://twitter.com/kansalrohit69/status/1288860783909036033

“No question of lying in Hon SC,” Kansal had tweeted, in reference to the J&K government’s submissions to the Supreme Court, in which they had asserted that Soz was not detained. The top court had, as a result, disposed off Soz’s wife’s habeus corpus plea.

The next day, however, an unsettling video of Soz, a former Union Minister, started doing the rounds on the internet.

In the video, the eighty-year old, had evidently scaled a tall wall of his house so that he could tell the press, through a spiral of barbed wire, that he was still under house arrest. While Mr Soz, clinging to the wall, asserted that he was not a free man, the police personnel stationed in his house, forcefully pulled him down, and started ordering the media outside his house to leave.

Kansal, in his tweet, had stated the fact that Soz had been to Delhi twice as proof of him not being detained. However, Soz himself had already told The Hindu that he had indeed gone to Delhi, for medical reasons, after getting permission.

Soz also reportedly stated that he was denied permission on multiple occasions.

In a tweet directed at Kansal, a 1995 batch IAS officer, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah reiterated Soz’s claim, and said:

“I’m sorry Rohit but it’s better to let the official twitter handles put out the propaganda. I’ve worked closely with you & it’s disappointing to see your handle put out this tweet. Soz sb traveled for medical reasons & was detained at home as soon as he returned. (Sic)”   
<a href="https://twitter.com/OmarAbdullah/status/1288875238042697728">https://twitter.com/OmarAbdullah/status/1288875238042697728</a>
https://twitter.com/OmarAbdullah/status/1288875238042697728

A Trend Among Bureaucrats?

Rohit Kansal, however, is not the only bureaucrat who has been accused of using his own social media handle to spew “propaganda”. Various other IAS and IPS officials have also been criticised for posting propaganda, communal or otherwise offensive tweets.

SOMESH UPADHYAY (IAS)

Somesh Upadhyay is the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Odisha’s Titilagarh and rather active on Twitter.

In a tweet dated 20 July, Upadhyay wrote that “Sultans” were busy investing in their own ‘Tombs’ while Oxford University was being constructed.

<a href="https://twitter.com/Somesh_IAS/status/1285258154586988544">https://twitter.com/Somesh_IAS/status/1285258154586988544</a>
https://twitter.com/Somesh_IAS/status/1285258154586988544
“Oxford University was established around the time when Sultans out here were busy investing in their own Tombs. It is all about the choices we make..”   

His tweet went on to garner flak because of its seemingly communal undertones.

Later Upadhyay clarified that it was merely a tweet to “point out what rulers wrongly prioritised.”

In another tweet, dated 29 June, Upadhyay made a seemingly unsympathetic jibe following a terror attack, in Karachi, that had ended with multiple lives being lost.

“You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors. Wake up and smell the gunpowder. #Karachi
Somesh Upadhyay

M NAGESWARA RAO (IPS)

M Nageswara Rao is an IPS officer, who has also authored some allegedly problematic tweets, and re-tweeted multiple others.

In one of his tweets, Rao wanted to know why so many Hindus and Indians turned Anti-Hindu and Anti-Indian.

“But why so many Hindus and Indians turn into self-loathing Anti-Hindus & Anti-Indians?  Can we expect downstream to give clean water when upstream is filthy? Likewise, Education.  Hence, topmost national priority: CLEANING ANTI-HINDU EDUCATION “ 

In case it was unclear what Rao meant by “anti-Hindu education”, in a different thread Rao alleged that the Hindu Civilisation had undergone a “Project Abrahamisation,” in which the education, media, entertainment et al are “Abrahamised”. Essentially implying they had been taken over by Muslim and Christian (ie Abrahamic religions) interests, which sought to shame Hindus.

In another tweet, dated 25 July, M Nageswara Rao had stated that Hindus have internalised pacifism and surrender, in place of defence of Dharma by resistance to aggression. Mr Rao, further, wanted to know how to “reinvigorate” the Hindu Samaj, and used the communally charged term ‘Dhimmi’ as a descriptor for this behaviour.

<a href="https://twitter.com/MNageswarRaoIPS/status/1287019194555330560">https://twitter.com/MNageswarRaoIPS/status/1287019194555330560</a>
https://twitter.com/MNageswarRaoIPS/status/1287019194555330560

SANJAY DIXIT (IAS)

Yet another IAS officer, whose last day in service was Friday, 31 July, has often taken to Twitter to share staunchly anti-secular views.

In a 24 July tweet, Mr Dixit, even referred to Secularism in the Indian context as a “conspiracy” by “anti-Hindu forces”.

<a href="https://twitter.com/Sanjay_Dixit/status/1286558314130677760">https://twitter.com/Sanjay_Dixit/status/1286558314130677760</a>
https://twitter.com/Sanjay_Dixit/status/1286558314130677760
“Secularism in the Indian context is a conspiracy by the anti-Hindu forces to artificially deny the people the overarching Hinduness of polity, even though Hinduism/Hindutva does not have any concept of unbeliever, or a 2nd class citizen. (sic)”
Sanjay Dixit

In another tweet, Sanjay Dixit had talked about why Hindus could not have let the Babri Masjid be, by saying the Hindu philosophy of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The World is One Family)“ does not apply to “jackals”.

Can Bureaucrats Post Propaganda Messages? A Look at Some Tweets
https://twitter.com/Sanjay_Dixit/status/1288518901442195457

“Understandable, Though Unfortunate”

The Quint reached out to former IAS officer Dr NC Saxena, ex-member of the Planning Commission and author of “What Ails the IAS and Why It Fails to Deliver: An Insider’s View” to understand if it is acceptable for bureaucrats to indulge in such banter on social media.

Dr Saxena, in his response to The Quint, wrote: “Over the years, whatever little virtues the IAS possessed – integrity, political neutrality, courage and high morale – are showing signs of decay.”

Stating that many civil servants are deeply involved in and preoccupied by partisan politics, Dr Saxena also said:

“This is understandable, though unfortunate, because between expression of the will of the State (represented by politicians) and the execution of that will (through the administrators), there cannot be any long term dichotomy. In other words, a model in which politicians would be communal, corrupt and will harbour criminals, whereas civil servants will continue to be secular, just, and responsive to public needs, cannot be sustained indefinitely. In the long run, administrative and political values have to coincide. “   

To put it in more practical terms, Dr Saxena pointed out that a civil servant needs the political leader for “appointment to a creamy layer post”, among other things, and the politician, in turn, “needs him for diverting and manipulating governmental funds to the private coffer of the politician.”

Taking about the hate spewed against the Muslim community on Twitter, Dr Saxena told The Quint: “BJP, which is the ruling party, and most IAS officers, are emotionally in tune with each other.”

But Dr Saxena also noted that this was not exactly a new phenomenon:

“Even during the Congress regimes, the administration had shown strong bias against Muslims and sided with the Hindu mobs while handling communal riots. Hindu bias affects Muslims not only during riots but influences day-to-day administrative decisions too.”   

Giving an example of UP’s Moradabad, Dr Saxena observed, “(even) where the two communities have equal share in population, educational institutions tend to be located in Hindu dominated areas but most of the police stations and chowkis (police outposts) are located in the Muslim dominated area. It would appear as if the Hindus need education and the Muslims need the police danda.”

All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968

Practicing bureaucrats are not allowed to criticise the government on any public platform or document, as per Rule 7 of the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, which binds all IAS and IPS officers.

Rule 7 also prohibits bureaucrats from making a statement “which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and any State Government” or “which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and the Government of any Foreign State.”

In 2018, the Jammu and Kashmir government had initiated disciplinary action against Shah Faesal, then an IAS officer, and a former IAS exam topper, for a 2010 tweet about the causes behind frequent instances of rape in the region.

The General Administration Department (GAD) had issued a notice to Faesal alleging that he had been dishonest and acted in a manner “unbecoming of a public servant.”

The matter kicked up a controversy over the fact that Faesal was disciplined for an old tweet which wasn’t even necessarily offensive, while other officers making derogatory statements were not subjected to such action.

The incident encapsulates how the applicability of the service rules – which were put in place four decades before Twitter was founded – depends on the subjective interests and interpretation of the governments of the time at the state and Centre, leaving their effectiveness unclear and transient.

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Published: 01 Aug 2020, 03:29 AM IST
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