Red Cyber Brigade: Inside Look at Kerala CM’s Online Defence

Dozens of CPI(M) ‘government supporters’ are using social media to ‘defend’ Pinarayi Vijayan’s government.

6 min read
On 20 May, even as Pinarayi Vijayan took oath and became Kerala’s Chief Minister for the second consecutive term, several other ‘government supporters’ took oath on social media saying ‘they will defend the government’.

S*, a resident of Kerala’s Kozhikode district has been passionate about politics ever since he could remember. Having born in a family that traditionally supported the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M), S naturally had an inclination towards left-wing politics from a young age.

His interest amplified when the CPI(M) government’s policies positively impacted his family.

In the recent years, to strengthen his bond with the party, the young man assumed a role for himself – a self-professed ‘cyber warrior’ of CPI(M). S recently took an oath online, promising to ‘defend’ the incumbent CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Kerala.

Generation to Generation

S was not alone. Like him, living attached to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter handles, are many staunch supporters of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is a CPI(M) leader.

Is it blind allegiance that leads them? Or, is there a method to millions of tweets and posts shared in CPI(M)’s defence?’

Both my parents are daily wage earners who do carpentry and other odd jobs. Years ago, when they were struggling to make ends meet, it was policies like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (MGNREGA) and Kudumbashree, implemented by the CPI(M) led LDF government immensely helped them earn a living
S*, Kozhikode resident

MGNREGA is, however, a national scheme.

For S, defending the government was “a favourite pastime” right from his college days. This is also evident from the hundred plus posts, that S has posted on his Facebook account supporting the government.

Here’s an inside look at this world of comrades who have taken it upon themselves to be social media active for the red party, the presence of which is currently limited to Kerala.


Virtual Oath Taking

This year, on 20 May, even as Pinarayi Vijayan took oath and became Kerala’s Chief Minister for the second consecutive term, S took an oath on Facebook.

The oath written in Malayalam and posted on his Facebook page loosely translated to,

“I, S*, …will destroy all lies and false propaganda against the government. Will ensure all government policies and activities reach the maximum population. Will fight against superstitions and strive to develop scientific consciousness in society. Will stand with the working class. And I will support and defend the government...”

Social networking sites including Facebook and Instagram were flooded with similar oath-taking posts of people, both young and old. Some were seen on Twitter too.

Friends and Kollam residents, Binu PB, and Jacob John, both political science teachers at different government-aided schools were two among them.


Origins of the Online War

Binu, who is in his 40s, said that the cyber defence deal was an organic movement by the “CPI(M) government supporters”.

“I do not belong to the party. I’m just a common man who has been supporting the government for several years. Also, I do not know who started the online-oath taking. I saw the post on my friend’s wall. And since it resonated with me, I copied and pasted it on my wall.”
Binu PB, Kollam resident

Some CPI(M) workers have also been taking the oath, Binu added. Jacob said that the oath-taking was not a coordinated effort. “In fact, we don’t even how many have taken the oath.”

The cyber warriors, however, say there was a need to defend the government as a section of media, Opposition parties and the right-wing have been constantly spreading misinformation and false propaganda against the government.

This, they say, increasingly happened just a year before the 2021 Kerala Assembly elections with an “ulterior motive to topple the Pinarayi government”. Vijayan’s government was contesting for a second term back then.


Rulebook to Government Defence

The common “false allegations” pointed out by all the three defenders were the Sabarimala controversy and gold smuggling case.

“The right-wing and its media unnecessarily tried to use religious sentiments to turn people against the government.”
Jacob John, Kollam resident

Notwithstanding the online support, CPI(M) government had softened its stand on Sabarimala women’s entry movement after 2019 Lok Sabha poll rout. On 6 April, the day Kerala went to Assembly polls, CM Vijayan famously said, “Ayyappa is with the LDF government”.

The defence team, however, has been busy questioning even the Congress-led United Democratic Front.

When it came to the gold smuggling case, Binu said that the Congress-led Opposition started blaming the government even before the Central agencies concluded their investigations into the matter.

Baseless allegations, he said were also made by the Opposition parties against former Higher Education Minister, KT Jaleel. In November 2020, Jaleel was quizzed by the customs commissionerate in Kochi as part of a probe into the import of Quran copies by the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. The import had violated the diplomatic cargo movement norms, the probe had found.


The World is a Conspiracy?

The online warriors, however, supported the CM’s political inner circle the most.

“It was also alleged that PA Mohammed Riyas got a cabinet seat, only because he was the son in law of CM Pinarayi Vijayan. But the truth is that, Mohammed, has over 25 years of experience in politics and is also the national president of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI),” Binu argued, fervently.

Veena George, Kerala’s new health minister too got a fair share of backing, even as KK Rema, the wife of slain CPI(M) rebel leader TP Chandrasekharan was trolled for having worn a saree at the oath taking ceremony.

In defence of George, Binu said, “Just because she took oath as Health Minister after saying the name of God, several media outlets asked how can Veena be a communist if she believed in God”. Religion is a personal choice, the informed warrior said.

Not all items on the defence table were as well thought of, because the warriors defended even the most controversial of government’s decisions. Jacob pointed out that there were unjustifiable allegations in the case of Public Service Commission (PSC) appointments.

In February 2021, thousands of youngsters in Kerala had held massive protests against the regularisation of hundreds of temporary employees – most having alleged links to ruling CPI(M) – in various government departments.

Levels of Combat

Binu and Jacob also say they have been defending the government, even offline for many years now. Jacob routinely “informs” people of “various progressive policies of the government”, he said.

“Even while travelling in train, I deliberately open a politicaldiscussion with any co-passenger. And if I find he or she has fallen in thetrap of the “propaganda media”, I try to educate them by telling the truth. Even my colleagues, who support the government also do this.”
Jacob John, Kollam resident

Binu, also said that he has been actively campaigning among friends and neighbours.

“I make them aware of the misinformation spread against the government and ask them not to believe in rumours spread over WhatsApp.”
Binu PB, Kollam resident

Jacob said that scores of people, however, have been using the social media to campaign since the past three years.

This I believe is also a reason why LDF got the second term.
Jacob John, Kollam resident

Now, through the ‘oath-taking’, the “government-defenders” say they wanted to raise awareness and canvas people to join the same activity.


What Lies Ahead?

While some may call this method of canvasing, a propaganda machinery of its own, the three warriors are seldom skeptical. Going forward, all the three say they would continue what they have been doing.

“Whenever an issue is misrepresented in the media or by Opposition parties, we will first ascertain the truth, and then make our findings public through Facebook,” Jacob swore.

In addition, S* said he would also urge his fellow citizens to not believe in the news reported in the electronic and print media. “Instead, I will ask them to consume news from different authentic and impartial news outlets before believing any of it.” Party newspapers and websites should be the source of information?

The trio, however stressed that they would criticise the government, if there is a genuine reason to do so. Recently, a debate over CPI(M) leader KK Shailaja’s exclusion from the cabinet, was widely criticised even by CPI(M) supporters.

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