SelfieAddressing the nation over the radio on Sunday 28th June 2015, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a nationwide social media campaign urging fathers to take selfies with their daughters, and post them on Twitter with the hashtag #SelfieWithDaughter.

Having launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the daughter, Educate the daughter) campaign in January, this was meant to build more support towards it.

Very laudable efforts one might think but remember that this is a politician whose election campaign included holograms promising toilets in every household and accumulated enough Facebook fans to put him second only to Barack Obama among political leaders on the site. Meanwhile, anybody could submit a selfie and see it included in a mosaic of similar photos that added up to an image of Narendra Modi.

People took up his call with great enthusiasm and took selfies with their daughters and posted them. But there were a few who criticized this, which should be fine in a democracy, isn’t it ? However, social media is a universe unto itself and those who speak out, especially women are often trolled and abused. One of these was actress Shruti Seth who was extensively abused for expressing her views criticizing the campaign.

An excerpt from the note she wrote in response:

“On the morning of 28th June, I made the grave mistake of expressing my views on an initiative called #selfiewithdaughter which had been blessed by our PM. I then made a graver mistake of posting this opinion on Twitter. So not only did I dare to think, I also dared to place my thoughts in the public domain.

And then, at the risk of sounding overly-Shakespearean, the floodgates of hell opened. I was subjected to a tsunami of hate tweets. 48 hours of non- stop trolling. The tweets were targeted at me, my family, my ‘Muslim’ husband, my 11 month old daughter and, of course, my non-existent, dwindling, no-good career as an actor.

And so I deserved to be punished……….. Men and women alike said the most vile things about me, stripping me of all my dignity as someone’s daughter, wife and mother and most importantly a woman.

Men who were busy hash-tagging their selfies with their daughters one minute called me slanderous names the next. Asked me if I knew who my real father was. Questioned if I had been sexually abused as a child and hence was opposed to the idea of a selfie with my father. ………Well done, gentlemen. Your daughters must be so proud.

How will taking a photograph nullify the misogyny and patriarchy that is so deeply entrenched in our society? Why bother to increase the number of girls being born when you choose to treat them with such indignity and disrespect? All those who trolled me incessantly for forty eight hours, did you for once stop and think that I, too, am someone’s daughter? Did you ever ask yourselves how you’d feel if it were your daughter at the receiving end of all that hate? I’m guessing the answer is a big, resounding “No”. Because, you know, you were too busy pouting for the camera & getting ‘likes’ and ‘RT’s to your #selfiewithdaughter.”

Activist Kavita Krishnan went a step further by calling Modi a #LameDuckPM and saying “He has a record of stalking daughters.” Of course, she got trolled and vicious abuse followed including a demand to “Jail the b****”.

So, this campaign which wants to ‘save’ the girl child and educate her probably needs to educate society first and save her from them! As usual it is about saving her to fulfill her role as a ‘good’ girl and daughter and wife. She deserves to be saved only if she will be ‘well-behaved’. Women face threats and abuse on social media on a regular basis but attacking them while pouting and posting photos with one’s daughter is just too ironic and pathetic.

Rather than a selfie, perhaps Indian society needs to look in the mirror and ask why daughters need to be saved and from whom??!

[1] But First Let Me take a Selfie