Bhakt (Hindi: भक्त meaning devotee) is a controversial term used to describe people on social media who subscribe to the right wing ideology in India and support Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Contrary term used against Bhakt in social media is Adarsh Liberal (an Ideal Liberal).
A Hindi word of Sanskrit origin, the term Bhakt, in its original usage, is associated with the highly revered Bhakti tradition in India. The literal meaning of Bhakt, according to Oxford dictionary, is “a religious devotee”.
The stipulative definition of the term being used nowadays, is of a recent coinage and the usage is often pejorative. Application of the term bhakt is often subjective and usually applied on the basis of biased pro-right posts made by the person on various social media forums on topics broadly related to Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party. While some may characterize the such posts as being made by bhakts while others may regard the same post as a legitimate but controversial contribution to the discussion. Like any pejorative term, it can be used as an ad hominem attack, suggesting a negative motivation.
Some people ascribe the usage of the word first, to well-known journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. He used the term, wrote Kuldip Negi in The Literal India, to single out his trolls who were largely Modi followers.
Rajdeep, on his part, in an interview talking about his relationship with Modi used the term to describe his supporters. “While the relationship had its ups and downs, I have always seen it as a journalistic relationship in which I am an observer, a critiquer. Unfortunately, society got polarised. You cannot be an objective observer anymore; either you are a bhakt or you are a permanent critic. What if I am neither,” he said.
The popular Indian novelist Chetan Bhagat wrote a whole article to describe what a Bhakt is in his blog in The Times of India. According to him, “The term is used to refer to owners of right wing user accounts who tend to be aggressive fans of all things Hindu…Politically they often lend their support to BJP, seen as a somewhat pro-Hindu organisation. They are extremely protective of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They also like old Hindu kings and conspiracy theories about how Hindus were shortchanged in the past – they often swap such stories online.”
The usage of the term has gained further traction on social media websites such as twitter, because of excessive, often abusive trolling by bhakts targeted at any person making critical comments about PM Narendra Modi, ruling party BJP or its allies. It has led to hashtag activism by several internet users who have created Bhakt Hunters Group which is trying to clamp down on trolling and getting abusive bhakts banned on twitter.
Different reactions followed, many of them affirming the broad definition of the term, even while taking him on for the "stereotyping".
Just as Paulami Dutta Gupta in an article defending Modi and accusing Bhagat of bashing Hindus, signed herself off as 'A female Bhakt'. Praful Shankar accusing Bhagat of "inherent fallacy and hypocrisy in his arguments", wrote, what he called, "Letter From A Half-Bhakt To Bhagat".
Vamsee Juluri writing in Daily O lamented that “one of the greatest lived precepts of our civilisation” has turned into “a nearly meaningless word, an insult, even.” He called upon those who think bhakt is some primitive mindset or insult to “rethink their presumptions” and not take it as a surrender of what they might feel is “a principled resistance against a political figure or his boisterous fans.”
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- Adarsh Liberal
- Internet troll
- Rituparna Chatterjee (12 July 2015). "Chetan Bhagat's Acronym For Internet Trolls Sounds A Lot Like A Cuss Word". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- "Adarsh Liberal vs Adarsh Bhakt: Hashtag war on Twitter". Hindustantimes.com. Retrieved 2015-08-10.
- "Viral Memes: A War Between 'Adarsh Liberal' and 'Adarsh Bhakt' on Twitter". Ndtv.com. Retrieved 2015-08-10.
- "Indian liberals mocked - and mocking - online - BBC News". Bbc.com. 2015-03-11. Retrieved 2015-08-10.
- "Bhakt". Oxford Dictionary. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- Kuldip Negi. "Opinion: Chetan Bhagat and a Curious Case of Being a Bhakt". The Literal India. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- "The Rajdeep Sardesai interview: 'Today, you are expected to be a bhakt or a permanent critic'". Scroll. 11 July 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- Chetan Bhagat (11 July 2015). "Anatomy of an internet troll: How social media birthed a strange new phenomenon in India, the bhakts". The Times of India. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/social/Bhakt-Hunters-Group-gets-7-pro-Saffron-accounts-suspended-in-3-days/articleshow/48026867.cms. Missing or empty
- Paulami Dutta Gupta (12 July 2015). "A Female Bhakt Letter to Chetan Bhagat". The Namo Patrika. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- Praful Shankar. "Letter From a Half-Bhakt to Bhagat". Swarajya. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- Vamsee Juluri (15 July 2015). "Sad how bhakt has been reduced to an insult". Daily O. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
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