Supporters of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are protesting the appointment of a well-known critic of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as the head of Twitter India’s news division.
Raheel Khursheed , 33, was appointed on Wednesday to oversee the Indian news, politics and government division of the social networking giant, providing support to journalists, politicians, editors, bloggers and government departments.
His appointment however has angered supporters of Mr Modi, widely tipped to become Indian Prime Minister in this year’s general election.
Kashmir-born Khursheed has in the past heavily criticized the Indian Army’s alleged rights abuses in Kashmir as well as Mr Modi’s handling of the bloody 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat.
In 2012 Mr Kursheed tweeted: “NaMo (Narendra Modi) oversaw a massacre & should go to jail”.
Activists say that Mr Khursheed’s views amounts to a conflict, especially as social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook are expected to play a pivotal role in engaging and mobilising voters in the run-up to the general election in May.
Arvind Gupta, who heads the BJP’s information technology division said the appointment would harm Twitter’s image as a “neutral, open-ended platform”.
“I am afraid that this appointment will hamper Twitter’s image in India.”
An online petition on Change.org calling on Twitter CEO Dick Costole to remove Mr Kurhseed has already received 1500 signatures. Ironically, Khursheed had worked until recently as director of communications for the online petitioning portal.
Khursheed has refused to comment on the row but has won support from fellow Tweeters, particularly in his home state of Kashmir.
One Kashmiri aademic tweeted: “BJP is an intolerant party which can’t tolerate the personal opinion of the person.”
Khursheed worked as a journalist for a number of TV new channels and newspapers in Kashmir and New Delhi before joining the US-based aid agency Mercy Corps.
He later moved to Change.org where he worked on a number of campaigns including one for juvenile justice in Kashmir and the StopRape campaign following the gang rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012.