New Delhi: Did Mahua Moitra plagiarise her maiden parliamentary speech? This is an accusation many who side with the right-wing have levelled on social media.
Moitra’s speech was widely praised for its straightforward analysis of some of the current trends in Indian politics, which she classified as “seven signs of early fascism”. In her remarks on the floor of the house, she clearly attributed these points to a poster she had seen at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
Even as her speech went viral on social media, thinkers in the Bharatiya Janata Party like Vijay Chauthaiwale or centre-right academic Makarand R. Paranjape accused her of lifting her speech from a 2017 article in Washington Monthly, which critiqued US president Donald Trump on similar lines.
What these critics seem not to have realised is that the 2017 article also drew its points from the same Holocaust Memorial poster.
Despite this, centre-right news website Swarajya magazine picked up the straws from these accusations against Moitra to deride her for plagiarising her speech.
Sudhir Chaudhary, the editor-in-chief of Zee News did a full show to establish similarities between the Washington Monthly article and her speech. He later put out a tweet too to elaborate his charge.
यही है अमेरिकी वेब्सायट का वो लेख जिसे तृणमूल कांग्रेस की सांसद महुआ मोइत्रा ने चुराकर लोक सभा में अपने भाषण में इस्तेमाल कर लिया।हुबहू बिलकुल वही शब्द लेख से सीधे उठा लिए और बोल दिए।संसद की गरिमा ख़तरे में है। https://t.co/4iP3YieHXA pic.twitter.com/HxaHqqdxKS
— Sudhir Chaudhary (@sudhirchaudhary) July 2, 2019
While this organised attack on Moitra was clearly aimed at discrediting her, the charge has fallen flat with the author of the Washington Monthly article, Martin Longman, himself coming forward to defend Moitra and blast her critics for falsely projecting her speech as plagiarised from his article.
I’m internet famous in India because a politician is being falsely accused of plagiarizing me. It’s kind of funny, but right-wing assholes seem to be similar in every country.
— Martin Longman (@BooMan23) July 2, 2019
Moitra, too, released a press statement refuting the charge.
“It is with great dismay that I note that some sections of the press are pointing to a January 2017 article in the Washington Monthly which spoke of the early warning signs of fascism in Trump’s America and accusing me of “plagiarising” the same without verifying the facts,” she said.
She added that she had clearly mentioned her source when she contextualised the content of museum poster in Indian political conditions. .
“Plagiarism is when one does not disclose one’s source. My source as mentioned categorically in my speech was the poster from the Holocaust Museum created by the political scientist Dr. Laurence W. Brit pointing out the 14 signs of early fascism. I found 7 signs relevant to India and spoke at length about each of them,” she said.
“The Washington Monthly article also quotes from the same poster and uses 12 of the 14 signs . Early fascism today is a global fear with the advent of right wing national leaders and these principles are equally applicable in many countries today,” she added.
Moitra said that the attack on her was a “a clear attempt by the troll army of the BJP and certain media houses owing allegiance to the ruling party to obfuscate the real issues”.
“My speech came from the heart and every Indian who has shared it did so from their heart. The hits were organic, not BOT controlled. I repeat…Bandhney mujhey tu aaya hai? Zanjeer badi kya laya hai? (You have come to chain me, but have you brought a long enough chain?),” she said her press note.
Notably, Chaudhary himself has been accused of peddling fake news and propaganda for the ruling BJP multiple times.
In 2017, Newslaundry did a satirical video, drawing a contrast between one of his shows where he raises the alarm of fake news and several instances where he and his television channel Zee News have aired false content.
Take a look.