New JNU VC Says Twitter Account 'Hacked' But Archived Tweets Don't Add Up
On close inspection of the tweets and interactions with other accounts, we found several instances that pointed towards the handle belonging to Pandit.
The appointment of Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit as the new Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University has raised a major controversy, as past tweets made from an account that is being claimed to belong to her have gone viral on social media. The controversial tweets range from derogatory and hateful remarks against Muslims, farmers, Christians and opposition parties, while showing strong partisan support towards the Bharatiya Janata Party.
As soon as the tweets went viral, the account was deleted.
Soon after, Pandit denied that the account going viral belong to her. She told the media that she "never had a Twitter account", and that the viral account 'was hacked'. She further insinuated that someone from JNU may have been behind the Twitter account.
However, on close inspection of the tweets and interactions with other accounts, we found several instances that pointed towards the handle belonging to Pandit. There was also no evidence to suggest that it was hacked.
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What Did The Handle Tweet?
Soon after Pandit's appointment made the news, people started digging out old tweets made by the handle @SantishreeD.
We noticed several screenshots of tweets where Islamophobic jibes were made using the word 'jihadi' by the handle. BOOM did an advanced Twitter search for tweets made by the handle @SantishreeD with mentions of keywords "Jihadi left liberal", which gave us a large number of search results.
Looking at posts from December, 2020 onwards, we found around 30 tweets made by the handle which included the term 'jihadi'. Most of these mentions were used as jibes against parties or ideologies opposing the Bharatiya Janata Party.
@SantishreeD was also found to make jibes at farmers, calling them Khalistanis, or Jihadis, and questioning their motives for protesting.
The handle had also frequently expressed open support to the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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Real Or Hacked?
While the account was deleted as soon as it got viral, we found a number of past tweets by the account, along with other account details that suggested it might have been Pandit's authentic account.
One of the archives of the account from February 7, 2022 show that the account, created in December 2014, had over 3,800 followers before it was deleted.
The account bio read, "Professor. Academic and researcher", with location set to Pune, Maharashtra. Prior to becoming the VC of JNU, Pandit was serving as a professor at the Savitribai Phule Pune University.
Yet another archive from April 12, 2020 show that the profile picture used by the Twitter handle is actually an image of Pandit.
Furthermore, we found several Twitter users tagging the handle @SantishreeD to congratulate Pandit on her new appointment as JNU's VC. This includes JNU professors Rashmini Koparkar and Makarand R Paranjape, a BJP national spokesperson and JNU Teachers' Forum.
Previously @SantishreeD was also tagged by many other professors, with most of the tweets making direct reference to Pandit, and even mentioning her by name.
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Some users also dug out some old tweets to point out the the handle @ShantishreeD had shared photos of Pandit's own mother and father.
Furthermore, we also closely looked at the statements she gave to the media, which appeared to contradict each other.
On many instances Pandit told the media that she has "never had a Twitter account".
She then said that her account has been hacked. This would suggest that she did have a prior account which had been hacked, thus contradicting the first statement.
She then went on to state that her daughter had closed her Twitter account six years ago. This also contradicts her first statement on never having a Twitter account.
As soon as the account @SantishreeD became viral, BOOM had reached out to Pandit over email to independently verify whether it belonged to her. We are yet to receive a response.
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