Sabrina Siddiqui, the White House correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, has been targetted online by pro-Hindutva social media users after she asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi a question at his press conference on Thursday about the alleged discrimination against Muslims in India. On Saturday, the attacks forced Siddiqui to post pictures of herself cheering for the Indian cricket team.

Amit Malviya, the head of the Bhartiya Janata Party’s information department, described the question from Siddiqui as “motivated”. He said that the answers from Modi and the US President Biden was a “blow” to the “toolkit gang,” a pejorative reference to protesters who use digital tools to organise and coordinate protests.

Accounts known for posting pro-Bharatiya Janata Party and pro-Hindutva tweets labeled Siddiqui an “Islamist” as they pointed to her Muslim identity.

In asking the question about Indian Muslims, some social media users accused working withan agenda and hinted that she was doing so at the behest of Pakistan. They dig out an eight-year-old Instagram post by her showing a Pakistani flag requesting prayers for Pakistan.

OpIndia, one of the largest pro-BJP websites, put out an article on Siddiqui, attacking her as the “the daughter of Pakistani parents” and for “echoing the claims of Islamists”.

The attacks forced Siddiqui to clarify that she cheered for the Indian cricket team along with her father.

Press conference

Siddiqui’s question to the Indian prime minister was a rare instance when Modi fielded a question from a journalist at a press conference in his nine years as prime minister.

Siddique pointed out that several human rights groups have accused the Modi government of discriminating against religious minorities and taking actions to silence its critics.

In response, Modi defended the secular roots of Indian democracy. “There is absolutely no space for discrimination...And when you talk of democracy, if there are no human values and there is no humanity, there are no human rights, then it’s not a democracy,” he said.