Several journalists have complained of receiving threatening calls and messages, including explicit pictures, on Twitter and WhatsApp over the weekend after they offered to help Kashmiris who were being harassed in some parts of the country in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack. Forty Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in the suicide attack on a convoy.
Several Kashmiri students and residents were harassed and threatened following the terror attack, with many being asked to leave their colleges or vacate their homes.
On Sunday, journalist Barkha Dutt had tweeted that her “doors are open to any Kashmiris” who need help or feel vulnerable. “Those abusing and vilifying innocent citizens are sympathisers of terrorists in the garb of nationalists,” she said. “They are reading from a script of hate which is totally what Jaish wants.” Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror strike.
However, early on Monday, Dutt said that she had closed her direct messages on Twitter as an “abusive mob” was sending her messages. In another tweet, she said: “Deluged with WhatsApp [sic] messages since yesterday that are abusive and threatening. Seems an organized hate campaign against some of us. One sender confirms my mobile number being circulated in groups.”
In a series of tweets, Dutt shared several phone numbers from which she received either abusive calls or messages. She tagged the Delhi Police and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the tweets warning the abusers of an FIR. She also shared images of unsolicited images that were sent to her on WhatsApp.
Delhi Police official Madhur Verma assured Dutt that the matter will be investigated, while Carl Woog, the head of communications for WhatsApp, also offered help.
On Tuesday, Dutt said she had been locked out of her Twitter after she revealed names and phone numbers from which she had received abusive calls. In a letter to Twitter, Dutt said the social media site had encouraged sexual abuse and gender inequality. She said her complaints on abuse and harassment have never been addressed and that she would now pursue legal action.
Journalist Abhisar Sharma complained to the police in Madhya Pradesh and Mumbai about threats made to him and his family. Sharma also claimed that an “IT cell” had made his number public and shared it on WhatsApp groups, following which he was receiving abusive messages and calls.
He said the Madhya Pradesh Police had traced two men who had sent him abusive messages, threatening him and his family with rape and murder.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan also claimed that the BJP’s IT cell and its members had revealed his mobile number, along with those of journalists Ravish Kumar and Barkha Dutt, to troll, abuse and threaten them. “This is the culture promoted by the BJP,” Bhushan tweeted.
Journalist Swati Chaturvedi also complained of being harassed on Twitter for criticising the Narendra Modi government in connection with the Pulwama terror attack.