Sexual Harassment
It is wrong to demean women on social media: Actor Vijay on online abuse of journalist.

Days after TNM’s Editor-in-Chief Dhanya Rajendran was subject to online sexual harassment and vicious trolling and abuse on social media by alleged fans of Tamil actor Vijay, the star on Wednesday issued a statement urging people to not abuse women and to respect people’s opinions.

“I am someone who respects women a lot. Everybody has the right to criticise anyone’s film. It is my view that no woman should be spoken of in a demeaning way for any reason or any time. Everyone has to praise womanhood,” reads the statement from Vijay.

He also added, “I request that nobody should share hurtful and wrong views about women on social media.”

Vijay’s appeal comes on the day the Cyber Crime Branch of the Chennai police lodged an FIR against four anonymous Twitter handles and others for the sexual harassment and abuse of TNM Editor-in-Chief Dhanya Rajendran on Twitter. The FIR was lodged after Dhanya was abused for several days by persons who are allegedly fans of Tamil actor Vijay.

The abuse and trolling started on Friday, after Dhanya put out a tweet about a movie - Jab Harry Met Sejal.  The senior journalist tweeted that she had walked out of the movie - which has been panned by critics and audiences alike - and compared it to another movie she had walked out of several years earlier: Sura, starring Vijay.

Vijay’s fans then descended on Dhanya’s timeline, to abuse her with sexually coloured remarks, issue rape threats, and drag in her family and friends for ‘insulting’ their favourite actor. They pulled out a few of her tweets referring to Vijay's films from 2011 and 2013, claiming that the conversation she had with a friend and the jokes she'd retweeted were "proof" of her intention to "insult" Vijay. The 3-4 tweets, spread over a period of six years, were supposedly "evidence" enough for the fans to attack her.

On Sunday, they launched a coordinated attack, with the sole aim of harassing the senior journalist for expressing an opinion.

Most of those harassing Dhanya, and the others who supported the journalist, were hiding behind anonymous handles and proudly proclaimed that they will continue to harass her for criticising a Vijay film. Drawing a false equivalence, the harassers claimed that saying one did not like Vijay’s acting deserved threats of sexual abuse, sexually coloured remarks, and abuse.

On Tuesday, Dhanya filed a complaint with the Chennai police and recorded her statement on the issue. An FIR has been filed under IPC sections 354 D (stalking), 506(1) (criminal intimidation), 507 (criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication), 509 (insulting the modesty of women), section 67 of IT Act (publishing obscene material), section 4 of TN Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, and section 6 of the Indecent Representation of Women Act.

Dhanya has received support from several quarters. The DMK working president MK Stalin in a tweet said, “Intolerance in any form, for expressing ones views in a democratic country is unacceptable. These acts to strangulate the freedom of expression, especially of a woman journalist in Chennai is highly deplorable and condemnable. Rule of law must take prompt measures in curbing this menace.”