I never accepted a house from Chennithala: Hanan responds to online abuse

Hanan rose to fame two years ago after a picture of her selling fish before going to college went viral.
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Trouble began for Hanan on the night of May 16 after she wrote a sarcastic post on Kerala’s Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala. Abusive comments began pouring all over her Facebook page that until then, had been a quiet and happy place with short TikTok videos the young woman would post.

Hanan’s quick rise to fame may have been nearly forgotten in the two years that passed after a picture of her selling fish in a Kochi market appeared in a Malayalam daily. The viral picture of a teenager selling fish in the mornings before going to college brought a lot of sympathy and unexpected attention to Hanan. She was lauded, hugged, photographed and given many offers of help.

One such offer had come from the Opposition Leader too, the promise of a house for Hanan and her family in Kochi. Citing this and more, Congress party supporters began chiding Hanan for being 'ungrateful' to the man who had ‘built her a house’ and writing a sarcastic post about him.

Hanan had to clear the air, and she responded with a TikTok video. 

“No, nobody has built me a house. I still live in a rented apartment in Kalamassery, paying Rs 5,000 a month,” she says, keeping her cool in the short video.

She further explains that it is true that Ramesh Chennithala had made such an offer but that she had refused to accept it, choosing instead to earn and save and build a house all on her own one day.

A year ago, Hanan met with a road accident due to which she suffered a severe spine injury and could not attend college for a year. The state had sponsored her treatment. She went back to finish her final year in BSc Chemistry and plans to write the remaining exams whenever they are held.

Threats of sexual harassment

On a call with TNM, Hanan says she does not understand all the anger directed at her when so many people write sarcastic posts on political leaders. 

“So many common people have commented on the Opposition Leader’s actions, why am I being singled out? Is it because I am a girl commenting on it that these people are threatening to rape me in public?” she asks.

A lot of the comments are from members of the Muslim League, an ally party in the Opposition United Democratic Front, says Hanan. “None of it is coming to my inbox, it’s all in the public space. There are, however, many comments of support in the inbox,” she says.

Her two line post had referred to Ramesh Chennithala's earlier video where he was calling Gulf NRIs to ask them about their welfare during the lockdown. One of the calls he made was to an ‘Usman’ in a Gulf country, who had apparently reached Kerala by then. The ‘Usman’ reference has since been used in a lot of political memes.

“When the whole world tried to shut me out, only the Congress stood with me, says Corona. Opposition Leader should call Usman again and say a few words about Corona,” Hanan’s post read.

Among the abusive comments are those telling her off for not following religious norms. There are also body shaming comments and classist remarks about her earlier stint as a fish seller.

“Would they talk in such language to the women in their home? I'm not their sister or child, I know. And these are times when in many homes, fathers and brothers can’t be trusted either,” Hanan says.

Didn’t get a house, didn’t keep any money

However, most of the comments circled on the alleged money aspect of it all. How much of ‘Congress money’ did you take, the comments asked, filled with filthy cusswords in Malayalam. 

“Two years ago, I was politically very unaware. I was naive and welcomed all the people who came with good words and support. All the money that commoners sent through a newspaper was offered to me. But when our state was struck by floods, I gave all that money and added some from my earnings received by selling fish, to contribute Rs 1.5 lakh to the government. I thought then that I am a healthy person and could earn on my own. But even now, I need to continue explaining about the house I didn’t get and the money I didn’t keep,” Hanan says with feeling.

Even when she posts fun non-political videos, she gets comments about 'having fun with the money' she got from elsewhere.

She does not plan to file cyber complaints, she says, as on a previous occasion, it had not done her much good.

“Someone had created a fake page in my name and made anti-BJP comments. I filed a complaint, only to be told months later that nothing could be proved and they wanted my signature to close the case," she notes. 

None of the comments appear to bother Hanan though. “I am someone who has fallen once. I cannot be afraid again,” she says.

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