An activist from the Left-affiliated Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) filed an FIR with the Urwa police after she was abused on social media for a post supporting the candidature of DYFI State President Muneer Katipalla for the upcoming Karnataka Assembly Elections.
On February 18, Shruti Kotian took to Facebook expressing her support for Katipalla, who is the Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate for Mangaluru City North Assembly constituency.
The activist was taken aback when she was faced with a stinging volley of abuse. “I should have known that if I post a Muslim person’s photograph, this would be the response,” she said.
Harish Raj, a person unknown to Shruti commented in Tulu which translates to, “Girl, do you want Muslims only? You look like a Dalit. What kind of Kotian are you?”
Shruti, however, was not one to be cowed down by the abuse and filed a police complaint against the harasser on Tuesday. “On Tuesday, I had had enough and went to the police station and filed an FIR against the person who commented on the post,” she said.
Urwa Police are yet to nab the culprit three days after the complaint was filed but admitted that cases of social media intimidation are on the rise. “While Mangaluru has always been communally sensitive, incidents like this happen more frequently around the time of elections. We have taken note of her complaint and are working to catch the culprit as soon as possible,” said Aithappa, a police official at Urwa Police Station.
In similar incidents, Bharathi Prashanth from Bantwal and Madhuri Bolar from Mangaluru filed police complaints against people who abused them on social media in January. Bharathii was abused for posting “I love Muslims” in support of Dhanyashree, a college student in Chikkamagaluru, who committed suicide after she was harassed over an alleged relationship with a Muslim man.
While an old picture of Madhuri Bolar with three men including Hamza, a Muslim man and a friend, surfaced in pro-Hindu WhatsApp groups in Mangaluru with a message asking pro-Hindu groups to “give a fitting reply (to Hamza) when he is seen with Hindu women”.
Bantwal police arrested three persons in connection with the incident involving Bharathi and Mangaluru police arrested Harish Devadiga for harassing Madhuri. Police officials believe that all four are part of a pro-Hindu group.
The incidents of social media intimidation and abuses are not new to Mangaluru.
In 2015, social activist Vidya Dinker was similarly faced with abuses and rape threats after she complained against Bajrang Dal activists who allegedly intimidated cinema halls into stopping the screening of Dilwale.
Ravikanthe Gowda, who took charge as the Superintendent of Police of Dakshina Kannada last month has also stressed that action will be taken against those who use social media to create unrest in the society and disturb the communal harmony in the district.