Dealing with online abuse

It is not easy dealing with online trolls or abuse. It is very easy to tell someone else to ignore such and give no importance. I have been called prestitude – despite not taking anything apart from official salary and till now NOT written with any agenda. I let that pass, though I did file a written complaint with the cyber crime cell. In February 2016, I had tweeted the information of Press Club protest march (which was just a demonstration) followed by speeches. On the day of the protest I was threatened with sexual violence, “hard gang rape.” This sexual violence threat I forwarded to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and Mumbai Police to their twitter handles. They asked me to go to the nearest police station. I showed the written threat to my political editor friend Samar Khadas and senior journalist Samar Khadas and senior journalist and BUJ leader M J Pandey. They both insisted that I go and lodge a FIR. Later I sent the details to the joint commissioner of police, Deven Bharati who directed me to Azad Maidan police station.

Even though Filing and FIR is our fundamental right, the police will always convince you to get away filing a Non-Cognisable (NC) offence. In my case despite intervention from Jt. CP, the lady constable insisted on omly a NC. Thankfully my colleague and a friend from TOI called and she was horrified to hear they were filing only a NC and insisted I speak to their crime reporter who in turn called the Jt CP and he was told on record it was a FIR. By then the Senior PI was ordered to return to the police station. The lady constable Like all youth, displayed her inexperience in everything. Filing the details, technology usage & patience. Thankfully universe conspired and the file simply got erased or in her words, “aho te file udali.” She bawled and I wanted to laugh! Quite an irony. By then it was 8.30-8.45pm, already 2 hours into the matter.

Now usually despite being a senior journalist with the senior police officials calling the station, one would have expected things to move fast. However, the picture at the police station is absolutely different. They look busy while you wonder if they are doing anything. While I sat waiting, I observed that the so-called comfortable seat was a hard, wooden bakda with a stained mattress and a bed sheet that looked unwashed for atleast a month. Yes, so where was I? At being ordered to be comfortable.

Then after recovering from the disaster of the file getting erased, she went to inform the Sr PI who told me “madam because of your case I was specially asked to supervise. Why take trouble. And you have shown your maturity by not shouting at this inexperienced constable we are obliged. Come sit, we shall file your FIR.” Whole tone being he was doing me a favour. By which time my friend made it a point to call me every 15 minutes to ensure I was not really alone. We then dissected the IT act section on pornography. I argued it was a pervert threat and he insisted that section was only for pornography. But he did hint we could add more sections later.

I am genuinely surprised I did not shout or lose it. I wasn’t the least unnerved. Oh yes, the Sr PI gave me hot tea, to ensure I don’t get upset. Then the bit of narrating the whole incident again. He asked me for a hard copy which I didn’t have. Hard part was trying to make the new cop understand what is twitter & social media. By then I Took a screen shot, emailed it to the police and they printed it out to attach to the complaint. That I had to translate it in Marathi when they read the FIT, was a task. Two of my friends had joined me from 9.30pm and at 10.30pm Samar finally stood up and instructed the lady constable to allow me to go for dinner and we would return to take the copy of FIR. Meanwhile the police were in constant contact with the cyber crime cell.

Now after this my story was not over. I went 4 days later to enquire and they requested me to give the twitter India head’s contacts and email I-d. They had forewarned me it takes few months, my Twitter contact insisted max 20 days! I kept tracking since then. I nearly gave up, until recently when a lady political spokesperson filed a FIR in similar online threat. Accused in my case is still not found. I was told the Twitter USA is not forthcoming sharing ip add details. If any white, American woman had receive such threats the accused’ details would be given promptly to the cops and would be behind bars. Or not? I do not know, I believe the Mumbai police because I know the emails sent and the steps they have taken. So I do not know the status on investigations from the U.S. Side. Here I know the cops have been forthcoming with details, have been cooperative and have done everything they should have.

Now here are some do’s and don’t’s

Look confident, not scare and definitely not over smart
Insist on filing a FIR
As educated citizens do read up a bit on some sections, even if it is on Google
Carry hard copy of the threat, email, whatever evidence – only hard copies are attached to
Despite the hard copy ask if hey wish you to email it to them
Do not say what happens in any other county apart from India
Try to squeeze in some words in local language – because the FIR is written in the local Lang.
Ask the, to read it out and only after that you sign it
Smile when you can
Do NOT shout, at any time
Even if they try your patience
Go with someone but ensure that person is not annoying the cops
Try to win advantage to being understanding
Be stern about the time you have spent and details of the incident
Be observant – this disclaimer is most important from the moment you walk inside the station

Most of all, go and file your complaint. Lodge it at cyber cell at BKC. They made my case an exception, but it is essential you go to the cyber crime cell. They are helpful. Keep track, take the number of police officer there. Do NOT presume the cops are doing nothing. Do not fear after three months your case may shut, it doesn’t. The delay IS from the U.S. Side.

2 thoughts on “Dealing with online abuse”

  1. Hi Neeta,

    My name is Mrinalini Krishna and I’m currently a graduate journalism student at NYU. Prior to this, I was a television journalist in India. I’m working on a story for my Masters’ thesis about right wing politics, nationalism and online abuse especially on Twitter in India. I was wondering if I could interview you for my piece about your experience. Would it be possible for me to speak to you sometime in the coming week?

    My deadline is Thursday, December 1st and it would be great if I could speak to you prior to that. I’d be happy to work out any time that is suitable for you.

    Thank you so much and look forward to hearing from you.

    Mrinalini Krishna

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