How I Was Threatened With Acid Attack For Voicing Dissent On Facebook

Journalism is one of the few professions that encourages you to ask questions. Solely believing in that, I had always been aggressively active on social media, voicing my opinion and raising issues of public concern regularly.

My friend Arbaaz (name changed), and I, whose political and social viewpoints are quite similar to that of mine, after graduating in journalism from a college in Patna, shifted to Delhi for higher studies. After I came to Delhi, I was hardly in touch with Nitish (name changed), who is also from Patna and used to be a friend earlier. However, his discomfort with our political views, especially those which used to be critical of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), was very evident through the virtual communication we shared. His discomfort grew bitter to the extent that he started abusing, which finally led me to block him from phone and Facebook. However, he remained active and kept on commenting on Arbaaz’s posts.

Last February, when voting was going on for the assembly elections in the five states, Arbaaz posted, saying, “AAP is making a clean sweep in #Punjab. Save this post.” To which, Nitish responded, “I’ll save dis post.” Finally, on March 11, when counting started and within a couple of hours it was clear that AAP had been routed in Punjab and the BJP was going to win Uttar Pradesh by a thumping majority, Nitish resurfaced again.

Even though he was initially moderate while commenting on Arbaaz’s post for the incorrect prediction, he started sending me abusive messages through SMS later that day. The messages landed in my spam box because his number was blocked. In the afternoon, perhaps being emboldened by the regularly soaring numbers of BJP, he continued with his messaging spree by now sending messages to Arbaaz on Facebook Messenger, mocking him for the analysis.

My friend asked, “Don’t you feel ashamed of sending such abusive SMS to Sushmita? Don’t you feel its wrong to abuse others for the victory of a party you support?”. Nitish responded by saying: “SMS usko gaya jo deserve karta tha. U guys just create controversy. Nothing else. Someone is working let him work. If he doesn’t work, India will throw him out of d system.” He also hurled other abuses.

The irony of the statement is that those who accuse us of being anti-national are against any form of dissent, a right granted to us by our Constitution. Again on March 13, I started getting calls from two different numbers, which I finally recorded. In that, I was abused incessantly for my political views and was told, “All the Muslims will be driven out of this country as now the party of Hindus has come to power,” with Nitish on the other side.

Disturbed by these horrible advancements, I took a decision of uploading the recorded audio clips with other information to bring all this to public notice on March 14. I got a lot of support and the post went viral in hours. However, to my dismay, Facebook removed the post citing ‘community standards the other day. I am still unable to fathom how a girl posting about being harassed by someone is against their community standard. Maybe emboldened by this, I again got a call from Nitish. He said, “Kya mila call ki audio upload kar k, baba ji ka ghanta?” (What did you get by uploading the call? Baba ji ka ghanta?)  When I told him that an FIR will soon be lodged if this continues, he retorted “Kar lo jahaan FIR file karna hai,” (Go file an FIR wherever you want to.) mockingly. I later filed a complaint with Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) and was provided with a counsellor who took me to Hauz Khas police station to get the FIR registered.

While going through all this, I found different people telling different things. There were some acquaintances, who told me: “Matter ko politicise mat karo. Isme BJP ki kya galti hai kisi nei uska naam le liya to. Tumhari complaint se bekaar ka BJP badnaam hojayegi.” (Don’t politicise the matter. It’s not the BJP’s fault. Due to your complaint, the BJP will unnecessarily be shamed.) I wonder if these people are really concerned about the image of the said party, then why don’t they speak against people like Yogi Adityanath? He regularly brings shame to the party’s name by hate mongering. They surely enjoy a larger audience reach than what I have. On the other hand, there were some, who said you must have had shared a relationship with that boy earlier. My question to them is, even if I did, does that give him the right to abuse and threaten me for my political viewpoints? Mulling over all these responses, I found those were not just mere suggestions or speculations hurled at me. Those were actually voices, tacitly asking me to keep quiet.

Some of the events also led to the revelation of harsh realities. Even though Arbaaz is an atheist, his mother is a devout Muslim. When several media houses reported the news with audio clips attached, his mother after listening to it, succumbed to anxiety and said, “Beta tum in sab se door raho. Government kuchh bhi kar sakti hai. Dekha na JNU wale ladke ka kya hua.” (Child, you stay away from all this. The government can do anything. You saw what happened to the boy from JNU.) Such is the level of mistrust that minorities share with the saffron party. The basic duty of any government is to provide a sense of security and trust among its citizens, which the present dispensation has failed in catering to the minorities.

When you take a stand, some people will try to stifle your voice. In case you happen to be a girl, chances are high that you will be given threats of rape or acid attacks.

The recent case of Gurmehar Kaur where she was mentally harassed to the point that she gave up, explains this very well. Many of my friends were really concerned about my well being when I got a threat of an acid attack on social media for this, but I believe that if we will be giving off so easily to these goons every time, this will surely set a bad precedent in days to come and will help worsen the situation even more. As Martin Luther King, Jr very well said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”