Threatened Online For Standing Up To Religious Hate, How I Fought The Bullies

Posted by Saumya Sunder in #NoPlace4Hate, Inspiration, Society
March 1, 2017
Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #NoPlace4Hate, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook have joined hands to help make the Internet a safer space for all. Watch this space for powerful stories of how young people are mobilising support and speaking out against online bullying.

My parents had a love marriage. My father was a Christian and my mother, a Hindu, and owing to conditions put on my father by my uncles who followed more conservative, right-wing ideologies, I was raised a Hindu. Hate speeches against Muslims and mockery of Christians was a common affair in my family. When one of my aunts married a Christian man, she had to endure a great ordeal of suffering. At that time, my uncles had even threatened my mother and other younger girls of the family that they should never marry a non-Hindu. But fate had different things in store for my mother.

Saumya Sunder

I, for one, never believed in all these religious dogmas. My first life-changing moment happened when I saw someone targeting a young girl online because she was “Mauzi” (Muslim). I did not like such treatment and therefore, I spoke up against it online. My post was met with a lot of resentment – I even made enemies of existing friends. I saw so much of religious hate in my family and outside, that I decided I must continue voicing my opinions on it. From questioning people’s lack of knowledge on politics, views on religion, gender and social inequality, I made it my aim to voice out inconvenient truths.

Soon, rape threats, personal attacks and comments questioning mine, and my mother’s characters, started appearing under my posts. If I shared my views on politics or made any political statements, I would be bombarded with sexist responses. People would even comment on my looks and say things like, “Who will marry you?”

I was at first very hurt that people could be so crass and talk like this, and so, for a few days, I withdrew from making any statements. However, people sent me personal messages encouraging me to voice out my opinions. I realised I should continue to speak. I started deleting hateful comments and publicly calling out abusers, saying that I have deleted their comments. With time, instead of fighting hate with hate, I also started fighting it with humour.

Someone even figured out my email address and sent me a hateful email, but I calmly warned them about booking them under the cyber bullying laws and posted the same message on my Facebook. Some people would tell me to not voice myself on Facebook, but start a blog. Why, I’d ask. I feel Facebook is also meant to share your ideas, as well as the serious and joyful moments from your life.

I have understood that people who bully online have an immense need for control and power. There is an immense ‘need’ to win and just prove yourself right. They don’t give you the space to just be who you are, and say what you want to. But it’s possible to silence them. People will have an opinion no matter what you say. You can be wrong, but you are entitled to your point of view. I will continue to speak on issues which stir me and which need to be addressed more with logic and reasoning. It is my firm belief that you can only bring change by not backing down, and consistently voicing your views.

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