Shehla Rashid Threatened For Supporting Inter-Religious Marriage, Shuts FB Account

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Have you ever googled Shehla Rashid? She has often been in the news for her long-time association with the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). When Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the JNU Students’ Union was arrested, along with many others, Shehla took charge and presided over the protests, till they were released. We shouldn’t forget the fact that she has been an activist for many years. In the past, she has strongly voiced her protest against the rise of right-wing Hinduvta fundamentalism, wrongful arrests, human rights violations and assaults (of all kinds) on the freedom of speech.

All the arrests and the fiasco surrounding JNU students allegedly shouting “Pakistan zindabad” brought Shehla Rashid and Kanhaiya Kumar under the radar of right-wing bullies. Shehla has been prone to more such attacks for being a woman (especially from a particular religion), but this hasn’t stopped her from voicing strong opinions on public issues.

However, as much as she’s been involved in political protests, it would seem that she’s also been equally bullied. In my opinion, she’s always been a victim of cyber-bullying – for her strong political stances, her pro-Dalit stance and her constant questioning of the government.

Even though Shehla has waged a war against right-wing trolls for long, recently, she was forced to delete her Facebook account after getting rape threats from Muslim trolls. She was attacked for saying that Muslim women have the right to choose partners, and for extending her support for an inter-faith religion. She had said these while referring to the recent murder of Ankit Saxena, who was allegedly murdered by his Muslim girlfriend’s family.

Shehla went on to ask if the Muslim community would allow their daughters or sisters to marry someone outside their religion. However, after the backlash, she may have realised that the people attacking her weren’t right-wing trolls – and that they probably meant business. Consequently, she may have felt scared enough to deactivate her Facebook profile.

In my opinion, this kind of thing happens all the time. Groups of a particular political (or even religious) faith often try to intrude upon a majority of social media (especially Facebook) groups. They raid pages/twitter handles of known public figures – and sometimes, they even create R-rated twitter tags to embarrass public figures just to impose their political points.

But, the fact remains that these tactics are the same as the ones high school bullies may use against a teenager – even though the cyber-bullies may say otherwise.

In Shehla’s case, right-wing trolls didn’t take long to jump on the bandwagon and point out that she deserved it. To me, this is like telling someone who has been raped that they deserved it.

However, this line of reasoning holds that if a person did something objectionable, then it’s completely okay for the opponents to respond along similar lines. As a society, we need to rise above such impulses. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will make the world blind.

I think that Shehla’s case this time doesn’t revolve around the issue of what she said. Instead, her actions till the present day is the reason why different groups are still so irked with her. Additionally, in the past, there have been massive, politically-driven spear campaigns against JNU students to suppress the uprisings and the pro-Dalit movements, which question the current government at the Centre.

As I read through the screenshots of her Facebook profile (which has since been deleted) and scroll through her twitter feed, I can’t help but think of a scene in high school, where a group of students are trying to play a prank on another student. In some cases, the student being bullied may be so humiliated that they become scared to explain to everyone what actually happened.

To speak of this issue even further, in my opinion, some kids may become venomously mean – either because someone was mean to them, or because no one was there to check on them. This kind of behaviour can spread like a venom. The same is applicable to the bullies on social media.

Perhaps, we will all agree that it’s wrong to bully or play a dangerous prank on a high school kid. Neither is it okay to deface the social media handle of a popular figure with malicious comments and abuses about her character, work, family and whatever one can think of. In fact, we would be much better off if we didn’t have to resort to such behaviour.