Arrest Of Barkha Harassers: Rightwingers Highlight ‘Muslim’ Suspect

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NEW DELHI — Even as veteran journalist Barkha Dutt on Wednesday applauded the Delhi Police for arresting four men for allegedly harassing her via social media and on phone, the identity of one of the accused is providing fodder for communal posts on Twitter.

On Wednesday, The Indian Express reported that three people had been arrested from Delhi and one from Surat in Gujarat based on an FIR from Dutt, who accused multiple people of threatening her and sending explicit imagery on social media and via phone in February.

The Indian Express identified the suspects as “Rajiv Sharma (23), Hemraj Kumar (31) and Aditya Kumar (34) from Delhi and Shabbir Gurfan Pinjari (45), a resident of Surat”. The publication reported that the four accused found Dutt’s phone number on social media where it had been shared on the pretext of offering “escort services”.

Well done Police. Shabbir Gurfan Pinjari from Surat sent D##k Pic to Barkha Dutt on whatsapp https://t.co/aPBBopkQfX

— Chowkidar Tajinder Bagga (@TajinderBagga) March 20, 2019

The name of Pinjari, perhaps unsurprisingly, evoked considerable reaction on social media. Police claim Pinjari is accused of sending explicit photos to Dutt. Tajinder Bagga, the spokesperson of the Delhi BJP unit, tweeted about Pinjari’s arrest. He tweeted, “Well done Police. Shabbir Gurfan Pinjari from Surat sent D##k Pic to Barkha Dutt on WhatsApp,” seemingly ignoring the other three individuals who had been apprehended.

Shefali Vaidya, a popular rightwing columnist and blogger who is followed by over 3 lakh people on Twitter, also referred to the arrest of Pinjari. Vaidya tweeted, “So @BDUTT, when are you going to inform the world that the infamous ‘d**k pic’ was sent to you by Shabbir Gurfan Pinjari, a Muslim butcher from Surat? Also, when are you going to pen a WaPo column on why ‘we should forgive misguided Islamic youth who send obscene pics’?”

The posts by Vaidya and Bagga were retweeted over 1,000 times. Shockingly, ‘Shabbir Gurfan’ was at the eight spot among the top 10 Twitter trends in India at 11.30am on Wednesday, with ‘Barkha Dutt’ at 7th spot. At least four Twitter handles followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted about the issue, emphasising the arrest of Pinjari. Ankit Jain, Pawan Durani,  Khemchand Sharma and Amrita Bhinder, all followed by Modi on Twitter and having thousands of followers, posted about the arrest of Pinjari. Jain accused Dutt of making “Hindus look like some kind of predators all the time”, while Sharma demanded Dutt “must take back her allegations against pro Hindu groups”.

Responding to a comment on the rightwing posts over Pinjari’s purported Muslim identity, Dutt described the focus on his religion as a “truly sickening approach”. She tweeted, “Truly sickening approach. And BTW @svaradarajan there are still 10-12 grave offenders yet to be arrested by @DelhiPolice and while I would Never do a religious breakdown of their names… These hate mongers would not be happy if I were to. For obvious reasons.”

Ale ale ale, but you WOULD do the full religious background ONLY of every Muslim victim of every crime in this country and of Muslim ‘poor headmaster’s sons’? Geroff the poor moral high horse @BDUTT, you flogged the poor thing to death the day you kootchi cooed to Nira Radia! https://t.co/JYqOKZEERI

— Shefali Vaidya ??????? ?????? ?????? ????? (@ShefVaidya) March 20, 2019

Dutt, who has been the target of rightwing ire on social media for years, was again targeted by Vaidya in a follow-up tweet. Vaidya accused her of doing a “full religious background [check] ONLY of every Muslim victim of every crime in this country and of Muslim ‘poor headmaster’s sons’”.

While she thanked the Delhi Police for arresting the four accused, Dutt tweeted the agency was yet to act against “at least 10 other grave offenders” and emphasised her statement before a magistrate “is on record”. Dutt tweeted, “… thanks for four arrests made for sexual abuse, death threat, stalking, nude pix & violence, Id like to underline you are yet to act against at least 10 other grave offenders. My statement before the magistrate is on record. Please Act.”

On February 18, Dutt had tweeted she had been subjected to a barrage of phone calls, WhatsApp messages and Twitter posts featuring threats and explicit sexual imagery. Dutt then took the unprecedented step of publicising the phone numbers of several of her alleged abusers. She also described the harassment as an “organised hate campaign”and stated her phone number was being circulated on social media.

Dutt had then tweeted, “I had close to 1000 abusive messages and calls in a coordinated and violent mob attack. These included a message to shoot me, a nude photo, many sexually abusive messages…”

 

 


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