An unidentified man threatened to upload a morphed nude photograph of a minor on Facebook but police in Rajasthan allegedly victim-shamed the girl and asked her to delete her social media accounts, family-members have said.
A police official in Udaipur also allegedly blamed her Bohra blamed for “giving too much of freedom to their girls” and ridiculed her parents for letting the minor have a cellphone, the minor’s elder sister, Saleha Paatwala, said in a Facebook post that has drawn praise for her courage.
Saleha found support from Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi who responded to a Twitter post seeking help and asked police to “take action against the culprit”.
The incident underpinned what many describe as insensitivity of police in handling cases of cyber stalking, a crime in India under stringent laws enacted in 2000. Activists say that only a fraction of incidents of cyber stalking – a term used to describe online harassment – are reported as women victims themselves are seen with suspicion due to deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny. Convictions are even rare.
According to Saleha, the unidentified man had sent the morphed photograph to the 17-year-old’s account in Instagram, an online photo-sharing platform. The accused followed it up with a message to her threatening to upload the photograph on Facebook.
The accused sent the photo and message from a handle called @aryan6687, she said.
After the teenager immediately informed her family, they approached the local police station to lodge an FIR.
“My father and sister went to the Dhan Mandi police station in Udaipur to lodge an FIR. The cops said such complaints were taken by the cyber cell. The Suraj Pole branch of the cyber cell lodged an FIR but said they only deal with ATM-related cyber crimes,” Saleha said in her Facebook post.
She said her father and sister went back to the Dhan Mandi police station where they were asked to come back the next day (Sunday). On Sunday, the woman said, they were directed to the circle inspector (CI) and her sister narrated the incident again to a lawyer.
“The lawyer, CI, and an officer decided to morally lecture my sister and father. The officer said, ‘Aap Bohra logo ko parents se bhaut azadi mili hui hai isliye ap logo ke sath ye bahut hota hai,” she said.
She said the police official, SHO of Dhan Mandi police station Rajesh Sharma, told them to delete the social media accounts.
“Why do you post pictures on social media? What he has done with you, he will do it with others as well. You should delete your social media accounts in order to be safe,” she quoted the police official as saying.
The woman said that the SHO told her family that the matter has been escalated to the cyber cell and was under consideration. She claimed that when they asked for a copy of the FIR, police officials told them that the complaint has not converted into FIR as it was till being probed.
The woman then sought help me from the WCD ministry, which has a hashtag #HelpMeWCD for people who want to report a crime. Gandhi responded and assured the woman of immediate action.
“My family was disappointed. Then I got a mail from the WCD ministry in our favour instructing all the concerned departments to do thorough investigation and to take strict action against the culprit,” the woman told HT.
The SHO of Dhan Mandi, however, denied the allegations and said the matter was under consideration and the cyber team was probing the matter thoroughly.