Trolls attack Shraddha on her Instagram handle for dating a Muslim

Published on Nov 18, 2022 12:30 AM IST

On Instagram, some blamed Walkar for going against her parents’ wishes and moving in with Poonawala, while others blamed her for being “ultra-modern” and opting for “western evils” like a live-in relationship.

New Delhi, India - Nov. 17, 2022: A view of the house where Aaftab Amin Poonawalla allegedly murdered Shraddha, in Chattarpur Pahadi, New Delhi, India, on Thursday, November 17, 2022. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
New Delhi, India - Nov. 17, 2022: A view of the house where Aaftab Amin Poonawalla allegedly murdered Shraddha, in Chattarpur Pahadi, New Delhi, India, on Thursday, November 17, 2022. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
ByGautam S Mengle

A low-key social media user, Shraddha Walkar had a mere 120 followers on Instagram. Since her death, allegedly at the hands of her live-in partner Aaftab Poonawala, her tribe of followers has grown to 5,117. While a handful of them have extended their sympathies and condolences, a large number made hate posts that suggested she invited her terrible fate.

Poonawala, 28, is accused of murdering Walkar, 27, on May 18 at their rented accommodation in south Delhi’s Chhattarpur Pahadi area, dismembering her body, and dumping the body parts at forested areas across the Capital over a period of three months. The couple was originally from Vasai in Maharashtra and had moved to their rented house in the Capital just three days before the murder.

On Instagram, some blamed Walkar for going against her parents’ wishes and moving in with Poonawala, while others blamed her for being “ultra-modern” and opting for “western evils” like a live-in relationship. And many wrote that she, a Hindu, deserved a macabre end because she got involved with a Muslim man.

HT is not publishing the hate messages.

Cyber-psychologist Dr Nirali Bhatia put down the toxicity to a very basic tenet — everyone has an opinion and wants to grab attention by airing it.

“Only cyberspace offers a platform to say exactly what you feel without being bound by societal norms or codes of conduct... The internet lets you get away with it,” said Dr Bhatia.

She said those posting the comments on Walkar’s page are fully aware the account is at the centre of attention, and are happy to have some of it diverted towards their views. “Social media has given rise to a culture of everyone appointing themselves as judge, jury and executioner,” Dr Bhatia said.

Cyber police officers said that there are ways in which this can be controlled, but the parties concerned would have to take steps to initiate the process. “Since the account was being used by a murder victim, the investigating agency will need to examine it as evidence. Hence, the account can be preserved but made inactive. This can be done if the investigating agency writes to Instagram. Her family can also give a letter to the local cyber police station,” a police officer from Mumbai said.

Meta, which owns Instagram and has a content moderation team that looks into such abuse, did not respond to requests seeking comments.

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