The Delhi Police’s cyber crime cell has arrested four men for sending objectionable messages to journalist Barkha Dutt following an FIR filed by her in February for online abuse, blackmail and sexual harassment against several people who sent her obscene messages and threats on WhatsApp after her phone number was circulated on Twitter in the aftermath of the Pulwama attacks. While three of the men are from Delhi, the man who sent her a graphic image is from Surat.
According to a report by The Indian Express, they have been identified as: Surat’s Shabbir Gurfan Pinjari (45), and Rajiv Sharma (23), Hemraj Kumar (31) and Aditya Kumar (34) from Delhi. According to the report, while the three men from Delhi were booked for sending objectionable text messages and have been released on bail, Pinjari has been sent to a 14-day judicial custody for sending an obscene photograph.
Sharma is pursuing his graduation via correspondence from a private university, Hemraj is a chef in a private hotel, Aditya works with a private firm as a sales executive, and Pinjari works in a butcher shop, the report said. The accused reportedly told police that they found Dutt’s number on social media, where someone had shared it claiming it was for “escort services”. Police are now trying to ascertain who shared the journalist’s number online.
On 18 February, Barkha had taken to Twitter to voice her complaint about the barrage of unsolicited hate and abuse messages she received in her Twitter inbox and later on WhatsApp in form of sexually explicit context. She tweeted the message she received along with the phone numbers, in order to oust the men who did so. Following her tweet, Twitter had blocked some of the features for her account, post which, Barkha shared a complaint email she sent to the team of Twitter India expressing her disappointment on the platform’s inability to curb online abuse and sexual harassment.
I had close to 1000 abusive messages and calls in a Cordinated and violent mob attack. These included a message to shoot me, a nude photo, many sexually abusive messages. I outed the men who did this. Twitter locked me till many of the details were taken down. I wroe this to them pic.twitter.com/XRyx9xbjcV
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) February 19, 2019
An FIR was reportedly registered under IPC sections 354-D (stalking), 506 (threatening), 507 (criminal intimidation) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy), and sections 67 and 67-A (publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act) of the IT Act. According to reports, Barkha’s FIR said that she appeared to have been made a “victim of some fake news propaganda” and that her personal number was shared on social media platforms after which she was sent “nude pictures and sexually abusive text messages”. “I fear for my well-being, security and life as this is a coordinated assault by a violent mob,” she had said adding that one message even read, “Goli maar deinge (Will shoot you)”.
Thereafter, on 19 February, the National Commission for Women had asked Delhi Commissioner of Police Amulya Patnaik to initiate a “speedy investigation” into the harassment faced by Dutt on social media.
Four men arrested by Delhi Police cyber cell for stalking me, sexually abusing me, sending me nude/D#ck pictures and in one case threatening to kill me. However this is not over. I have listed ten more numbers in my FIR and before a magistrate. Will follow till each one jailed
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) March 20, 2019
Responding to the arrests, Dutt tweeted that 10 more mobile numbers had been listed by her in the FIR and she will follow up on the case until each one of them is jailed.