NEW DELHI: Since Hindutva regime led by Narendra Modi came to power in India in 2014, Indian journalists who are critical of Modi’s policies in general and those in occupied Jammu and Kashmir in particular are target of the ruling dispensation in New Delhi.
Web portal The Wire picked up the case of a Telugu journalist Thulasi Chandu as an example and said, “vitriolic trolling and online harassment are not new [in present day India]”.
In the three years since she started her eponymous YouTube channel ‘Thulasi Chandu’, the 36-year-old independent journalist has been branded as “anti-Hindu”, “Urban Naxal” and “communist”, among others.
However, in a Facebook post last week, Chandu said that she feared for her life.
“Someday, some innocent youth will attack me by turning the hatred filled by the party [RSS and sister organizations] he loves into a sword or a bullet,” she wrote in Telugu on June 24.
“They are hating me because I am saying that religious hatred is the most dangerous thing for the youth of any country.”
Speaking to The Wire, Chandu said that in her 15 years of being a journalist, she has never felt as fearful as she does now. “There is so much fear,” she said.
“I fear for my young children (aged five and 12), my aged mother. My husband has been very supportive of me. But I am a single person, and they are attacking me as an organisation.”
“They are not criticising my video, but they are directly attacking me with personal attacks, body shaming me and showing me as anti-Hindu, even though I haven’t made any videos on the Hindu religion. My videos are only to educate people and to give the complete picture on any issue in current politics.”
Chandu said that the abuse started within three months of starting her YouTube channel.
In 2022, India slipped to 163rd place from 150th the previous year on the World Press Freedom Index released by Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“Supporters of Hindutva, the ideology that spawned the Hindu far-right, wage all-out online attacks on any views that conflict with their thinking. Terrifying coordinated campaigns of hatred and calls for murder are conducted on social media, campaigns that are often even more violent when they target women journalists, whose personal data may be posted online as an additional incitement to violence,” RSF’s report noted.
Prior to starting her independent journalism career, Chandu worked at popular Telugu news outlets including Eenadu, Andhra Jyothi and Sakshi.
When the farmers began their protest in Delhi against the three farm laws in 2020, Chandu made videos explaining the farmers’ stance. “I made a video explaining why they are protesting. I was branded as anti-national in the comments, and my inbox was flooded.”
In Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Modi regime is trampling even basic principles of press freedom by using different intimidating tactics. Journalists are booked under draconian laws for speaking truth on ground situation in the occupied territory. I
Indian probe agencies like NIA, ED frequently raid Kashmiri journalists homes who work under immense pressure, facing intimidation, assaults and arrests by Indian troops.
Since 1989, Indian troops have killed a number of journalists. Since August 2019, crackdown against Kashmiri journalists has been intensified manifold, virtually it has become impossible for them to independently report the ground situation.
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