Sindhu Sooryakumar, chief coordinating editor of Asianet News, has alleged that she has been repeatedly harassed since moderating a news show debate on February 26 on Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s comments in the Rajya Sabha on the Mahishasura Martyrdom Day event held at JNU. In an interview with Asianet News, Sooryakumar has described the incessant threats and abuses she has received for “denigrating Durga” on the show. Her phone number was released on social media with encouragements to harass her. She has since filed a police complaint, but the calls and threats on social media have not stopped.
Sooryakumar has said BJP’s Kerala secretary VV Rajesh repeated Irani’s statement on a pamphlet that called Durga a sex worker. She claims she repeatedly sought clarification from Rajesh on how the content on the pamphlet could be used to prove sedition charges. She further says she did not once raise the question ‘what is wrong with calling Durga a sex worker?’ during the debate, as is being claimed in some social media posts.
Since the airing of the debate, Sooryakumar has been receiving numerous sexist and abusive phone calls, threatening to “not let [her] live in peace and destroy [her] family”. She also says that Facebook posts and Whatsapp messages of the nature of “Sindhu Sooryakumar is a sex worker. This is her phone number. Call her to protest” have been doing the rounds.
Sooryakumar believes that the RSS is behind the hate campaign. “It is through [the RSS] social media network – from India as well as the Middle East – that these messages are circulating. … I am forced to believe that the RSS is encouraging a culture that is abusive to women”. Some of the callers have identified themselves as RSS or BJP activists. The BJP has not given an official statement on the matter, but Sooryakumar has said Rajesh has assured her that he will cooperate with the police investigation.
Some of the abusive phone calls made have been from personal mobile phones and the police have filed charges against a few of them. If the charges against them are not strong Sooryakumar plans to move court with a private complaint. “I will not allow anyone to challenge my freedom of speech and right to live,” she says with determination.