The arrest of V.R. Bhat, who posted a comment on Facebook threatening a woman activist, N. Prabha Belavangala, with rape, has put the spotlight on abusive trolls in cyberspace. Though many women told The Hindu that the incident was not isolated, it is the first case to be registered for offensive comments in cyberspace in the State.
There have been two more complaints about offensive Facebook comments after the incident. Senior journalist Gouri Lankesh lodged a complaint over a comment by Bhat with the Basavanagudi police. Mallika Ghanti, Registrar (Evaluation) of Kuvempu University, lodged a complaint against Shankar Gowda in Shimoga for allegedly posting abusive comments on Facebook.
Ms. Lankesh said she faced such abuse regularly. She said there was a distinct right-wing tilt to the abuse and was related to her ideological positions. She also said that many comments reflected contempt towards women and lower castes.
Last year, Dinesh Amin Mattu, media adviser to the Chief Minister, was threatened with an acid attack on Facebook. Mr. Mattu’s comments on the rising religious intolerance in the coastal belt during a television debate had triggered the abuse. An avid Facebook user, Usha Kattemane said she was abused on two occasions, once over an article regarding the recent shooting of a cattle trader.
There is also a private women’s group ‘Antahpura’ on Facebook, where many Kannada users discuss such issues. Jayalakshmi Patil, who initiated the group three years ago, said: “There have been innumerable instances that have been discussed on the group.” She further added that in many cases, it was not just the language that hurt but also an inability to accept differences. She said women were also targeted by patriarchal attitudes.