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Freedom of speech

Indian filmmaker threatened with rape for criticizing Hindu practices

By WITW Staff on October 26, 2015

An Indian author and filmmaker received a barrage of online threats of rape, acid attacks, and other violence after she publicly criticized Hindu practices, including publishing articles arguing for the freedom to eat beef, according to The Times of India. Chetana Thirthahalli told police in Bangalore, India, that she had been receiving the threats for the past six months but only decided to file a report after another outspoken public intellectual, MM Kalburgi, was killed in September for criticizing idol worshipping. Thirthahalli said that she received many messages from fake Facebook profiles and had been ignoring them, but messages from two accounts had become particularly troubling and “obscene,” according to the report. The police referred the case to a cyber crime unit, according to the report. “With the killing of writer Kalburgi and little progress in its investigation, I do not feel safe now. I may not be anywhere near Kalburgis’ stature, but I am afraid,” she said.

News of the threats dovetails with ongoing public debates in India over the right to freedom of expression, the right to consume beef, and the country’s culture of violence against women — the latter of which received global scrutiny following the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012. The country has seen weeks of protests recently over beef consumption after a 50-year-old man was lynched by an angry mob for allegedly storing and consuming beef, which is sacred to Hindus, in his home. In May, a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court, that freedom of expression is not an absolute right, set off a wave of protests around the country over what the Indian Express described as “rising intolerance” in the country. Thirthalli received a flood of supportive messages on her Facebook page after news of the threats went public in India, with many supporters championing her fight for freedom of speech.

Read the full story at the Times of India.