A day after The Quint’s Deeksha Sharma received rape and death threats by an organised army of online trolls for her criticism of rapper Omprakash Mishra’s ‘Aunty Aau Kya’, another journalist received a similar threat via WhatsApp.
Rosamma Thomas, a Jaipur-based Times of India reporter, received a WhatsApp message from an unacquainted number — 9153440409, stating that people who would dare to write against Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the RSS would not be spared. Thomas received the WhatsApp message on September 17 at 8:26 pm.
Giving an example of slain journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder, the message threatened Thomas with a similar fate in case she wrote against the RSS or Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was once a full-time worker for the same organisation.
Lankesh, who was openly critical of the Right-wing, was recently shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar. In addition, the Central Bureau of Investigation has found evidence linking Lankesh’s murder to the killings of other scholars and rationalist thinkers such as MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar — all of whom were vocal critics of the Right-wing.
What’s the Thomas connection?
Thomas received the threat three days after she wrote a story titled: Crop insurance: Farmers taken for a ‘premium’ ride. The article openly criticised Modi’s Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna. It stated that the crop insurance scheme that was launched in 2016 and then hailed as a “safety shield” for farmers was now more like another fraud that was committed on hapless farmers. Incidentally, the story is no longer available on the website. “The story was killed,” Thomas said.
While Thomas was asked to remove the mention of “fraud” from the story, in addition to supplementing her reportage with an official quote, the story, nevertheless was spiked even after the information asked for was added, she said.
Newslaundry reached out to Satyan Gajwani, Vice-Chairman of Times Internet, and Rajesh Kalra, Times Digital’s chief editor for a comment about the story. While Gajwani declined to comment, Kalra is yet to respond.*
This, however, isn’t the first time that the Times of India has pulled down a story without citing reasons. Apart from those reported about by Newslaundry earlier, a story titled: CBI to approach Scotland Yard over murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi, is no longer available on the website. The story was published on June 4, 2016.
Speaking to Newslaundry about the possible reasons why she could have been threatened, Thomas said, “I’ve put out uncomplimentary things and tagged the PM on Twitter.” Despite the trend, it is difficult to conclude that Thomas received the threat because of her writings.
The Times’ journalist has filed a complaint with the Cyber Crime police of Jaipur and has also informed the cyber cell that the same message was sent out to another journalist, Deeksha Sharma.
Even though the two journalists received the same message, the numbers used to send these threats were different. Sharma had earlier received two WhatsApp messages from 8459242619 and 8647082714 respectively. “I looked up the number on Truecaller. There was no name but it showed that the location was West Bengal.” However, the number is no longer listed on Truecaller.
Talking to Newslaundry about her initial reaction, Thomas said,“I didn’t give as much thought to the message when I received it, adding that this was the first time she was receiving such a threat in several years of her journalistic practice.” Nevertheless, when Thomas shared the message with her colleagues, she was encouraged to report it to the police. “They also brought to my notice that the same message had gone out to a lady from The Quint,” she added.
Thomas’ case, however, is the last of these WhatsApp threats it seems. On September 20, Subham Durga, a Delhi resident, uploaded a screenshot of the same threat on Facebook. Similar to Thomas’s case, the number that was used to send the WhatsApp text was different.
*The story will be updated if and when we receive Kalra’s response.
The author can be contacted on Twitter at @quilledwords.