Stars and politicians alike targeted by trolls

Trolls attacked cricketer Virat Kohli (left) and his on-and-off girlfriend Anushka Sharma. They blamed the actress for Kohli's poor performance.
Trolls attacked cricketer Virat Kohli (left) and his on-and-off girlfriend Anushka Sharma. They blamed the actress for Kohli's poor performance. PHOTOS: AFP

In India, prominent public personalities, from actors to sports stars, activists, politicians and journalists, are routinely trolled online.

Cricketer Virat Kohli, when he was going through a bad patch in cricket last year, found that the criticism was harshest against his on-and-off girlfriend Anushka Sharma, a successful Bollywood actress. Trolls routinely slammed the actress for his poor performance and also made fun of her even when Mr Kohli played well.

"(If) virat kohli is the superman of cricket then anushka sharma is kryptonite of cricket," wrote one user.

The remarks forced Mr Kohli to come out in her support in a post titled Shame, put up on Twitter and Instagram in March this year.

 

Some journalists , actors and others have even deactivated their accounts after abusive trolling. NDTV India's Ravish Kumar last year stopped using his Twitter account.

Still, some have returned fire. When women's rights activist Kavita Krishnan got trolled on Facebook over a discussion on what constitutes "free sex", her mother Lakshmi Krishnan retorted: "I fight for every woman and man to have sex according to their consent. Never unfree, never forced."

BJP ministers also speak out against trolling.

Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said in an interview to NDTV that there was no outrage in the media or elsewhere when she was trolled.

One of the controversies she has been facing is over her education qualifications after giving differing accounts in election affidavits for the 2009 and 2014 elections.

"I didn't see outrage when someone said: how can an illiterate woman's daughter win the world karate championship?" she said in online responses to her daughter winning a bronze at the World Karate Championship in Malta.

Nirmala Ganapathy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Stars and politicians alike targeted by trolls'. Print Edition | Subscribe