Kerala Police Monday arrested five persons after a journalist with a Malayalam news channel filed a complaint alleging she received at least 2,000 threatening and abusive calls following her debate show on Mahishasura Jayanti.
The callers were allegedly activists and sympathisers of pro-Hindutva groups who accused Asianet News Chief Coordinating Editor Sindhu Sooryakumar of calling Goddess Durga a "sex worker" while moderating the debate show on Asianet News TV Friday, the Indian Express reports.
"All of those arrested are connected to BJP, RSS and Hindu groups, including Sri Rama Sena," Thiruvananthapuram Commissioner of Police G Sparjan Kumar told the daily. One of the five accused was arrested from Thiruvananthapuram and the rest — members of Sri Rama Sena, the group involved in 2009 Mangalore pub attack — from Kannur.
According to the national daily, the video of Sooryakumar's shows BJP state secretary VV Rajesh quoting "sex workers" from the pamphlet that MHRD minister Smriti Irani produced at the Rajya Sabha, claiming it was distributed by students in Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Rajesh said he has "clarified the situation to many of the party's cadre" and assured of assistance in the investigation, Sooryakumar said.
"I have been getting a call every minute. The main allegation is that I abused Durga, calling her a sex worker... Most of the abusers called me a prostitute and abused me. Some threatened me while others didn't even know what the charge was," she said.
"I got a call this morning from someone asking whether I was Durga. Another person called me sometime ago, saying I had posted something against Durga on Facebook, and that he wanted to abuse me for that," she added.
One of the members of WhatsApp group Sanga Dhwani had shared Sooryakumar's number and asked others on the group to call and abuse the journalist "for a Facebook post on Durga," the accused from Thiruvananthapuram told the police.
The police are investigating the accused man's claims and are trying to trace the person who shared Sooryakumar's personal number, commissioner Kumar said.
The debate was followed by Feb. 26 statement of Irani in Parliament, where she quoted about Durga from a pamphlet she claimed to have received from JNU. The topic was whether government should interfere with the celebrations of certain festivals and whether celebration of Mahishasur jayanti could be considered an act of treason, India Today reports.