In less than a month, Dilshad Shaikh’s life has turned upside down.
Her family has been forced out of the home they rented in Satara.
A mob of young men has thrown stones at her house, calling her family “deshdrohi” – traitors.
Her son was nearly forced to leave his school.
Her sister’s vegetable stall has been vandalised twice.
And all because of a social media post her 14-year-old son did not make.
On the morning of August 15, just as Shaikh, a 35-year-old accredited social health activist in Satara, was about to leave for an Independence Day event, a neighbour came running to her. He showed a social media post from her son’s Instagram handle, which insulted 17th century Maratha ruler Shivaji.
“From the language, I knew my son did not write it,” Shaikh told Scroll. “It was full of abuses.”
Soon, she received a call from a relative. The relative’s daughter had gotten abusive messages from her son’s Instagram account.
“Local leaders in our community advised me to go to the police station,” she said. Shaikh said they warned of consequences of such posts going viral.
Shaikh took her son to the Satara city police station, from where she was referred to the cyber cell. There, she deposited the two cellphones used by the family.
But within hours, screenshots of the post had already gone viral.
A mob of 40 people gathered outside her house and pelted stones. Her mother-in-law and 11-year-old daughter cowered inside.
“They called us deshdrohi (traitors), and asked us to go to Pakistan,” Shaikh said.
At the cyber police station, Shaikh and her son’s doubts about the Instagram account being tampered grew stronger. “My son deleted the post, but it reappeared within seconds. Even the police saw it happen. It was clear that his account had been hacked,” Shaikh said.
Even so, a first information report under Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code, which is invoked in case of a deliberate act to hurt religious sentiments, was registered against her minor son. He was produced before a magistrate, and on August 16 sent to a juvenile home for a few days.
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