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5,000 people, mainly women, bullied, stalked and harassed on social media in pandemic year: Ahmedabad Police

According to officials of Ahmedabad Cyber Crime Cell, which pivots the ‘Cyber Aashvast project’, from January 2020 to July 2021, as many as 4,985 complaints were made by victims using various social media platforms to the Anti Cyber Bullying Unit of Gujarat Police.

Written by Vaibhav Jha | Ahmedabad |
July 31, 2021 12:27:28 am
The complainants were not just from Ahmedabad but all across Gujarat.

In the past one year of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, around 5,000 people, an overwhelming majority of them young women, were bullied, sexually harassed and stalked on social media, as per data revealed by the police.

According to officials of Ahmedabad Cyber Crime Cell, which pivots the ‘Cyber Aashvast project’, from January 2020 to July 2021, as many as 4,985 complaints were made by victims using various social media platforms to the Anti Cyber Bullying Unit of Gujarat Police. The complaints ranged from stalking, bullying, sexually harassment to impersonation, using morphed pictures and lewd activities made against the victims, a majority of them women.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Amit Vasava, deputy commissioner of police, Ahmedabad Cyber Crime Cell, said, “Among the near about 5,000 complaints that we received at the anti cyber bullying unit, barring a few cases, the victims were young girls and women. The complainants were not just from Ahmedabad but all across Gujarat. A lot of complaints pertained to stalking or indecent comments made on social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.”

“The anti cyber bullying unit worked two ways in such complaints, first of all in case of impersonation or fake account on social media, the particular account was deleted, and then the concerned police station was informed to take criminal action against the accused. Many times, the offence committed did not fall under the purview of the Information Technology Amendment Act to be counted as a criminal act. In those cases also, we took satisfactory action by either disabling/deleting the account of bullies and then proper counselling of the victims.”

Among the near about 5,000 victims, a few of them included young students of a private university who were sexually harassed by an unknown man who infiltrated into their online Zoom class and committed lewd activities. More than a year later, police cracked the case and traced the main accused to have fled to Canada while his accomplice, a student of the private university, who knew the victim students, was arrested.

In another case, a 25-year-old man was held by the Anti Cyber Bullying Unit in Ahmedabad after he mentally tortured several women by demanding their intimate pictures on Whatsapp by promising them “free innerwears”. In another case, a man from Modasa in Aravalli was arrested after he created several fake IDs on different social media platforms of women students of medical colleges in Ahmedabad. According to police, the accused had committed the act after his unsolicited advances were rejected by one of his victims in the past.

“In most of the cases of bullying or stalking, we see that the accused is known to the victim and his advances have been refused in the past,” added Vasava.

The Anti Cyber Bullying Unit simultaneously started to counsel the women victims of such crimes. “We have a total of four women officers who have been trained at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in Bengaluru. Every time, a woman approaches the anti cyber bullying unit, the women officers counsel them and together we seek progress ahead. In many cases of stalking and online crimes, the women victims were clinically depressed,” said Vasava.

The Cyber Aashvast project is an initiative of the cyber crime cell of Gujarat Police inaugurated by Union Home Minister Amit Shah back in December 2019, which has been set up to categorically deal with different kids of online crimes such as financial crimes, identity theft and even online bullying and harassment. The Anti Cyber Bullying Unit is one of the four units that work under Cyber Aashvast project, which deals with cases of online stalking, harassment, bullying, using morphed pictures, sexual harassment and has a dedicated team of police personnel and counsellors to help the victims, while retaining their confidentiality. The helpline number is 100.

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