New Delhi: Several journalists in Delhi and neighbouring Noida have received a threat message on WhatsApp, sent from different anonymous numbers, saying anyone critical of the Narendra Modi government, the BJP and the RSS will meet the same fate as journalist Gauri Lankesh who was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru earlier this month.
Mohammad Ali, a reporter with The Hindu, was doing a story on an inter-caste couple in Meerut being attacked allegedly by the Bajrang Dal, when he received the threat message.
"It shook me up a little, I have since changed my address, I realised staying alone was dangerous", said the 33-year-old reporter.
Deeksha Sharma, who works for online news portal The Quint, got the same message in the middle of the night just two days after she questioned the rape culture and patriarchy in a popular rap song.
"I woke up to this message quite baffled, I went straight to my editors and eventually we decided to bring down the video," Ms Sharma said.
More than a dozen other reporters in Delhi and National Capital Region have received the same threatening WhatsApp message. The Delhi Police so far has registered eight FIRs for criminal intimidation.
"These complaints are similar in nature and the case has gone to cyber cell to identify the source," Dependar Pathak, Special Commissioner Operations, Delhi Police, told NDTV.
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Congress leader Ashok Chavan has written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh asking him to take immediate action to protect the journalists.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS which is clearly named in the WhatsApp message has distanced itself from it, saying, "Why would we be so literal in the threat, these are miscreants who are out to defame the organisation which is already facing killings in Kerala."
According to international non-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders, India is the third most unsafe places for journalists after Syria and Iraq. While this is not the first time journalists have received threats, in times of Gauri Lankesh, these mass messages seem aimed at spreading fear psychosis.