By Rhea Mogul and Esha Mitra, CNN
A 23-year-old man has been arrested in India for allegedly threatening to rape the infant daughter of the country’s cricket captain, Virat Kohli, as team members face a barrage of online abuse following their disappointing T20 World Cup campaign.
The man was arrested in the southern city of Hyderabad on Wednesday for allegedly posting the threat to Twitter, according to the cyber crime branch of Mumbai police. Sexual harassment, criminal intimidation and defamation are among the charges he faces, police added.
Kohli shares a 10-month-old daughter with his wife, Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma.
The tweet has since been taken down and the man’s account has been suspended.
In a statement emailed to CNN Friday, Twitter said it did not tolerate abuse on its platform. “While we encourage people to express themselves freely on Twitter, abuse, harassment and hateful conduct continue to have no place on our service,” the statement said.
India — one of the tournament favorites — failed to advance to the final stages of the T20 World Cup following defeats to New Zealand and archrival Pakistan that were met with a flood of abuse against the team on social media.
Bowler Mohammed Shami, the only Muslim player in India’s squad, bore the brunt of the vitriol following Pakistan’s 10-wicket victory on October 24 — the first time India had lost to its neighbor in a World Cup match.
Shami was targeted on Instagram and Twitter by people who blamed him for the loss, with some posting Islamophobic messages.
During a news conference on October 30, Kohli criticized the “spineless people on social media” who attacked Shami.
“To me, attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing that a human being can do,” Kohli said. “We stand by him fully, we’re backing him 200%… our brotherhood, our friendship within the team — nothing can be shaken.”
Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar also tweeted in support of Shami, calling him a “world-class bowler.”
Whenever India loses against Pakistan, the trolling develops a “very peculiar, disturbing, parochial character,” according to cricket author and former Indian National Congress party spokesperson Sanjay Jha.
“(When) Mohammad Shami underperforms, the message through internet trolling is that he’s anti-national and a traitor,” Jha said.
The abuse is symptomatic of a larger atmosphere of distrust against Indian Muslims, he added.
Despite widespread online abuse — especially against women and Muslims — arrests of trolls are rare in India. Legal experts and activists have pointed to the country’s lackluster cybersecurity laws and bureaucracy that slow down investigations.
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