A man uses mobile phones in Mumbai (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

A Call Every 5 Seconds Dogs Indian Prime Minister Modi's Critic

(Bloomberg) -- Indian lawyer Prashant Bhushan’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing for the past five days.

The well-known critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been getting abusive calls and messages after he tweeted about the government’s handling of last week’s attack in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers. He’s not alone. Tweets in support for Kashmiri students, who have been harassed online, brought on similar abuses for journalists Barkha Dutt and Abhisar Sharma.

"I must have received by now more than more than 10,000 calls in last five to six days, every 3 to 5 seconds,” Bhushan said in his office in New Delhi. “I’ve blocked more than 400 phone numbers but they are still coming.” Bhushan blames supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for revealing his personal phone number online. Twitter users backing Modi have in the past hired men across rural, small-town India to influence opinions through mass messages.

Amit Malviya, social media head of the BJP, didn’t immediately respond to calls or a text message.

The attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama last week claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based terrorist outfit -- the worst since Modi came to power -- has fanned strong anti-Pakistan views across Indian television channels with news anchors pushing for stronger action against India’s nuclear-armed neighbor.

A Call Every 5 Seconds Dogs Indian Prime Minister Modi's Critic

Campaigns against the ruling party’s critics are gaining momentum ahead of polls in May in which Prime Minister Modi will seek a second term and is focusing attention on intolerance among his supporters and the ones opposing him.

Journalist Barkha Dutt faced online sexual abuse including explicit pictures and threats after she offered to help Kashmiris being harassed in part of India. Dutt tweeted to say she has filed a police complaint against the "coordinated, violent mob attack" and sought action from the social media platform.

While the state-run National Commission for Women has sought an inquiry into Dutt’s harassment, India’s telecom ministry has issued a directive to telecom service providers to take action against those sending obscene messages to noted public figures, The Indian Express reported.

Meanwhile, Bhushan has temporarily changed his phone number.

“It was impossible to use my phone,” he said. “I got a new number for the time being until this stops.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.