The cyber crime cell of Mumbai Police has arrested two more men, who allegedly abused and issued rape threats to the city-based stand-up artiste, Agrima Joshua, via an offensive video.
Joshua had courted controversy after a video of her stand-up act performed last year went viral, where she had purportedly insulted Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, an icon in Maharashtra.
Later, she apologised on social media and deleted the video.
The arrested persons have been identified as Ashraf Shaikh and Virat Sharma.
Both are Virar residents and class X drop-outs, who drive auto-rickshaws to make a living.
They are friends of Umesh Dada alias Imtiyaz Shaikh, who was arrested by Mumbai Police from Nalasopara on July 13, for a similar charge.
Investigations have revealed that Umesh Dada and the other two arrested accused are influenced by Hindustani Bhau, a popular YouTuber and a former contestant of Big Boss, a reality TV game show.
“Influenced by the style of Hindustani Bhau about how he abuses and roasts people in his videos, the three had made similar clips to gain popularity in a short span of time. They had made videos on Joshua for cheap thrills,” said a police official, requesting anonymity.
Their videos, too, had gone viral. Umesh Dada is a friend of another YouTuber, Shubham Mishra, who was arrested on July 12 from Vadodara by Gujarat Police on similar charges of threatening and abusing Joshua.
Mishra is also a friend of Hindustani Bhau.
“The arrested accused had switched off their mobile phones and had gone underground after Umesh Dada was held. They were arrested on Thursday from Virar after a search operation lasted over 15 days,” said Rashmi Karandikar, deputy commissioner of police (DCP) (cyber), Mumbai Police.
Mumbai Police on Thursday night shared a video on Twitter in which the two accused could be seen seeking an apology for their actions.
The families of the two arrested accused had no knowledge about their crime and only came to know after the Mumbai Police booked them.
The two have been arrested under Sections 294 (obscenity), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354-A (sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment), 354-D (stalking), 504 (intentional insult to break public peace), 505 (statements leading to public mischief), 506 (criminal intimidation), 509 (intending to insult the modesty of a woman), 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 67-A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.
They will be produced in a Mumbai court on Friday.
Initially, a Shiv Sena leader had complained about Joshua’s viral video to Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh.
Later, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists vandalised Habitat Cafe, a stand-up comedy studio in Khar in suburban Mumbai, where Joshua had performed last year.
The video of MNS’s stunt was shared on social media following which social media influencer Shubham Mishra and Umesh Dada also jumped on the bandwagon.
They uploaded their videos on social media, threatening to rape her for disrespecting Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. They also abused her mother and sister.
Several prominent personalities, such as stand-up artistes Mallika Dua and Kunal Kamra and actor Swara Bhaskar, criticised the offensive videos and sought the intervention of the National Commission for Women (NCW).
Minister Deshmukh took cognisance of the threat to Joshua and asked the Mumbai Police to take legal action against the offenders and also to ascertain if she is liable to be prosecuted for disrespecting Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.