Twitter has withheld a tweet by journalist Rana Ayyub under the Information Technology Act, 2000. The tweet while unavailable in India, can be seen elsewhere.
The said tweet, posted on April 8, pertains to the Gyanvapi mosque dispute.
In May, a court-appointed surveyor had reported that an oval object had been found in a tank inside Varanasi mosque during a video survey. Hindu petitioners had claimed it is a Shivling, a symbolic representation of Shiva. Muslims, however, say that the object is actually a fountain.
In her tweet, Ayyub had said that the decision by a Varanasi court to allow a survey of the mosque sets the stage for the “demolition of yet another mosque in India”. She was referring to the demolition of Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid, which was demolished in 1992.
On Monday, Ayyub posted on Twitter the notice she received from the microblogging site.
“In order to comply with Twitter’s obligations under India’s local laws, we have withheld the following account in India under the country’s Information Technology Act, 2000: the content remains available elsewhere,” the notice from Twitter read.
The International Center for Journalists said Twitter’s move was “deeply troubling”.
“Rana Ayyub has been the target of prolific online violence, and now faces censorship on Twitter,” the press body said. “She should be able to speak freely and safely in India.”
Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav said that Twitter has withheld two accounts – Tractor2twitr and Kisanektamorcha – that were related to the farmers’ protests against the now-repealed farm laws.
Several other Twitter users also criticised the move by the microblogging site.
On March 29, Ayyub, an outspoken critic of the Modi government and columnist for The Washington Post, was stopped at Mumbai airport while she was heading for a flight to London. An hour before the departure, she had said, she was issued summons by the Enforcement Directorate to appear before it.
Ayyub had challenged the agency’s lookout notice in the Delhi High Court, which subsequently allowed her to travel abroad.
ED case against Rana Ayyub
The Enforcement Directorate’s case is based on a first information report filed by the Uttar Pradesh Police in September.
A Hindutva group called the Hindu IT Cell had filed the complaint, alleging that Ayyub had illegally collected money through the online fundraising platform Ketto “in the name of charity”. The complaint had alleged that the journalist received foreign funds without government approval.
Agency officials had told PTI that Ayyub raised Rs 2,69,44,680 on Ketto. The Enforcement Directorate had also claimed that she created a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh from the funds she had raised but did not use it for relief work.
According to a report published by PTI, the Enforcement Directorate had issued a provisional order “to attach a Rs 50-lakh worth fixed deposit and the rest amount kept as bank deposits and held in two accounts of a private bank in Navi Mumbai”.
Ayyub had described the allegations as “preposterous, wholly mala fide and belied by record”. They are based on “an intentional misreading of her bank statements”, the journalist had said.
She had said her personal bank account could not be used as Ketto required a physical copy of her permanent account number, or PAN, to be furnished immediately. The document was unavailable at the time, Ayyub had said.
“In these circumstances, as I thought that aid to Covid-19 ravaged families should not be delayed, I gave Ketto the details and documents relating to my father and sister’s bank accounts,” she had said.
The journalist had also added that she received no foreign contributions as defined under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.