The Uttar Pradesh Police on Tuesday arrested journalist Prashant Kanojia from his residence in south Delhi for allegedly posting a morphed photograph related to a Ram temple in Ayodhya, The Quint reported. He was taken to the Vasant Vihar police station in the Capital and is likely to be shifted to Lucknow later, his wife said.
A first information report was registered against the journalist at the Hazratganj police station on Monday by one Dinesh Kumar Shukla, according to The Wire. The FIR alleged that Kanojia had tweeted a morphed image of a poster with the name of Sushil Tiwari, a member of the right-wing group called the Hindu Army, on it.
Kumar’s FIR claimed that Kanojia had allegedly posted the image and wrote that “as per Tiwari’s orders”, there will be a ban on the entry of members of the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes into the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
“This was being circulated as a screenshot of Sushil Tiwari’s post,” the FIR added, attaching the screenshot of the photograph. “This kind of objectionable post will result in disturbing communal harmony, create tension between different communities and can hurt religious feelings, which can threaten law and order.”
The Hindu Army on Monday also shared a photograph on Facebook which purportedly showed the original poster by Tiwari and the morphed version allegedly shared by Kanojia. According to the post, the poster shared by Tiwari demanded that Vedic studies should immediately replace Islamic studies in the Union Public Service Commission examinations.
However, Kanojia’s wife, Jagisha Arora, denied the charges and said the journalist did not post the tweet for which he has been arrested. Arora said an edited screenshot with morphed photographs is doing the rounds under his name. “You can check his Twitter, you will not find the tweet anywhere,” she told The Wire.
Arora said UP police officers came to their house on Tuesday afternoon. “Almost all of them were wearing civilian clothes, only one cop was in police uniform,” she added. She said the police told her that the charges against Kanojia were in “connection with some tweet”. “When I asked them which tweet are they talking about, they [the police] said, ‘You have tweeted a lot, there are orders from above, we have to follow them’,” Arora said.
The FIR against Kanojia has been filed under nine sections of the Indian Penal Code, related to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language; statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes; forgery for the purpose of cheating, and defamation, among others. Kanojia has also been booked under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which pertains to online offences.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad said Kanojia’s arrest was a testimony to the “dictatorial attitude” of the Uttar Pradesh government. “Now the government is suffering due to people reading and writing,” he added. “We are constantly surrounded by times of emergency. Immediate release of Prashant Kanojia is to be ensured.”
This is the third time UP Police has registered a FIR against Kanojia in connection with a social media post. Last year, Kanojia, a former journalist at The Wire Hindi, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police for social media posts he wrote about Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath.
The first information report against the journalist alleged that he made comments “maligning the image of the chief minister”. He was released from jail on June 19, 2019, by the Supreme Court.
The charges against Kanojia related to a video he had shared on Twitter, which showed a woman speaking to reporters outside the chief minister’s office, claiming that she had been talking to Adityanath over video chat and had sent a marriage proposal to him.