The police in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district have registered a first information report against eight Twitter handles, including that of multimedia website Mojo Story, for allegedly spreading “fake” stories about the suspected poisoning of three Dalit girls, The Hindu reported on Sunday.
Unnao Assistant Superintendent of Police VK Pandey claimed that untrue and misleading information was being circulated about the incident on social media.
Apart from Mojo Story, the FIR has been filed against the handles @NilimDutta, @BhimSenaChief, @jajagranlive, @SurajKrBaudh, @Abhaykumarazad97, @Rahuldiwkr and @VijayAmbedkarUP, according to The Hindu. It was filed under under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act.
The Mojo Story called the FIR a “blatant case of harassment and intimidation” and defended its coverage of the incident. “Arun Agarwal, a local stringer sent us initial inputs, later we had a Delhi correspondent on ground, as well,” the organisation tweeted.
The website also tweeted a video of a family member of the girls. “The police denial on attempting an early cremation was reported prominently and we removed a tweet after their statement,” Mojo Story said. “However, on the ground, when we spoke to the girls’ families, they still say the police wanted an early cremation. This is what we were told.”
It added: “We have reported all dimensions of the tragedy, the family’s anxieties and allegations as well as the police response at every step. And if this case is pursued, we will confidently defend our journalistic rights and freedom in court.”
The incident took place Unnao’s in Babuhara village on Wednesday when the girls had gone to get fodder for their cattle. Their family members found them lying in their field in an unconscious state after they did not return by evening, the police said. Doctors declared the two girls dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.
On Friday, the police took two men into custody for allegedly giving the girls water laced with insecticide. Meanwhile, the two girls were cremated amid heavy security. The third girl, who had been undergoing treatment in Kanpur, was taken off ventilator on Saturday.
Earlier, the police had booked Congress leader Udit Raj for allegedly spreading fake news that the teenaged girls were raped, and that their bodies were cremated against the will of the family. A first information report was registered with the Sadar Kotwali police station against Raj.
In a tweet on Friday, Raj had said that he spoke to Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former MP Savitri Bai Phule, who managed to meet the family of the girls with much difficulty after the police gave her permission. “The victims’ family members said the girls had been raped and the bodies were cremated against their wishes,” Raj quoted Phule as saying.