The police in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district have registered a First Information Report against Twitter, news website The Wire and seven others, including journalists Rana Ayyub and Mohammed Zubair, in connection with the assault of an elderly Muslim man, The Indian Express reported. The FIR mentions specific tweets posted about the incident in Ghaziabad.
The FIR, which also named writer Saba Naqvi and Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Shama Mohamed and Maskoor Usmani, alleged that the accused did not verify their tweets on the incident and thereby gave a “communal angle” to it.
They have been booked under Sections 153 (provocation for rioting), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505 (mischief), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
The FIR registered on Tuesday night mentions that the tweets posted by the accused were shared on a largescale and they hinted at a “criminal conspiracy”, The Indian Express reported.
“The accused and other people tried to create animosity between Hindus and Muslims,” the FIR stated. “The tweets were an attempt to destroy communal harmony...The accused include journalists and political persons who did not make an attempt to establish the truth in the case and spread false news.”
The FIR added that despite a clarification put out by the Ghaziabad Police, ruling out any communal angle, the users did not delete the posts and Twitter took no action to remove them.
Akhilesh Mishra, the station house officer at Loni border police station, told The Times of India that action was taken because those named in the FIR had shared videos of the incident on their Twitter handles without verifying it.
In a tweet, Zubair said he has deleted the videos. “The victim’s version of him being forced to chant Jai Shri Ram at this point in time do not seem to add up based on my conversations with police authorities and other journalists reporting on this issue,” he tweeted.
Ayyub, meanwhile, said she had tweeted earlier about the attack based on news reports. “In view of the cops investigating the matter claiming a different narrative, I shall wait for the truth to prevail at the earliest,” she wrote on Twitter. “My endeavour remains as always to share news that highlights the truth and thereby promotes peace and harmony in our society. I hope the victim gets justice.”
In a statement, The Wire condemned the registration of a criminal case against the news website for tweeting a link of the story narrating the elderly Muslim man’s version of events. “The FIR is an attempt to criminalise the reporting of anything other than the official version of events,” it added.
The incident first came to light after a video of the Muslim man, identified as Abdul Samad, being assaulted in Ghaziabad district’s Loni area went viral on social media on Sunday. Samad was allegedly beaten up and his beard was cut off. Initial reports said that he was also asked to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.
The police had arrested the main accused, Parvesh Gujjar, on Sunday. On Tuesday, the police arrested two others – Kallu Gujjar and Adil.
The police said that Gujjar and his associates assaulted Samad because he had allegedly sold them an amulet that had a “negative effect” on their families. The statement added that Samad was in the business of making and selling amulets and was an earlier acquaintance of Gujjar and others.
The police’s statement was markedly different from Samad’s account. He had claimed in a video that the accused forced him to chant Hindu deity Ram’s name, when he was “praying to Allah” while being beaten up. He also said that the accused told him that they had beaten up many Muslims and showed him videos of people from the community being beaten up.
The police did not mention any of these in its statement.
“He wasn’t forced [to chant Jai Shri Ram]...The accused are from both the communities, so such an [communal] angle has high chances of being ruled out,” Deputy Superintendent of Police and Circle Officer of Loni, Atul Kumar Sonker, told The Quint. “I wouldn’t comment on what victim is claiming and why he is claiming.”
Meanwhile, Faisal, the brother of one of the arrested men, Adil, has narrated a third version of the incident to The Quint.
While he corroborated the police’s version that Samad sold amulets and had gone to Parvesh Gujjar’s home on his own, Faisal claimed that Adil and a few other Muslim men went there to rescue Samad. Faisal added that another man, Intizaar, who is now absconding, told Adil and the others that Parvesh Gujjar had held a Muslim man.
“They went to the spot and requested Gujjar to let him go and brought Samad out [from Gujjar’s home],” Faisal said, questioning why Muslims would come together to cut the beard of another Muslim man. Faisal added that Parvesh Gujjar named the Muslim men, including Adil, to the police.