The Delhi Police on Thursday said that they have received a complaint against actor Swara Bhasker, Twitter India Managing Director Manish Maheshwari and The Wire senior editor Arfa Khanum Sherwani and others for tweeting about the assault of an elderly Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district, The Indian Express reported.
The police are yet to file a first information report based on the complaint submitted by an advocate, identified as Amit Acharya. He has alleged that Bhasker, Maheshwari, Sherwani and a man named Arif Khan “spread hate against the citizens” by trying to give the incident a “communal colour”.
The complainant has asked the police to book them under Indian Penal Code Sections 153 (provocation for rioting), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505 (mischief) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).
“These users have lakhs of followers and an official account,” Acharya said in his complaint. “Knowing the fact that their tweets have an impact on society, they gave communal colours to the incident without fact-checking the truthfulness of the incident. The concerned tweets were floated across the social media with the motive of hampering peace and harmony amongst the religious groups.”
He claimed that Maheshwari, the head of Twitter in India, did not take any action to remove these “false tweets” despite knowing that the incident did not have any “communal angle”, according to The Indian Express. The lawyer said that the social media company also did not label the tweets as “manipulated media” – which prohibits sharing videos, photos or audio that “have been deceptively altered or fabricated” to trick viewers and have the potential to cause harm.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Deepak Yadav said the complaint was filed at Tilak Marg station and that they are investigating the case.
Samajwadi Party leader booked
Meanwhile, the Ghaziabad Police registered an FIR against local Samajwadi Party leader Ummed Pahalwan Idrisi on Wednesday evening for appearing in a Facebook live video with the elderly Muslim man, The Indian Express reported.
“The accused made an unnecessary video with the complainant and, without verifying the facts of the case, carried out religious discussions on his Facebook, which spread animosity in the community,” said the FIR filed at Loni Border police station. “The accused attempted to give the incident a communal colour and disturb societal balance. This act hurt religious sentiments. The particular act presented a threat to law and order and tried to divide between Hindus and Muslim community.”
Idrisi has been charged with promoting enmity and breach of peace. He has also been booked under provisions of the Information Technology Act.
On Tuesday, the Uttar Pradesh Police filed a case over tweets posted by The Wire, journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi and Mohammad Zubair and Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Masqoor Usmani and Sama Mohammad. This FIR also mentioned Twitter. The FIR, lodged by a police officer, also alleged that they had put out tweets with the intention of stoking communal unrest.
Multiple press bodies have demanded the withdrawal of the FIR, saying that the authorities are singling out journalists who are known for their critical coverage of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The assault incident
The case relates to a video depicting 72-year-old Abdul Samad Saifi saying that he had been abducted in an autorickshaw by several men and locked up in a secluded house. Saifi alleged he was assaulted and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. He also said the assailants cut his beard and made him watch videos of other Muslims being attacked.
Though the alleged assault took place on June 5, the video of the attack and of Saifi narrating the incident was circulated widely on social media on June 14.
However, the Ghaziabad Police, which registered a case based on Saifi’s complaint, on June 15 claimed that there was no communal angle to the assault. The police added that both Hindus and Muslims were among the accused who beat up the elderly man. Saifi, they said, had been beaten up because an amulet he gave one of the assailants had an adverse effect on them.
So far, six people have been arrested for the incident.