Mumbai, June 9: Maharashtra home minister R.R. Patil today warned that Facebook users who “like” and forward objectionable posts could also land up in jail even as Pune police arrested two more Hindu Rashtra Sena activists in connection with last week’s murder of a techie.
The warning came after another mischievous Facebook post — this time on Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar — triggered sporadic violence in parts of Pune, Nashik, Kolhapur and Aurangabad.
“Social media is used widely all over the world. It is used for good purposes but anti-social elements are using it for evil purposes as seen from recent incidents in Maharashtra. People are reacting to the content on social media and it is being misused by some elements,” the NCP leader said.
“Those who ‘like’ and forward objectionable content are in a way indirectly helping these elements and, in the next few days, you will see stringent action taken against them. Under cyber laws, they are also liable for imprisonment for up to three years.”
Last week, a hate attack suspected to have been fuelled by morphed pictures of Shivaji circulating on the Net claimed the life of a young man who was in no way linked to the social media posts.
Mohsin Shaikh, a 24-year-old techie from Solapur employed with the IT department of a textile firm in Pune, died on June 3 after being brutally assaulted while returning to his rented apartment.
The morphed derogatory pictures of the legendary warrior king and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray were posted on Facebook and circulated on WhatsApp.
Patil claimed the police had identified those who had uploaded the morphed pictures, although police sources in Pune and Mumbai said they were yet to trace the IP address from where the objectionable material had been uploaded. “It is easy for investigation agencies to trace the source of such posts on social media and no one can say that somebody else has misused his or her mobile as the responsibility is pinned on the owner of the mobile phone.”
The minister said he had issued clear instructions to the state’s police chief and the Mumbai police commissioner to take stringent action and, if required, seek technical expertise from private individuals.
Sources in Pune said the two persons arrested last night were both affiliated to the Hindu Rashtra Sena, a fringe outfit that was in the news in 2007 for attacking the office of a television channel. So far, 19 persons have been arrested in connection with Mohsin’s murder.
Asked about the Centre seeking a “clarification” on a status report on the fatal assault, Patil said: “The Centre has not expressed any such thing because we have not submitted any detailed report. We have only submitted a preliminary report to the Centre, which is routinely done by the police. I can assure you that we will not tolerate such incidents.”
On whether the state was mulling a ban on groups like the Hindu Rashtra Sena, Patil said some organisations have been active with renewed vigour. “It is not easy to ban such organisations, but the police are collecting evidence.”
Sporadic violence was reported from Pune, Kolhapur, Nashik, Malegaon and Aurangabad following the Facebook post on Ambedkar. In Pune, some buses were stoned.
Six persons, including the local unit president of the VHP, Macchindra Shirke, were arrested in Nashik and Malegaon for throwing stones at state buses and private vehicles.