Tripura police warns people not to like unverified social media posts over recent violence
In the wake of a brouhaha over Tripura Police's action of booking 102 people, including Supreme Court lawyers, rights activists and journalists, the state police on Sunday asked people to not believe unverified posts on social media and warned them to not like or re-tweet them as it amounts to rumour mongering.
Tripura police also said through its official twitter post that it is investigating cases of recent communal incidents in a complete(ly) impartial and lawful manner .
The state police which has been facing flak from opposition parties, rights organisations and the Editors Guild for its action, said cases have been registered against some posts, persons for committing various offences.
Earlier in the day, opposition Congress demanded withdrawal of cases against those who have been booked for allegedly trying to "spread communal disharmony".
Tripura Pradesh Congress chief Birajit Sinha told PTI, “The mosque at Panisagar was attacked by activists of VHP and houses of minority communities were vandalised by them... they should be arrested first. I do not think the lawyers, who visited the state, came with any bad intentions and did not spread any communal hatred. Government should immediately withdraw charges against them.”
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) too condemned the Tripura Police's action under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and said the government cannot use such stringent laws to suppress reporting on communal violence incidents.
The Guild, in a statement, said it was deeply shocked at the police's action against journalists and said it was an attempt by the Tripura government to deflect attention away from its own failure to control majoritarian violence.
Tripura Police on Saturday booked 102 social media account holders under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), criminal conspiracy and forgery charges and served notices to the authorities of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to freeze their accounts and inform all particulars of those persons to it.
This action came after Tripura Police registered a case against four Supreme Court lawyers under the stringent act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly promoting communal disharmony with their social media posts on the recent violence in the state targeting Muslims.
The EGI said, “The Editors Guild of India is deeply shocked by the Tripura Police's action of booking 102 people, including journalists, under the coercive Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for reporting and writing on the recent communal violence in the state.”
The Guild said one of the journalists, Shyam Meera Singh, has alleged that he has been booked under the UAPA for merely tweeting ‘Tripura is burning’.
Tripura's Inspector General of Police (IG), Law and Order, Arindam Nath however said, altogether complaints were lodged, the police would like to clarify that filing FIR does not mean "they are guilty."
“If those people have not said anything false or had no intention of spreading communal hatred or hatching any conspiracy, they should appear before police and clarify their position,” Nath said.
He at the same time added that it had to come to the police force's notice that many netizens even used fake identities and tried to spread communal hatred and police had rightly taken initiative to identify and book them under law.
We have served notices to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to freeze their accounts and inform us of all particulars of those persons to it , Nath said.
Notices were served on Estesham Hashmi, Supreme Court lawyer, advocate Amit Srivastav, coodinator of Lawyers for Democracy, NCHRO national secretary Ansar Indori and PUCL member Mukesh Kumar who had visited Tripura as part of a fact finding team. In the notice to the lawyers, the police had asked them to delete the social media posts and appear before investigators by November 10.
A mosque was vandalised and two shops were set ablaze at Chamtilla during the October 26 Vishva Hindu Parishad rally, which was called to protest against the communal violence in neighbouring Bangladesh. Three houses and a few shops, reportedly owned by Muslims, were also ransacked in nearby Rowa Bazar, the police said.
The state government had on October 29 alleged that a group from outside with vested interests had hatched a conspiracy against the administration to create unrest in Tripura and malign its image by uploading fake photographs of a burning mosque on social media after the October 26 incident.
Tripura Minister for Information and Culture, Sushanta Chowdhury on Saturday said, A group from outside with vested interests had hatched a conspiracy against the administration to create unrest in Tripura and malign its image by uploading fake photographs of a burning mosque on social media.
BJP spokesperson, Nabendu Bhattacharya added, “In the aftermath of attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh during Durga puja, a vested interest group was active to create communal disturbances in Tripura and in such a situation police cannot remain idle and so they started investigation. I am sure right to freedom of speech and expression was not infringed anyway.”
The Tripura Human Rights Organisation (THRO) however criticized the state government for serving notices to the Supreme Court advocates and stated that it was a move to silence the voice of democratic rights.
“The state government's action is highly condemnable. Those who perpetrated the violence are roaming freely, while the lawyers, who are also members of rights bodies who were trying to restore normalcy by bringing facts to light, were booked under stringent acts. It is not acceptable,” THRO said.
The opposition CPI(M) in a statement said, “After the attack on minorities in Bangladesh a group of people tried to foment communal tensions in different parts of the state.”
“When some lawyers visited the state as fact finders, cases were registered against them, this is an act of intolerance. If they had done any illegal activity then normal law was enough to take actions against them, but applying such stringent acts (as the UAPA) against them is an instance of intolerance,” the statement said.