Rajat Sharma

Will filing of FIRs by Police put a brake on hate spreaders ?

rajat-sir There were protests after Friday prayers in Delhi, Kolkata, Prayagraj, Moradabad, Lucknow, Saharanpur, Hyderabad with Muslim devotees demanding arrest of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma. At some places, protesters pelted stones at police and other vehicles.

Meanwhile, in a stern action against spreaders of hate on social media, Delhi Police on Thursday registered FIR against 31 persons, including AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, hate preacher Yati Narsinghanand, while a separate FIR was filed against suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled BJP spokesperson Navin Kumar Jindal.

In both the cases, the accused were charged with spreading hate, inciting people and deliberately hurting religious sentiments. Delhi Police said, the cases were registered after analysis of social media by IFSO (Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations) unit of Special Cell. In the FIRs, the accused were charged of “using hate-worthy languages intentionally or having complete knowledge that use of such type of language, claim and assertion is not only discriminatory but more than sufficient to create a situation of animosity amongst different groups of persons having faith in different religions…This will certainly be a serious threat to public tranquillity and maintenance of public order in our country wherein people have been living peacefully.”

In the FIRs, it was stated, “transmission and publication of such language has been done through electronic media which are filthy in nature and appeals to prurient interest and sufficient to deprave and corrupt any person who sees it or hears the objectionable words.”

Delhi Police tweeted, “we have registered two FIRs under appropriate sections on the basis of social media analysis against those trying to disrupt public tranquillity and inciting people on divisive lines. One pertains to Ms Nupur Sharma and other against multiple social media entities.. Even as notices are being sent to social media intermediaries for details of those behind these accounts/entities, Delhi Police appeals to everyone to desist from posting anything that may disrupt social and communal harmony”.

Accused charged under sections 153(inciting communal violence), 295(insulting a religion) and 505(disturbing communal harmony) of Indian Penal Code in these FIRs cannot get bail from police stations, and they will have to go to courts. If the offence is proved, they may undergo imprisonment from one year to six years. The interesting part is that those who had been demanding arrest of Nupur Sharma, suddenly fell silent on Thursday, while some questioned why names of Muslims have been included in the FIR.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi was more blunt. In a long series of tweets, he asked: “I do not know which specific remarks of mine have attracted the FIR ….It appears that Delhi Police lacks the courage to pursue cases against Yati, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, etc. This is why the delayed and weak response. In fact, Yati has violated his bail conditions repeatedly by inciting genocide against Muslims and insulting Islam. Delhi Police were probably trying to think of a way of registering an FIR against these people without offending Hindutvavadi fanboys/girls. Delhi Police is suffering from “both-sideism” of “balance-waad” syndromes. One side has openly insulted our Prophetwhile the other side has been named to assuage BJP supporters and make it look like there was hate speech on both sides.”

Normally, police files FIR against individual person for spreading hate and disturbing harmony, but this time two FIRs have been filed against 33 persons. These include Nupur Sharma, who has been suspended from BJP for making hate comments against Prophet Mohammad, Naveen Kumar Jindal, who has been expelled from BJP for similar charge, Yati Narsinghanand, a habitual hate preacher, already out on bail and poses as a sadhu, and Pooja Shakun Pandey of Hindu Mahasabha, who had posed with a gun pointed at Mahatma Gandhi’s photo.

Delhi Police did not differentiate while filing FIR against spreaders of hate on social media. Among those accused is AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, an experienced barrister and politician, whose party has spread its wings from Telangana to Maharashtra, Bihar and UP. Some opposition leaders call him a ‘BJP agent’, but the BJP government has put his name in the list of hate spreaders. In the FIR are names of Shadab Chauhan, who takes part in TV debates on behalf of Peace Party, Islamic cleric Ilyas Sharafuuddin, Maulana Mufti Nadeem from Rajasthan, who write objectionable, hateful comments on social media. Maulana Sharafuddin had made objectionable comment on Shivling. The FIR also names Danish Qureshi of AIMIM, who had been arrested in Gujarat for spreading hate.

Delhi Police Special Cell has a modernized Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations Unit that keeps a tab on all hateful comments made through WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. This unit keeps watch on trending topics and then goes through comments made on Twitter and other social media accounts. It has a monitoring room where constant watch is kept on tweets, WhatsApp forwards, Facebook and YouTube posts.

Soon after the FIR was filed against Owaisi, AIMIM workers staged protests, but were immediately rounded up by Delhi Police. Samajwadi Party MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq asked, “police action against Nupur Sharma and Jindal was justified, but why is the police filing cases against Muslims? An atmosphere of hate is being created against Muslims and this is not good for our country.” Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: “I strongly seek that the accused leaders of BJP be arrested immediately so that the unity of the country is not disturbed and people at large do not face mental agony.” Later, at a press conference, Banerjee alleged that BJP was trying to divide the country. “Only filing of FIRs will not do. Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal must be arrested.

The issue is not whether Delhi Police filed FIRs against 33 persons, both Hindus and Muslims, under pressure or at anybody’s instance. The good part is that Delhi Police has filed FIRs. I hope this will put a stop to leaders who openly spout communal venom during TV debates bringing disrepute to TV channels.

With the filing of the two FIRs, leaders or clerics will now think twice before spreading hate. They will realize that freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to slander any religion or any religious figure. People from both religions are responsible for spreading hate. They misuse social media platforms to spread hate and incite people. It is difficult to control social media platforms, where hate messages spread rapidly and become viral. The beneficiaries are those who do not have standing in society, such people are what we call ‘fringe elements’. Delhi Police has set an example in this direction.

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