The Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police, a specialised team under the Special Cell, has been making “significant” arrests and has registered cases against several political leaders and activists in the last year, citing an aim to prevent cyber crimes, online abuse and communal disharmony.
On Monday, the IFSO team arrested fact-checking website Alt-News’ co-founder Mohammed Zubair for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by a tweet from 2018.
Zubair was produced in front of a magistrate late at night and sent to one-day police custody.
The IFSO unit or Cyber Crime Unit is headed by DANIPS cadre officer KPS Malhotra, who is posted as the Deputy Commissioner of Police. On the arrest, he said: “Delhi Police has registered a case after getting a complaint from a Twitter handle, wherein it was alleged that Mohammed Zubair had tweeted a questionable image with a purpose to deliberately insult the god of a particular religion. Such tweets were getting retweeted and it appeared that there is a brigade of social media entities, who indulge in insult mongering thereby leading to a possible ramification on communal harmony and is overall against the maintenance of public tranquility.”
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The unit has an office in Dwarka. Other cyber cell police stations have also been recently started in different parts of Delhi. All sensitive and major cases are transferred to the IFSO unit in Dwarka. It was earlier referred to as CyPAD (Cyber Prevention Awareness Detection). In 2021, Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana changed the Cyber Cell’s name from CyPAD to IFSO, giving the unit additional charge of “national and economic security”.
Arrests and cases
Last year in February, the unit arrested climate activist Disha Ravi from Bengaluru for allegedly creating a “toolkit” tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on the farmers’ protest in Delhi. Ravi and other activists were booked under sections of promoting enmity, sedition and criminal conspiracy. While the Delhi Police had accused Ravi of “spreading disaffection against India” and promoting violence which led to last year’s January 26th Red Fort incident, Ravi was granted bail by the court.
In July last year, the Delhi Police registered a case against an app created on the US-based platform GitHub after photos of nearly 80 Muslim women were used without their permission. The accused were trying to “auction” the women online, using sexually explicit and vulgar comments. Five months later, another app was created on GitHub where photos of nearly 100 Muslim women were shared with objectionable comments.
Many journalists, activists, political leaders and others were targeted on this app. Cases were lodged in Mumbai, Noida and other cities against the unknown creators of the app. In January, the Delhi Police’s IFSO arrested a 21-year-old engineering student Niraj Bishnoi from Assam and accused him of creating one of the apps. Soon after Bishnoi’s arrest, the police also arrested 25-year-old Aumkareshwar Thakur from Indore for allegedly creating the other app.
The police booked them for promoting enmity, sexual harassment, insulting modesty of women, etc. Two chargesheets were filed in the case. In March, a court granted bail saying that the “prolonged incarceration would be detrimental to his overall well-being and career” and that both the accused are young men and won’t be a flight risk.
This year, the IFSO unit also registered an FIR against a group of people for allegedly making derogatory remarks against Muslim women during a session on the Clubhouse app. An audio clip of the session went viral on social media in which the speakers are purportedly heard making vulgar comments against Islam and Muslim women. While the Mumbai police had arrested 3 persons from Haryana in connection with the case, no arrests were made by Delhi police.
Recently, the unit registered two FIRs against politicians for allegedly spreading hate, rumours and hurting religious sentiments. In one of the FIRs, suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma was named for her alleged comments against the Prophet.
The other FIR named AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, Dasna Devi temple priest Yati Narsinghanand, journalist Saba Naqvi and Hindu Mahasabha office-bearer Pooja Shakun Pandey. The FIR was against 31 people based on IFSO’s social-media monitoring.
Led by DCP Malhotra, around six ACP-level officers and other personnel, the team look for abusive and incriminating material posted on social media, officers say. The unit also deals with cases of cyber fraud, online harassment, data theft, crypto scams, call centre fraud, bank fraud, etc.
The IFSO unit has specialised software and a dedicated Cyber Forensics Lab, used to recover data and information from damaged devices. The police also fish out deleted data. There are professional hackers who work under the department and recover key information like chats and media in sensitive cases.
Under the Police Commissioner’s directions, the IFSO unit has been asked to look into organised crime, cyber activities of “anti-national groups” and the dark web, said an officer.
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