July 19, 2017 4:15:58 am
HAVING COME to Chennai International Airport to receive a friend arriving from the Gulf, a 36-year-old man from Kadappa, Andhra Pradesh, was booked on sedition charges for a “random” audio message he had received on WhatsApp, which was deemed “anti-national”, a Chennai airport police officer said. The sedition case was registered by Chennai airport police after the man — Tadikala Akbar Saleem — was taken into custody by the air intelligence unit of the Customs department, which is under the Union Home Ministry. The incident took place on Saturday, and air intelligence is learnt to have referred the case to Chennai airport police on Sunday, with a warning that it carried “anti-national” content. An FIR was registered and Saleem was produced before the magistrate on Monday, an inspector from airport police station said.
“His statement was taken and Saleem was released. The magistrate said there was no material evidence to prove an anti-national activity in that random WhatsApp message. Also, there was no call for violence,” the officer said. He has since returned to his village, police officials said. The officer said the police will probe the case “since it was referred to by the Customs department” file a chargesheet.
The officer said, “Saleem was waiting outside the airport to receive his friend arriving from the Gulf and was taken in custody after his friend was found carrying excess gold on arrival. During interrogation, air intelligence officials examined his (Saleem’s) cellphone and found an audio message. They referred the case to the airport police after finding the content of the message ‘anti-national’.”
The alleged anti-national content of the message was an appeal for Muslims to gather at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for a “show of strength”. The full transcript of the message, prepared by air intelligence officials and shared with Chennai airport police, shows there were no dates set for the proposed call to assemble, nor was there any call for violence. An officer said the appeal was made in the name of “Maulana (Syed) Asad Madani saheb” of Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, a leading Muslim organisation, and had originated in Malaysia. “It’s [the] first time we are getting a chance to show the power of Muslims.” an officer said, quoting from the message.
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