THE LUDHIANA police has booked the district vice-president of BJP’s Yuva Morcha under various charges including sedition after he allegedly put up a Facebook post claiming that “there are no ventilators” in the district for COVID-19 patients and urging people to donate to a particular NGO that is allegedly planning to buy them.
The FIR registered at Division no. 3 police station of Ludhiana city against Simranjit Singh alias Simar Chandhok on the basis of a complaint filed by Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Malkit Singh states that the man “tried to create panic, tried to mislead the administration during ongoing lockdown and attempted to create a feeling of hate among people towards the government”. The FIR adds that the Facebook post was an act of “complete disobedience”.
Chandhok, a resident of Dharampura area, was booked under sections 124-A (sedition), 188 (disobedience of orders duly promulgated by public servant), 505(1)(b)(statements conducing to public mischief with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public…) of the IPC; section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act and section 54 of the Disaster Management Act.
The Facebook post on the basis of which the FIR was registered, read: “Ludhiana ch koi ventilator nahi hai. Ludhiana Blood Sewa vallon 5100 da yogdaan keemat 250000 baaki vi sangat yogdan kare. Contact… (There are no ventilators in Ludhiana. Ludhiana Blood Sewa will contribute Rs 5,100 but total cost of ventilator is Rs 2.50 lakh. People should donate remaining amount. Contact these numbers…)”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Chandhok, 32, said he came to know of the FIR when people started calling him Monday morning. He said he has been associated with the NGO Blood Sewa Society for nearly six years and has doing langar sewa and blood donation during the ongoing coronavirus crisis and curfew. He said he has also been disinfecting and sanitizing colonies in his ward.
Chandok, who also has a transport business, said, “I am a known social worker in my area. I have been associated with Ludhiana Blood Sewa, a registered NGO, for nearly six years. I have donated blood more than 25 times in my lifetime. We have hundreds of volunteers across the state who are ready to donate blood 24×7. I have no idea why I have been booked for sedition, that too for writing a known fact that Ludhiana Civil Hospital has no ventilators. Our NGO was planning to buy a ventilator and donate it to the hospital, for which I had posted an appeal on Facebook.”
“If there are ventilators in Ludhiana, why was the Amarpura Basti victim sent to Patiala where she died?” he asked.
He further said that since the coronavirus outbreak and curfew orders in Punjab, he has been serving langar to more than 2,000 people on a daily basis.
“I only wrote that there are no working ventilators in Ludhiana and hence people should donate to our NGO to buy one. On what basis has Ludhiana police found this seditious? Maybe it is a political vendetta,” he said.
Ludhiana ACP (central) Waryam Singh said, “We have clear instructions and orders to not go soft against any person trying to create panic or spread fake news or false information…wrong information on social media can lead to panic among people. Hence relevant sections have been added to the FIR.”
Mahesh Sharma, BJP youth wing district president, said that the party doesn’t want to indulge in any kind of politics at present, but Chandok has been wrongly booked. “Since the day the lockdown was announced, Simar has been doing maximum sewa…He wrote nothing wrong in his post and only said that there are no ventilators in Ludhiana Civil Hospital. Maybe FIR has been filed due to political vendetta but we request police to rectify this blunder. I have spoken to DCP and he has assured of fair action,” he added.
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