Facing criticism for its handling of the murder and alleged gangrape of the 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, the Uttar Pradesh Police has filed 21 cases across the state against, among other charges, attempts to “incite caste and communal tension and defame the state government” using social media platforms and public meetings. The charges include sedition, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity.
This comes a day after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath alleged “conspiracies” against his government by “those who want to incite caste and communal riots”. He reiterated this on Monday, saying “some anarchists who can’t bear to see development in the state are conspiring to promote communal frenzy and violence on caste lines”.
The FIRs, filed in the last 24 hours, include six in Hathras – four at Chandpa police station, and one each at Sasni and Hathras Gate police stations.
“We have registered 21 FIRs in the state, out of which six are in Hathras district. The six main FIRs in Hathras have unidentified persons as accused. The rest of the FIRs in other districts have named persons as accused. Among the FIRs in Hathras, one is against Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal workers for a scuffle with the police while attempting to enter the village. Another FIR has been registered against some Congress members for circulating a video. An FIR at Sasni police station is against Bhim Army members for blocking the road. There was an FIR at Hathras Gate police station where a former MLA had organised a public meeting,” said Additional Director General (ADG), Law and Order, Prashant Kumar.
A statement issued by the State DGP’s office said the FIRs had been filed against individuals and organisations for forwarding fake information to incite people, violating Section 144 CrPC and Covid-19 guidelines among other charges.
“Even though the local administration, keeping in mind the Covid-19 protocol, had given permission to five persons each of political parties to visit, members and leaders of different political organisations gathered in large numbers and initiated violence, while breaking down the system set up by the police. The police had to use minor force to bring the situation under control,” said the statement.
The first FIR, at Chandpa police station in Hathras, has been filed against unidentified persons under Sections 109 (abetment if the act is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 124A (sedition), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and four of its sub-sections, 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the IPC.
Other sections invoked are for fabricating evidence with intent to procure conviction of offence punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment, threatening a person to give false evidence, forgery for the purpose of harming reputation, and printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory. Sections of the Information Technology Act have also been invoked.
Police sources said the sedition FIR filed in Hathras, based on a police complaint, is exploring an alleged international conspiracy to instigate riots along caste lines and defame the state government.
Sources said investigating agencies have found a website that went by the name justiceforhathrasvictim.carrd.co had come up, and was giving information on how to protest safely and avoid police. Sources claimed it had copied information from protests going on in the US, particularly the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests. The dos and don’ts, sources said, included steps on how to stay safe during riots and in situations when teargas shelling and arrests take place.
“The main FIR filed at Chandpa police station will look into the overall conspiracy regarding the incident. There is plenty of evidence — for instance, call detail records of those trying to offer money to the woman’s parents. All these things will be looked at and action will be taken accordingly,” Superintendent of Police, Hathras, Vineet Jaiswal said.
The statement issued by the State DGP’s office said the FIR was filed in connection with some fringe elements who tried to incite the victim’s family, put pressure on them and offered them Rs 50 lakh to make false statements, and circulated objectionable audios on social media.
The second and third FIRs at the police station, against SP and RLD members respectively, are under sections of rioting, voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant and assault to deter a public servant.
The fourth FIR at Chandpa police station has been filed against a Congress party member for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups by circulating an inciting video.
The FIR at Sasni police station is against Bhim Army members for gathering a crowd of 400-500 in violation of Section 144 CrPC. At Hathras Gate police station, an FIR for allegedly flouting Covid norms has been filed against former BJP MLA Rajveer Pahalwan.
“It has been brought to our notice that there are several people online who have been posting content to specifically create caste-based tensions. These have been forwarded to the Cyber Cell and FIRs have been filed,” said SP Jaiswal.
According to Hathras police, the Cyber Cell is making note of those who shared fake photographs of a body, claiming it to be the victim’s. It was also brought to the notice of police that there were video clips attributing wrongful statements to the chief minister. Complaints also include copies of medical reports that were not found to be authentic, police said.
At least 14 more FIRs have been registered over allegedly objectionable posts on social media. Five persons have been arrested in connection with these FIRs, police said.
In Lucknow, for instance, police said an FIR was registered at Hazratganj police station against former Congress councilor Shailendra Tiwari for allegedly putting up inciting posters. He has been arrested, police said.
An FIR at the Rampur police station of Saharanpur has been filed against two persons, identified as Abhishek Shekhawat and Thakur Satyam Chauhan, for allegedly putting up objectionable posts on social media.
Ayodhya DIG Deepak Kumar said an FIR was registered at Khandasa police station against one Gayadeen Chaudhary for Facebook posts. He, too, has been arrested.
In Prayagraj, officials said, three separate FIRs have been registered at the Naini, Karnailganj and Utraon police stations. Two of the three accused have been arrested.
In Bijnor, one Ajeem Chaudhary was arrested for an alleged objectionable post against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The district police said the FIR was registered on the complaint of a BJP leader, and the accused has been arrested.
An FIR has also been registered in Mathura against members of the ‘Campus Front of India’ under CrPC Section 151. Under this section, “a police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest, without orders from a magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing”. Mohammad Shamoon, director (public relations) of PFI, Campus Front of India’s parent body, declined to comment on the matter.
– With inputs from Amil Bhatnagar
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