As schools reopened across the Valley and eager students returned to classrooms after more than 200 days, one student started his day not in his school but at Srinagar’s juvenile home.
The 16-year-old was picked up from his home in a village in Handwara in north Kashmir on Thursday evening for allegedly spreading “fake news, rumours, and hatred.”
This is the fourth such detention in recent weeks in Kashmir, and the first of a minor.
Two persons were earlier arrested from veteran separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s home for posting his video, and another individual, Imtiaz Kawa, arrested from Kupwara for his posts on Facebook.
On Monday, the minor’s family scrambled to understand the reasons for his arrest, and the only explanation his mother could think of was that he was “probably playing around on his phone and did not know what he had pressed”.
The police, however, said the minor was the administrator of a WhatsApp group, which he ran and used to spread “rumours” in the area. Senior officials from the district police told The Indian Express that the boy was using WhatsApp via Virtual Private Network (VPN) “in violation of the government order and spreading incorrect information on the group to instigate other(s)”.
Another administrator for the same group, an 18-year-old, is absconding, according to the police.
At their single-storey home, the minor’s three sisters, a younger brother and their mother waited to hear from their father, a farm labourer, whether the boy could be released. “His father has taken all his documents and gone to the police. He is a young child; it was just a mistake,” his mother said.
According to the family, the minor did odd jobs to support the family alongside his studies, and about two months ago bought himself a smartphone. “He was in Jammu and returned on Wednesday itself. On Thursday, he stepped out with some boys from the village and returned around 6 pm. He was fiddling with his phone when the police knocked and asked to take him along,” his mother said.
She said the police also took two other mobile phones from their home — one belonging to the boy’s father and another from his older sister. Both phones were later returned, she said.
In the FIR registered in the case on Friday, the police noted that they received information about some youths allegedly “circulating fake news and spreading rumours, hatred through social media platforms”. Based on this, a case was registered under IPC Sections 153-153A (provocation, promoting enmity) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and investigation was taken up.
At the teen’s school, officials said the police came to collect details of his records to establish his age.
Sent on a 10-custody, the teen is presently at a juvenile home at Harwan in Srinagar.
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