Dozens Detained In India Over Social Media Comments

Photo: Eric BARADAT / AFP

Indian police have arrested dozens of people for social media comments that allegedly threatened “communal harmony” after the Supreme Court awarded a holy site once used for a mosque to Hindus, officials said Monday.

The site in the northern city of Ayodhya has in the past caused religious riots that have left thousands dead.

Security forces have been on alert since the verdict was announced on Saturday and remained on the city’s streets as hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims began arriving on Monday ahead of a religious festival. Hindu and Muslim leaders have called for calm.

Police said the social media posts on platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube had threatened “communal harmony”.

At least 77 people were arrested in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh — where Ayodhya is located — after the Supreme Court decision, a police statement said.

Authorities acted against more than 8,270 posts, with steps including “reporting the posts to the social media platform” and “directly messaging the user to delete the message,” the statement said.

In two cases police ordered users to take down their social media profiles, an Uttar Pradesh police spokesman said.

More than 2,800 posts were targeted on Twitter. There were 1,355 allegedly inflammatory comments on Facebook, and 98 YouTube videos, authorities said.

Police cybercrime units said they were using “sentiment analysis” programmes to identify suspect social media posts.

A top Uttar Pradesh official said that several WhatsApp groups were asked to restrict their activities, according to media reports.

Eight other arrests were reported in the central state of Madhya Pradesh for social media comments.

A jail warden in the city of Gwalior was also arrested for celebrating with fireworks after the Hindu court victory.

A mosque had stood on the Ayodhya site for almost five centuries, but Hindus claim it was built on the birthplace of the warrior god Rama and a mob tore it down in 1992, setting off riots in which 2,000 people were killed.

Muslims are to be given a separate plot of land in the city to build a new mosque under the Supreme Court ruling. Several Hindu nationalist leaders still face trial over the 1992 demolition.

More than one million Hindu pilgrims are expected in Ayodhya on Tuesday for an annual full moon religious festival.

AFP

At Least 30 People Hurt As Police, Lawyers Clash In India

In this photo taken on November 4, 2019, lawyers shout slogans during a protest against Delhi Police as they block a road outside the Tis Hazari Court in New Delhi. Several hundred Delhi police staged a rare and angry protest on November 5 following violent clashes with lawyers that saw at least 30 people injured and vehicles set on fire. PHOTO: STR / AFP

 

Hundreds of Indian police staged a rare and angry protest on Tuesday after a row with lawyers that initially started over a parking space degenerated into ugly clashes.

The two groups — who usually rub along in India’s vast court system — have been at loggerheads since the weekend.

Three advocates were shot, media reports said, as baton-wielding police charged gangs of learned men and women. In total at least 30 people were hurt.

The original dispute — over who had rights to a particular Delhi parking spot — escalated on Saturday with barristers setting fire to a police van and other vehicles as officers ransacked lawyers’ chambers.

Video footage later emerged showing a fully-robed advocate punching and slapping a policeman as he attempted to flee on a motorbike, prompting Tuesday’s protest.

“We want justice. We also have human rights, the guilty lawyers must be punished severely,” one of the protesting policemen told reporters.

Delhi Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik urged demonstrators to resume work and promised to address their concerns.

“The government and the people expect us to uphold the law, it is our big responsibility,” Patnaik said.

Lawyers, for their part, have also been protesting, with some threatening to go an indefinite strike.

Social media users mocked the showdown between those tasked with upholding the law.

“What times we are witness to! Agents of law and order — lawyers and police — are up against each other. This would go down in history,” tweeted a former radio presenter.

“I thought if police unnecessarily beat up someone, lawyers are there to demand justice. Now, lawyers are doing the beating up, and police are demanding justice,” tweeted Ramesh Srivats.

AFP

Indian Police Charge School Owners As Fire Toll Hits 20

Indian flag

 

Indian police on Saturday charged the owners of a private school after a fire killed 20 teenagers, some who died jumping from the building in a desperate bid to escape the flames, officials said.

Sixteen of the dead were young women who had been preparing for exams at a tuition centre illegally set up on the top of a commercial building in the western city of Surat, the officials said.

Horrifying images of the students leaping from upper floors of the building on Friday afternoon have spread on social media.

A youth died in hospital on Saturday, increasing the toll, as a provisional inquiry revealed that the school was housed in a plastic dome that was quickly engulfed in flames.

Most of the victims were aged between 15 and 19, officials said. More than 50 students were in classes when the fire erupted.

Government officials said five of the dead had been due to receive exam results determining their university entrance on Saturday. All five had passed with flying colours, one official told AFP.

Police have charged three owners of the tuition centre at the Takshashila Arcade with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and attempted culpable homicide.

Shock and Grief

Surat police commissioner Satish Sharma told reporters that one of the accused, Bhargav Bhutani, had been detained.

“The other accused will be arrested soon,” he added, appealing to the public to remain calm and not take the law into their own hands. Media reports said the two other accused were on the run.

Widespread safety breaches have become apparent at the centre, officials said.

“The fire was caused by a short-circuit in one of the air-conditioning ducts on the ground floor … and spread to the third floor,” said Surat’s fire and emergency services commissioner U. Upadhyay.

The Takshashila Arcade had permission for just one floor but two additional storeys were illegally constructed on top, according to a chief fire official Basant Parekh.

“The coaching class owners had illegally occupied the terrace and had put up a makeshift dome,” he added.

Surat city has set up a team to identify other illegal structures being used for tuition classes in exam season.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani ordered a review of fire safety at hospitals and education institutions across the state.

Images showing flames and black smoke billowing out of the building and students jumping from the upper floors have been widely share.

Widespread public grief and anger has been expressed at the disaster.

Bollywood superstar actor Amitabh Bachchan said on Twitter that he felt “grief beyond expression”.

“A devastating fire and 14-17-year-old children caught in it jump off the building and perish,” he said.

R. Madhavan another leading actor and producer, said on Twitter: “Those breaking the norms should be EXECUTED.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who comes from Gujarat state, said on Twitter: “Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat.

“My thoughts are with bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. Have asked the Gujarat government and local authorities to provide all possible assistance to those affected.”

#MeToo: Police File Rape Case Against Bollywood Actor

In this file photo taken on December 30, 2013, Indian Bollywood actor Alok Nath attends a memorial prayer event in Mumbai. PHOTO: AFP

 

Indian police said on Wednesday that they had registered a rape case against Bollywood actor Alok Nath, a rare development in India’s burgeoning #MeToo movement, with very few accusations under investigation by the authorities.

Vinta Nanda, a writer and producer, has accused the veteran actor of raping her 19 years ago.

“Yesterday (Tuesday), Vinta Nanda visited Oshiwara police station (in Mumbai) and filed a complaint against Alok Nath.

“Investigations are on and an FIR (first information report) has been filed under section 376 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code),” deputy commissioner Paramjit Singh Dahiya told AFP.

In a Facebook post published last month, Nanda said she had been “brutalised and violated endlessly” by the popular star.

She did not name him directly but dropped enough hints which led others in the Hindi film industry to quickly identify him on Twitter.

Nath, 62, denies the allegations and has sued Nanda for defamation.

He has also asked for a written apology and token compensation of one rupee.

India’s belated #MeToo movement started gaining traction in late September.

It has seen women share accounts of alleged harassment by several powerful men in the worlds of Bollywood, business, journalism, politics, comedy and even cricket.

The trigger appears to have been actress Tanushree Dutta, who accused well-known Bollywood actor Nana Patekar of inappropriate behaviour on a film set 10 years ago.

Since then, a slew of powerful Bollywood figures have been accused of sexual misconduct, including Vikas Bahl and Sajid Khan. All have denied the claims.

Very few cases are being probed by the police, however, officers at the same station where Nanda filed her complaint are also investigating Dutta’s allegation.

Last month, M.J. Akbar resigned as India’s junior foreign minister after at least 20 women accused him of sexual harassment during his time as a newspaper editor.

Akbar — who denies the allegations — is suing one of the complainants, Priya Ramani, for defamation.

AFP

Indian Journalist Arrested For Publishing Fake News On Muslim Attack

 

 

Indian police have arrested a journalist for publishing a fake report that Muslims had attacked a monk from the Jain faith, officials said Friday.

Mahesh Vikram Hegde, an editor of a website, was arrested in southern Karnataka state on Thursday on charges of spreading fake and communally sensitive news on his right wing website, a senior police officer said.

Hegde’s online Postcard news reported on March 18 that Jain monk Upadhyaya Mayank Sagarji was attacked by Muslims. Police said Sagarji was actually injured in a road accident.

“We have arrested Hegde for posting a fake news on his news portal Postcard alleging that a Jain monk was attacked by Muslims,” Bangalore joint commissioner of police N. Satish Kumar said in a statement.

The cyber crime police “have registered a case against the portal and its owner Hegde for the false news”, Kumar added.

Hegde also shared the “news” on Twitter where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of his more than 78,000 followers.

The news item and tweet were later deleted, police said.

Postcard news is a controversial website which usually carries stories that glorify Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.

One story on the site details the heroism of an Indian soldier “who single-handedly killed 300 Chinese soldiers”.

Another talks about how India would reduce nuclear China and Pakistan into “crumbling ruins” if it is faced with a “two-front war”.

India has seen a proliferation of fake news as more and more people in the country of 1.2 billion turns away from traditional media to internet items on smartphones.

False stories peddled as news led to seven people being killed by a mob in eastern Jharkhand state last year after a rumour spread on WhatsApp that they were child-traffickers.

AFP

Police Arrest ‘Fake’ Doctor Accused Of Infecting 46 Indians With HIV

FILE PHOTO: Indian villagers and relatives mourns as they gather around the coffin of killed Indian army soldier Havaldar Roshan Lal at Nichla village, in Samba district, about 45km from Jammu, on February 5, 2018. PHOTO: Rakesh BAKSHI / AFP

Indian Police on Wednesday arrested an unlicensed doctor accused of infecting at least 46 people with HIV by re-using a syringe, the latest case to expose the paucity of healthcare in the country of 1.25 billion.

Police in Uttar Pradesh tracked down Rajendra Yadav, who provided cheap door-to-door medical services to poor villagers, after a filing a criminal case against him over the spread of the infection in the northern state’s Unnao district.

“He was arrested on a tip-off and is being questioned about his role in the case,” Unnao police chief Pushpanjali Devi told AFP.

Yadav is facing initial criminal charges of impersonation and endangering human lives, the officer said.

Medical instruments were recovered from his possession are being sent for forensic tests.

India has only limited public healthcare services and that, combined with a lack of regulation, has allowed unlicensed doctors to thrive, particularly in rural areas.

The latest case was exposed when government medical screenings uncovered a high concentration of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the district.

“All these 46 cases are from specific localities within our district,” Unnao’s chief medical officer S.P. Choudhary told AFP.

“This is when we decided to dig deeper. Some of the infected blamed the quack and his use of a single syringe.”

But Choudhary said the high number of cases was unlikely to be down to Yadav alone.

“We don’t think that the quack doctor alone could be a factor for these numbers,” he told AFP.

“The area has a high migrant trucker population, and the prevalence of unprotected sex could be the likely reason.”

India has 2.1 million people infected with HIV, according to the United Nations, although the rate of infection is falling.

It has an estimated 840,000 doctors — one for every 1,674 people — far fewer than the one per 1,000 people recommended by the World Health Organization.

Last week the government announced a national healthcare scheme for half a billion people but did not give details of how much it would cost or how it would be funded.

India spends a little over one percent of GDP on public healthcare — one of the lowest proportions in the world — a sum the government is aiming to increase to 2.5 percent by 2025.

AFP

Indian Man Sets Family Ablaze Over Crippling Debt

File Photo

Indian police arrested a loan shark Tuesday after an impoverished labourer burdened with debt doused himself and his family in kerosene and set them alight, killing his wife and two daughters.

The man remains in a critical condition with serious burns after self-immolating Monday at a government office in Tamil Nadu state in southern India, an official said.

Sandeep Nanduri, the top local official in Tirunelveli district, said the man had taken a loan of 142,000 rupees ($2,150) earlier this year to start a business but was being pressured to pay more interest.

The labourer, identified only as Esakimuthu, had repaid nearly double the loan but the lender was pushing for around $3,000 more in repayments.

Nanduri said the man was allegedly pressured by police to repay the extra interest, driving him to desperation.

“We have started an investigation over allegations that the police and officials didn’t help the man,” Nanduri told AFP.

“A police officer has been transferred and his role is being investigated.”

The lender has been arrested on charges of assisting suicide and breaching laws on charging exorbitant interest, Nanduri said.

Most Indian states have criminalised commercial moneylending. All lenders, both formal and informal, are banned from charging interest rates above 21 percent on loans.

Thousands of low-income Indians, mostly farmers, are often denied loans by banks and rely on unscrupulous lenders for quick cash.

Private lenders charge steep interest rates upwards of 50 percent, locking borrowers in a cycle of debt. Many use threats and force to reclaim unpaid loans.

Hundreds of farmers crippled by debt have committed suicide in recent years, especially in Tamil Nadu where a bad drought put enormous financial pressure on poor families.

Nearly 48 percent of farmers in India took loans from informal sources such as moneylenders and landlords, according to a 2012 report by All India Debt and Investment Survey.

AFP