Over three weeks after Tripura booked 102 social media users and four lawyers for speaking and sharing content online over the purported religious vandalism that transpired in October, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb instructed Director General of Police V S Yadav to “review” the cases and submit a report.
In turn, Yadav directed the Crime Branch, which is now investigating these cases, to review them.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, a senior official of the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said, “There was a conspiracy to disturb the law and order in Tripura a few days back through fake photos and videos of alleged arson at mosques on social media. In order to bring the situation under control and maintain communal harmony, Tripura Police filed cases against 102 people, including some journalists and lawyers.”
However, the official said while the cases were levelled on anyone found sharing such content online at the time, the CM has now directed the police to make a detailed review of all the cases and submit a report.
The official, who didn’t wish to be named, explained that the police will take strict action against everyone who deliberately tried to spread rumour or communal disharmony. However, if the review finds that there is not enough evidence that the accused persons were deliberate in their attempt, cases might be dropped.
Tripura Police accused a list of 102 social media users, including 68 Twitter users, of promoting communal disharmony, criminal conspiracy and sent a letter to Twitter Inc at San Francisco, California, USA on October 3 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
When indianexpress.com tried to find out who ran the Twitter handles that were booked, it was found out nine were that of journalists, seven of political workers, five of students, two activists and seven profiles of different religious organisations. Several profiles didn’t have any personal description, however, contents found on a majority of these profiles suggested they were critics of the government.
Ten days after serving the notice to Twitter, Tripura Police informed in the statement that 47 Twitter posts and one YouTube post were removed after their notice and said legal steps were being taken to remove the remaining posts.
It was also found that on November 17, 44 of the 68 Twitter profiles were still available while 24 profiles were pulled down or suspended by Twitter. As many as 57 tweets were unavailable, including 23, which were “withheld in India on legal demand”.
The police also claimed that at least one post by a handle ‘IAM Council’ had links with a terrorist network of Pakistan and was allegedly supporting Taliban and lobbying with a foreign organisation against India in connivance with Pakistan’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
“It is under further investigation. There are at least 14 links which have originated from outside India revealing the conspiracy hatched outside the country as well to promote hatred between religious groups and creating disturbances,” the police statement said.
The analysis of the 68 Twitter profiles also revealed that a retired Major of the Pakistani Army interacted in a tweet of a profile of an unspecified user in the list. However, the listed Twitter user’s tweet was unavailable as his profile was pulled down as well.
The police later sent an updated list of 94 tweets accused of similar charges but the list was not disclosed on grounds of investigation.